Updated March 19th, 2019
On average, most Americans will sell their home every five to seven years. If this is you, there is a high chance that you’ll need to find a new listing agent several different times over your lifetime. But, how can you be confident that you’ve found the right agent? After all, selling a home is a partnership between homeowner and listing agent, and it is not uncommon for a homeowner to spend three months in the listing process from start to finish.
Through the complexity of selling a home, a realtor’s job should not only be to sell the property, but also to help you as a homeowner understand and become comfortable with the process.
Here are the top 9 ‘must ask’ questions you can use to uncover whether or not a listing agent is suitable for your needs.
1. Can you tell me about your career in residential real estate?
Understanding an agent’s background and is the key to finding the right one. As a seller, you will want to know these details. Learn important information such as how long the agent has been in the business, if the agent is full or part-time, how many homes they have sold, and what credentials they have. When it comes to selling homes, experience matters. Sellers should look for professional, full-time real estate agents with enough experience to sell their property for the best price possible.
2. What is your strategy for marketing the property?
The right agent should have a robust and comprehensive plan to make your property eye-catching, unique, and viewable through the proper channels. Did you know that websites like Zillow and Trulia have 160 million monthly users? To cut through the noise home shoppers experience, the tactics an agent use to showcase homes online is critical. Professional exterior and interior photos are essential. Emerging technology such as virtual tours, 3-D immersive video tours, and drone photography can be helpful in making your listing stand out.
In addition to the dominant websites like Zillow and Trulia, there are are other techniques agents should be using to advertise a home for sale, including signage in the front yard, open houses, and flyers, just to name a few.
3. How many homes have you sold in my area this year?
Agents who do well in one neighborhood tend to perform well consistently. Why? As they sell more homes in that area, they get to know the nuances of that market inside-and-out. Agents familiar with the market know the comps, the list price-to-sale price ratios, and the demographics of the particular neighborhood. This information can help them not only list your house at an attractive price but also negotiate better because they understand the property and features nearby such as shops, schools, and crime.
If an agent sold the most in a particular area in prior years, there’s a high probability they can perform well in this case.
4. How will we communicate?
In the client-agent relationship, communication styles and methods can get in the way of an excellent and seamless experience. Some agents prefer text over email, in-person meetings over phone calls, or a mix of the above. Additionally, soft skills are something prospective sellers should be investigating. Agents with a laid-back personality might overlook a detail that the curious homeowner could find valuable. Conversely, agents that prefer lots of communication might come off as overbearing to sellers that don’t want the nitty-gritty specifics.
5. Will you provide me three references?
Homeowners should always avoid agents who hesitate to provide a list of satisfied clients or references. Even if an agent provides references, sellers must take them with a grain of salt. Would an agent pass along a dissatisfied client? Probably not.
When talking to references, be sure to ask for likes, dislikes, and how the agent performed overall. Dig into the specifics to learn about the agents strengthens and weaknesses.
6. How familiar are you with my price range?
Some agents will specialize in homes of all types while others focus on specific niche price ranges. For a luxury agent that handles $10 million in luxury listings, it’s not likely you’ll get much attention when you’re selling an entry-level home.
Whether an agent has a niche or not, a good agent always has the capability of seeing the property through the buyer’s eyes. If an agent has experience in your price range, they’ll have a better gauge for understanding a future buyer’s perspective.
7. How will you determine the listing price?
Some of the questions you’ve asked the realtor up to this point will ultimately be getting at this critical question – how much do I stand to make or lose on this deal? While most agents will have a similar process, most experts in the real estate industry will tell you that pricing a home is an art, not a science.
The right price will attract showings, generate offers, and leave you walking away with the maximum amount of money in your pocket. Homeowners should be wary of agents who play to their emotions with the promise of an absurd listing price without any signs of being able to deliver.
Generally speaking, agents who know the property and location well can count on their expertise to arrive at a reasonable asking price.
8. How long can I expect my house to be on the market?
The real estate industry tends to be highly cyclical and, to their advantage or disadvantage, most homeowners looking to sell are at the mercy of the market. While this dynamic is continuously evolving, agents should be able to set expectations with the seller on how long they can expect to have the house on the market.
A good follow-up question to ask: how does the average time on the market compare to the agent’s average listing? If an agent’s listings have a history of remaining on the market for a more extended time period, it can be a red flag that something they’re doing isn’t working.
9. What questions do you have for me about the property?
When interviewing agents, sellers should not be the only one asking questions. Like a job interview, leaving the floor open for agents to ask questions at the conversation’s end can be a good tactic for understanding if that specific realtor is right for you. Homeowners should look for agents that ask questions that make them feel comfortable, secure, and heard. The agent should be able to reiterate goals and objectives in a way that conveys a thorough understanding.
Don’t Forget the Most Important Question
Do I think this agent can do a good job selling my home? Above all else, the most important inquiry is the one you should ask yourself. Armed with the right questions and plenty of research, you can feel confident once you find the perfect agent.
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