Finding the right real estate agent is one of the most important things you’ll do throughout the course of your home sale. Whether it’s through pricing your home, marketing it, or negotiating a killer deal, the realtor you choose will have a major impact on the final sale price of your home. Choosing a real estate agent can mean a difference of tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket.
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When tasked with making a decision of such gravity, it’s important to have a game plan for how you’ll go about making the right choice. In this article, we will provide you with 11 questions you need to ask any realtor you interview.
Key Qualities to Look for in a Listing Agent
When selling your home, your listing agent will serve as your temporary business partner: they’ll competitively price and aggressively market your home, negotiate with buyers, and help guide you through the complex real estate transaction process. You’ll be spending a lot of time consulting with your agent over the next few months, so it’s important to work with someone you feel comfortable with.
Remember: a better listing agent can get you a better deal on your home, which means more money in your pocket. You’ll want to make sure they have a track record of success and that they’re experienced in your local market.
Ideally, you’ll want to find an agent with the following qualities:
- Reliable and communicative
- Friendly and easy to work with
- Experienced in your local market
- Successful track record
- At least three good references
Questions to Ask a Listing Agent
Once you know the criteria, you must figure out how to determine whether a potential agent fits the bill. Here are a few questions you can ask to get a better read on an agent.
1. Can you tell me about your career in residential real estate?
All agents have different career paths: some are part-time, some are full time, some have been working for 20 years, and some just got certified three weeks ago. Ideally, you’ll want to work with an agent who’s been working full time for at least a few years.
Keep in mind that a full-time agent will be more immersed in the local market than a part-time one. They spend every moment of their working life researching market trends, negotiating deals, and closing on properties. An agent who’s been working full-time for even just a few years has a tremendous amount of experience to draw upon.
Part-time agents can be a good choice as well, but you’ll want to see a few more years of experience in the industry to make up for the lost time.
2. What is your strategy for marketing the property?
Every listing agent will have their own unique marketing strategy: some will be more tech-savvy and invest in 3D walkthroughs and virtual tours for each listing, while others will rely on more traditional methods. Generally, you’ll want to work with an agent that makes use of both and understands the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Ask for examples of current and recent listings. Seeing their marketing strategy in action will help you get a better idea of how they’ll work on your home sale.
3. How many homes have you sold in my area this year?
Real estate markets are incredibly regional. A marketing or pricing strategy that works in one city may be completely ineffective just two towns over. If you want to ensure your sale is successful, it’s essential to work with an agent who has specialized experience in your area.
The more homes a realtor has sold in your area, the more they’ll understand the nuances of the market: how are comparable properties priced? What are the sale-to-list ratios? And what are the demographics of the area?
These factors will affect how they price the property, how they market it, and how aggressive they’ll be when negotiating. In a seller’s market, for example, they’ll be able to push more on negotiations, while they’ll have to lay off more in a buyer’s market. Having hands-on experience in your market will affect their strategy in a big way.
4. How will we communicate?
As you navigate the home selling process, you’re bound to have quite a few questions that you’ll want to ask your agent. For most sellers, finding an agent who’s responsive and easy to talk to is a priority. Every realtor has their own preferred communication method, so you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you’d rather work with someone who prefers phone calls, texts, or emails.
When gauging how quick your agent will be to respond, be sure to ask how many clients they currently have. Agents with many clients will generally take longer to respond, while those with only a few other clients will typically be able to answer your phone calls, texts, and emails much more quickly. Make sure you ask what the agent’s average response time is when interviewing them.
5. Will you provide me three references?
Anytime you’re hiring someone, it’s important to get references before signing a contract. Deciding on a realtor is no different: always make sure the realtor you’re considering can provide at least three references from past clients.
These can tell you two things:
- Whether the agent’s past clients were happy with their experiences
- Whether they’ve had past clients with similar needs
If you’re looking for a particular type of property or are in a unique situation, ask your realtor for references from clients that sold under similar circumstances. This will give you a good idea as to how they’ll work with you.
Online reviews provide a higher number of experiences than you can get from references, but usually don’t go as deep into them. It’s a good idea to use reviews as a preliminary screening method and then use references as a deciding factor. You can go more in-depth and ask specific questions when contacting a reference.
6. How familiar are you with my price range?
All realtors have their specialties: some focus on multi-million dollar mansions, while others focus on more moderately priced homes. Always ask a potential realtor whether they have experience in your particular price range. Working with an agent who’s only sold mansions doesn’t make much sense if you’re selling a home that’s worth $200,000.
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7. How will you determine the listing price?
Ideally, a realtor should perform a comparative market analysis (CMA). This means that they’ll compare your home to other open, pending, and recently closed listings to arrive at a price that’s placed competitively within the local market.
When interviewing a realtor, inquire about their list-price-to-sale ratio, or sale-to-list ratio. The sale-to-list ratio is calculated by dividing the closing price of the home by its original listing price and multiplying that figure by 100 to express it as a percentage.
If their sale-to-list ratio is over 100%, the realtor consistently sells homes for above the list price. If it’s under 100%, the opposite is true. Try to find a realtor with a ratio over 100%.
8. How long can I expect my house to be on the market?
Ask the realtor how long their homes typically stay on the market for and how quickly they usually get offers. In the US, homes stay on the market for an average of 68 days, so you’ll want to find someone who stays within range of or beats this figure.
Be sure to ask whether it’s common for their sales to fall through during closing. If so, this could mean that they are overly aggressive during the negotiation process.
9. What other professionals can you recommend for my home selling experience?
A good realtor should be well-connected in the industry. Ask potential candidates whether they know lenders, contractors, appraisers, and inspectors who can help your sale go smoothly. If they don’t have a decent network, that’s a red flag, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up encountering some roadblocks and slowdowns along the way.
10. What questions do you have for me about the property?
Marketing is a large part of an agent’s job description, and like any good marketer, they should be interested in learning as much as they can about your home. Any decent realtor should ask whether there are any hidden features, past issues, or other points of interest that may affect your home sale.
If they don’t ask any questions, that’s not a good sign: no matter how experienced they are, no realtor can know a home’s full story on first sight. The lack of curiosity and initiative doesn’t bode well for their ability to come up with a great angle for your home.
11. What will it cost to list my home?
Home sellers typically pay 6% in total commissions which are split evenly between the buyer’s and seller’s agent. If the realtor you’re interviewing says they’ll charge more than 3%, you’re not getting a good deal. Commission fees are almost always negotiable, so it’s worth asking whether it’s possible to work out a lower fee.
If you want to work with a top-rated, local, full-service agent without paying hefty commission fees, Clever may be right for you. Clever Partner Agents will sell your home for a pre-negotiated $3,000 flat fee or 1% of homes that sell for over $350,000 — that means thousands of dollars in commission saved. Our Partner Agents can save you up to 50% in typical selling costs.
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Prep Tips for Interviewing a Realtor
Before interviewing a realtor, keep these tips in mind:
- Decide how many realtors you want to interview: Don’t waste your time interviewing dozens of agents. Pick a few you’re interested in and focus on them.
- Do some preliminary research into local market trends: Inform yourself on the median home values in your area, market direction, and the typical sales price.
- Do some research online: Google all realtors before moving forward with an interview. Read their reviews and see if there are any red flags.
How to Find a Great Listing Agent
The benefits of finding a great agent are clear: they’ll price your home competitively, market it aggressively, and negotiate a great deal for you.
Selling your home with a realtor will almost always net you a much larger profit than if you sold on your own. According to the National Association of Realtor®'s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, homes sold with an agent had an average closing price of $60,000 more than those sold without one.
Finding a great agent can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Ask your friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations, do a bit of Googling, and contact the agents for local listings you like. You’re sure to find someone who fits the bill.
To make things easier, Clever connects sellers with top-rated local agents. Get in touch with us to learn more about how our Partner Agents can make your sale a success.