Are you considering hiring a professional to assist you with buying or selling your home? This is a big decision, as the sale of real estate involves large amounts of money and there's a lot of things to keep track of. Hiring the wrong Realtor® can be a disaster. Whether buying or selling, it's critical that you ask the right questions when you interview agents. After more than 25 years as a Realtor®, here's my list of the 10 questions I advise my friends and family to ask.
How To Interview A Real Estate Agent
1. Are you a Full-Time Broker? Are you available on short notice to show me homes for sale (or handle potential buyers for my house)? Do you have time to work with me now? Not all agents work full time, many have second jobs or other things they prefer doing. As a home buyer or seller, you'll have to decide what level of service you want. In fast-moving markets it's important to stay on top of things, to know what's going on. Availability can make a vital difference. This is the time to find out about preferred communication methods and for the agent to tell you what you can expect. Everyone understands that no one is available 24/7, find out how they plan to handle things if they can't be there themselves.
2. How long have you been in the business? Here's an industry "secret": nearly 90% of new Realtors don't last two years. Of those that do, the 80-20 rule applies. 20% do 80% of the business. These are simply the statistics. This doesn't mean a new agent can't or won't do a great job, they absolutely may, just as one who has been in the business for years may or may not do a great job, but odds are if they've been around a longer time and are closing transactions (see below) you're likely better off.
3. How many transactions have you closed in the past 12 months? You can ask for documentation, any agent should be able to easily generate a report showing their active, pending, and closed listings and sales. Markets can vary greatly so, there's no magic number of transactions to look for, but a rough guideline might be 12 or more closed transactions a year.
4. Do you have any other experience or skills that would be helpful to me as a home Buyer/Seller? Is the agent technologically adept? Do they have specific experience in negotiation, building, design, energy efficiency, finance, marketing, or sales?
5. Show me your online presence. For sellers this is critical. You want your property professionally displayed on all major Social Media Sites as well as on the major real estate web portals, like Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and others. Does the agent have a website and how professional is it? Is it one that actively attracts buyers on its own? How many websites do they distribute to? If you Google them what do you find? Check online reviews and testimonials.
For Buyers, this offers a way to see just how technologically savvy they really are as well as to check reviews and testimonials.
6. What will it cost me to work with you? How long will the contract be for and what happens if I'm unhappy with your service? Clearly, these are important questions regardless of whether you're a buyer or seller. There are no set prices or terms and different Realtors® have different policies. You want to be clear on what their policies are and what you're expect to pay.
Things to consider as a Seller: What is the commission rate and what do you get for it. The My NC Homes Team pays for floor plans for marketing purposes, consultation with a professional stager (when the home will have furniture in it), professional photography which may include aerial photography and possibly Matterport 3D photography. We have virtual tours and youtube videos created. We assist with the cost of a home warranty and pay to have the home professionally cleaned immediately prior to closing.
We market extensively both on and off-line. We offer a written guarantee to release you from your listing at no cost if you aren't happy with our service. There are no fees of any sort other than our commission from which we pay the Buyer's agent. There are other agents who offer similar service, many do not. Some will discount their fees, others do not. I believe in the end you should get what you pay for. If you pay a discounted price you should expect discounted service and the same is true in reverse.
Buyers need to understand if there any fees to the agent that they are responsible for. Is there a minimum commission your agent expects to receive? If so, how much and what happens if the seller side doesn't pay it? What happens if you end up buying a For Sale By Owner? What happens if there are bonuses offered as an incentive to the buyer's agent? Again there's no one magic formula, what matters is that you understand what if any your financial obligations may be working with the agent.
7. I'm going to be selling and buying, can you help me with both? Do you have any policies about this? What happens if I want to buy one of your listings or if one of your buyers wants to buy my home? Every state allows an agent to "represent" both a buyer and seller within a single transaction. There are different names for this form of representation in different states, here and in many others, this is referred to as Dual Agency. While legal, I have always felt that there was a conflict of interest in doing so. I've yet to figure out how I could honor my legal fiduciary obligation to two clients with clearly stated opposite positions. I believe the only one well represented in a situation like this is the agent who is understandably focused on the commission they'll receive. You need to be clear on what the agent's policy is.
8. What is your experience with multiple offers? How would you advise me if I find myself in that position? This has become relatively common in the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill North Carolina) market and in much of the country. In competitive markets, this is where experience in negotiating as well as availability matter most. It's not just price that motivates people, there are other considerations. As they say, there's more than one way to skin a cat.
9. What happens once I'm under contract? Will you personally be keeping me on track regarding the important dates of the contract? Will you be at my home inspections? (for the Buyer) What about the closing? Can you help me with inspectors, lenders, contractors, attorneys, and anyone else I may need throughout the process? Again, it differs among agents, some use various assistants to help with some of these tasks, some expect you to take care of these things, others are more hands on. Everyone of the Realtors at the My NC Homes Team is hands on. We commit to being with our clients from start to finish and beyond. We know that this is what the job requires to make the process as low stress as possible for our buyers and sellers.
There is a lot that needs to get done from the time a contract is signed and most people don't have a lot of experience with real estate transactions as they only are involved in a few over their lifetime. To further complicate things each State is different and uses different contracts so even if you're the exception and have bought and sold many properties, there's a pretty good chance of your making a costly mistake without guidance. Isn't avoiding stress and problems the main reason for hiring a professional in the first place?
10. Can I see your reviews or speak with recent buyers (or sellers) you've worked with? If you still have any questions about the agent you need to find out what others think of them. With luck they have a strong online presence with dozens of ratings and recommendations, if not they should be able to provide you the names of people you can speak with.
Asking these questions is the best way I know of making certain you get a top-notch, professional Realtor® who will do a great job getting your home sold and/or helping you find a great property to call home. Having the right person on your side will make the entire process more enjoyable and less stressful and you may even get lucky and find one that will become a friend for life.
If you liked this piece, you may be interested in these two articles as well:
10 Things A Real Estate Agent Should Never Do by Realtor Bill Gassett
How to Interview a Real Estate Agent - The Balance: Make Money Personal