Like any partnership, finding the best agent for you is a matter of asking the right questions. The challenge is that when you set out to find an agent—whether it’s for selling or buying—it isn’t always clear what to ask them. Below are a few crucial questions to ask any realtor that you consider to hire when Selling or Buying a home.
- How Long Have You Been in Business?
The standard joke is there’s nothing wrong with a new agent that a little experience won’t fix, but that’s not to say that freshly licensed agents can’t be good ones. Much depends on the level of their training and whether they have access to competent mentors.
Newer agents tend to have more time to concentrate on you, but he or she might not have enough time if they’re holding down another job because they’ve just starting out. You can ask about this as well.
There’s no bar exam for real estate agents and no school offers a degree in how to handle problems in a transaction. They learn on the job. The more sales an agent has completed, the more she knows. It’s even possible that she’s taken courses and attended seminars, and it’s OK to ask about this, too.
- How Many Clients Are You Currently Representing?
It’s hard to say how many clients an agent can reasonably take on at once. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re comfortable with the number of clients the realtor is working with. Agents with 10 or more listings or around 5 buyer clients may not be able to provide the individual attention you need. And if you’re a Buyer ask if they’re currently working with any buyers are looking for the same type of property.
- What Is Your Average List Price to Sales Price Ratio?
An agent’s average ratio depends on the market. Excluding sizzling seller’s markets, a good buyer’s agent should be able to negotiate a sales price that’s lower than list price. A competent listing agent should have a track record for negotiating sales prices that are very close to list prices.
Listing agents should have higher ratios that are closer to 100 percent. Buyer’s agent ratios should fall below 99 percent. Sometimes market value has no bearing on the asking price and ratios are meaningless in that case so don’t put too much emphasis on them.
You might also want to find out just where most of these homes were located. Is the agent familiar with the area in which you want to buy or where your property is located? This can be an important consideration.
- Are you knowledgeable about my area?
As a home seller – or a buyer with a particular area in mind – it could help to know whether the agent is familiar with a specific territory. Things like list prices and the average time it takes to sell a home can vary drastically depending on the area. Ask agents whether they’re familiar with your neighborhood or the area you want to move to, and find out how many homes they’ve bought or sold there in the past year.
- What Is Your Best Marketing Plan or Strategy for My Needs
For sellers, an experienced listing agent will have a perspective on which marketing tactics will work best for your home. Beyond putting up a for sale sign and listing the home on the MLS, the agent will likely have an array of tactics in mind, like spreading the word on their social network, posting the home listing on various websites, sending mailers and flyers, and hosting open houses. Before you begin a partnership with an agent, find out what marketing strategy they recommend. You’ll help to make any marketing plan even more successful if you educate yourself in advance about the essential steps to prepare your home for sale.
For Buyers, you will want to know whether the agent does more than put you on an automated drip email which pulls potential properties from the MLS. There’s so much more an agent can do to help you find the perfect home. Does he or she door knock or send direct mailers to homeowners in the neighborhood you’re searching? Does the agent aggressively seek out upcoming and off market listings that are not on the MLS?
- Can You Provide References?
It never hurts to ask an agent for references. People who have actually worked with the realtor are the absolute best source of information when it comes to finding an agent who fits your needs. If the agent is comfortable with it, contacting references and asking them questions will help you get an idea of what exactly you’re signing up for. Previous clients may also be able to explain how the agent handled any challenges in their transaction, which will help you understand how they might overcome the hurdles that will come up in yours.
- What Are the Top Three Things That Will Separate You From the Competition?
Experienced realtors will have no trouble selling themselves. Ask them why you should work with them, and listen carefully to advantages they focus on. The piece that differentiates them could be anything, like their ability to negotiate, their communication style, or their proven track record in the neighborhood you’re living or interested in.
- How Much Do You Charge?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no official commission rate. Agent fees are negotiable. As the seller, you’ll typically pay a fee that is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent. Don’t assume that every listing agent asks for the same fee . Ask and confirm exactly what the Realtor charges. Also, you might not be aware of all the fees and expenses that a home sale entails. The Realtor typically pays for all marketing. A good Realtor will know his or her numbers and what they typically spend on marketing a home.
As a buyer, your agent will usually receive their commission through the listing broker. In other words, the seller pays the buyer agent’s commission, although the seller may figure this payment into their listing price.
- What Kind of Guarantee Do You Offer?
Will the agent let you cancel the listing or buying agreement if you sign then later realize that you’re unhappy with the arrangement? Will the agent stand behind his service to you? What’s his company’s policy about canceled agreements? Has anybody ever cancelled an agreement with him before?
- What Haven’t I Asked You That I Need to Know?
Pay close attention to how the real estate agent answers this question because there’s often something else you might need to know.
You want an agent who will take her time with you to make sure you feel comfortable and secure with her knowledge and experience. She should know how to listen, how to counsel you, and how to ask the right questions to find out what she needs to know to better serve you.