January 5, 2021
What questions should I ask real estate agents?
Buying or selling your home is one of the largest financial transactions you’ll make in your life, so it’s important to find the right real estate agent to advise you throughout the process. One way to be sure you’re picking the right agent is to interview several candidates using the same questions and then compare their answers. These 11 questions will help you make an informed choice, so you’ll know you’re in the right hands. You should think about this interview process like that of interviewing someone for a job. This is a job interview for someone to represent you in your search and your investment in a new place to call home.
Here are the questions to ask your potential real estate agents:
- How long have you been a real estate agent and are you a full-time real estate agent? Real estate agents can become certified in just 4-6 months, and some agents work in real estate part-time or as a side job. As a result, their experience is a very important factor to consider when choosing the right one for your homebuying journey. You want an agent who has been in this profession full time for several years, not one who started last year and sells houses on the weekends.
- What property price range do you most often work with? Real estate agents are similar to a number of other professionals, in that they specialize. Just like you wouldn’t go to a cardiologist for foot pain, you don’t want to pick a real estate agent who specializes in luxury homes for your one-bedroom condo search. Make sure the agent that you choose has extensive experience working with —and closing — homes in your price range.
- How many deals have you closed in the past 12 months? This question can help give you a sense of how many clients the agent is working with. If the number is low, it could be that the real estate agent has several houses sitting on the market, but it could also mean that the agent takes on fewer clients and spends more time with each of them. Likewise, a very high number may point to an agent with a high volume of clients, or it may be an indicator that they have a large support team.
- How many deals have you closed in this neighborhood? Real estate is a highly localized profession. If your agent has closed 100 deals in another city — or even another area of your city — that doesn’t mean they’ll be equally successful in your neighborhood. Ask them about the pros and cons of working in your neighborhood and listen for thoughtful answers that show an understanding of the community and properties.
- What is your list-to-sale ratio in this neighborhood? Not only do you want to know that your real estate agent is familiar with the neighborhood, but you also want to know how effective they are at getting you the best deal. If you’re buying a home, the best deal you can get is below the asking price. As a seller, though, you’ll be looking for an agent who secured deals higher than or the same as the listing price, where possible. It’s important to understand of course, how market conditions and even past listing prices all can affect how successful these metrics can be.
- Are most of your clients buyers or sellers? Ideally, you’ll be able to find an agent who has worked with both groups, as such real estate agents have a more holistic understanding of each party’s needs and may be able to negotiate a better deal for you. However, you’ll at least want to make sure that your real estate agent has worked with others in your position. If you’re buying a house, for example, working with an experienced buying agent reduces the potential for surprises.
- How many days on average are your houses on the market? The answer to this question depends on your timeline. If you need the deal closed in a matter of weeks, then be sure that the agent’s track record shows an ability to do so. If you’d rather take your time to find the right house or buyer, you’ll want to avoid agents looking to close deals too quickly for you. Any timeline between a couple of weeks and a few months is ok, but if a real estate agent is routinely closing deals in less than two weeks or more than six months, you may want to ask follow-up questions or look elsewhere. Remember this down the road when it’s time to sign the contract. If an agent asks you to sign a contract for more than six months, think twice. You want to retain the ability to switch agents after a period of time if yours isn’t bringing you any deals.
It is important to also understand that the data involving time on the market can also be reflective of market conditions. There are times when it’s a sellers’ market and other times when it’s a buyers’ market, as well as times where things aren’t selling at all. Use your judgment to understand what possible conditions may have been causing delays in sales and discuss this with the agent.
- What other services are in your network, and how did you choose them? A good real estate agent can connect you with a broad network of professionals who will help you get ready to buy or sell your home, from mortgage brokers to home inspectors. It’s important to check not only that the real estate agent has a wide network of these professionals, but also that they’ve thoughtfully chosen them, focusing on those who will do quality work for you at reasonable rates. This will also make your entire homebuying process simpler. Do not take all their suggestions outright as you may want to shop around for each of these services or professionals as well.
- What is your strategy for my home? If you’re selling your home, how does the agent plan to market it? Do they have access to marketing platforms, or do they have a robust social media presence that can help get your house out to the right audience? Similarly, if you’re buying a home, does the agent have some properties in mind already? How will they negotiate on your behalf? There’s no perfect answer here, but an experienced real estate agent should be able to provide you with a strategy.
Take a look at what the agent has done for other homes and ask how your home will be marketed. How many open houses do they expect, and what are the contingency plans if the house doesn’t sell quickly?
- How do you prefer to communicate with clients? The most important factor here is that you’re on the same page. If you want to receive a text update every day, ask if the real estate agent can do that. If you’d prefer to touch base over the phone once a week, ask for that instead. Whatever your preference is, discuss your plans ahead of time to ensure you’ll feel comfortable communicating throughout the process and yet won’t lose your mind receiving hourly text updates from your agent.
- Can you connect me with some references? Always ask for references. Ask for the contact information of at least three past clients, ideally recent clients who worked with the agent within the last year or two. When you contact them, be sure to ask about the negatives as well as the positives, and if there are any reasons they would not recommend the agent to you.
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