Miranda Crace8-Minute read
PUBLISHED: August 10, 2022
Whether you’re buying or selling a house, working with a real estate agent can make the process go much smoother than if you were by yourself. That’s assuming, of course, that you can find the right professional for the job. Before you hire a REALTOR® based solely on their TV or online ads, you should think about what you want this person to be able to do for you. Think of yourself as an employer interviewing a potential employee. What questions would you ask them to make sure they’re up to the task?
Before we get to those questions, let’s take a brief look at what a real estate agent can do for you. In general, an agent represents their client – buyer or seller, and in some cases both – throughout a real estate transaction, guiding them through all of the important paperwork and acting as a liaison between the involved parties.
An agent also has access to the multiple listing service (MLS) and can find homes for sale before they’re listed to the public. REALTORS®, real estate agents and real estate brokers all hold a wealth of knowledge about the market that would be valuable to any buyer or seller.
Buying and selling a house involves different strategies for success, but regardless of the service, there are some questions you should ask every agent to see if they’d be a good fit. Here are some general questions to consider asking upfront to find the best real estate agent.
Experience goes a long way in any career. Someone who’s been on the job for multiple years can anticipate potential problems and head them off before they arise. A seasoned real estate expert can also utilize trained and tested negotiation skills to get you the best deal.
Real estate isn’t everybody’s passion. Some professionals dedicate only part of their schedules to the job or treat it as a side hustle. If you want the process to go faster, you’ll want to know upfront whether an agent will dedicate their time to you in full. If a part-time agent doesn’t fit your style, kindly seek out one who can do what you need in the time you want it done.
Knowing an agent’s area of expertise will tell you right away if they’re the right person to help you through the home buying process or with selling your house. Some agents may have more success with home buyers than when they work for sellers. A best-case scenario could be finding an agent who specializes in both areas of knowledge, therefore granting you insights into both sides of the process.
Many agents work with a team in order to maximize their availability for their clients. Some home buyers or sellers might prefer to work one-on-one with their agent, which is why you should check upfront whether you’ll be working directly with your representative full-time or with another agent or assistant on their team.
The answer to this question can go a couple different ways. On one hand, an agent working with a lot of clients at once may not be able to devote the time you need from them. On the other, an agent with fewer clients, or none, may be a sign you should look elsewhere. If you’re not sure how many clients would be too many, any more than 10 could mean that the agent wouldn’t be able to commit to you as well.
Any successful professional would have a short list of satisfied clients from previous transactions. Ask for a list of references and contact them if you wish. An agent who can’t provide their references can’t guarantee a satisfactory experience for you.
Real estate agents are people, too, and have their own time off from the job. If an agent doesn’t work on weekends, a time when most house showings occur, that’s something you’ll want to know before you give them the job.
Emergencies can spring up at any time, and a great agent will only be a phone call away. If an agent says they only communicate through text or email, you can’t be sure you can reach them when you need to.
This might seem like an odd question, but it can be beneficial for you to know how your agent will be compensated. Typically, a buyer doesn’t pay their agent anything, and the agents’ fee is rolled into the closing costs paid by the seller. A seller pays their broker, who then splits the commission with the buyer’s agent. Knowing if this is how your agent operates will mean no surprises later on.
A buyer’s agent can provide you with valuable knowledge about houses in the neighborhood you want to live in and important information about property taxes and zoning laws. If you decide that you need a REALTOR® to buy a house, consider vetting your prospects with these questions.
In the competitive real estate market, standing out above other buyers is vital to getting the house you want. Ask an agent how they make their clients stand apart from the rest. An experienced agent should have one or more tried-and-true strategies to employ in different scenarios.
As with any professional, you’ll want to know someone’s success rate. If they’ve found and closed on numerous homes, there’s every chance they can do it again for you. An agent with a larger success rate will obviously be more reliable than one with a more varying record.
A home’s listed price will often differ from its final sales price as a result of expert negotiating. Ask an agent what their ratio for success is in this area, and you’ll get a good idea of how they can haggle down a steep sales price.
You’ll want an agent who’s familiar with the area or neighborhood where you’re looking. Aside from determining whether a neighborhood is safe, asking this can tell you how much an agent really knows about the area in question.
Selling a house can be a daunting task, so it can help to have an expert guiding you through the process. Since selling a house without a REALTOR® can require much more legwork from the seller, you should consider interviewing some agents with these seller-specific questions.
Different houses may require different strategies. An experienced agent should have any one of these at the ready to deal with any situation. Do they work with a certain photographer to get the best photos for the listing? Do they utilize social media and email blasts to get the word out about your home? In the time of COVID-19, are they savvy with organizing virtual tours? Without a good plan in place, you could be waiting a long time for your house to find a buyer.
It could be a comfort to know an agent has experience selling in your area. Understanding the neighborhood and the types of home buyers looking there could prove valuable in marketing your house to the right people.
Just as with a buyer’s agent, knowing your prospective agent’s track record with clients is an important part of knowing who to work with. An agent with more sales in a year will obviously be the more attractive option to go with.
A house listed at too high a price could ward off potential buyers. Ask an agent how they deduced the value of your house, whether through a proper comparative market analysis (CMA) or by looking at comparable sales in the area. A professional REALTOR® will be able to tell you exactly how they came to their suggested asking price.
An agent who also has a client interested in your house might seem like a two-birds-one-stone situation, but be aware that an agent working both sides of a transaction can’t conceivably represent your interests and a buyer’s interests at the same time. They will inevitably have to favor one of you over the other in order to get one of you the best deal – which, after all, is an agent’s primary job.
Your job doesn’t stop after you’ve hired a real estate expert. An agent worth their salt should be able to tell you how you can help make your house more attractive to potential buyers. This can mean making renovations to the property, replacing older appliances indoors and out- and cleaning up the interior for virtual or in-person showings. If an agent doesn’t have a plan for what you can do, you can’t be sure they can get you the best deal for your house.
There’s a lot you need to know before you can entrust someone with finding you your dream home or selling your old one. If a REALTOR® can confidently answer the questions listed above, then they just might be the right one for the job.
Are you ready to begin the home buying or selling process? Before choosing how to move forward with a real estate professional, learn more about the differences between brokers, agents and REALTORS® so you can make the best decision for your situation.
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