In the real estate education curriculum, there are probably more seminars that teach an agent how to give an interview presentation than there are classes on how to sell a house. Sadly, most homeowners fall for the highly polished, highly rehearsed presentation and hire the agent without really knowing if they can sell a house. If you follow these interview secrets, you can find out the true worth of your prospective agent.
Before The Interview
Be sure to do the following tasks before the interview.
Licensed Professional, or Professional Liar?
A real estate agent must be licensed in order to legally represent real estate clients. In the state of Texas, and in many other states, looking up an agent’s license status is easy. In Texas, to see if an agent has an active license, go to the TREC License Search Page. There you can find out if that agent’s license is active, and how many years that agent has been licensed in the State of Texas. You can also see a list of classes that were taken to meet the state’s licensing education requirements too.
Alphabet Soup – What Should Designations Mean to You?
You’ll notice on an agent’s business card several letters after the name, like CRS, ABR, etc. These are called designations. These designations certify that an agent has received extra training in a certain area of expertise. Are they valuable? Maybe. Depends on the particular designation. Some designations are valuable, others are a way to squeeze an additional fee out of an agent. Go to the Realtor.com Realtor Designations Page to see the list of accredited designations and their descriptions. Ask the agent how many classes they had to take to get the certification and how long it took them to earn it? Remember, the easier it is to earn, the less valuable it is. I only have one designation behind my name… MBA, but that took two years to earn. Some of these designations can be earned by taking 3 one-day classes and a few simple tests. Have them describe the designation and how they got it and you be the judge. Just remember, a bad agent is still a bad agent, no matter how many fancy letters they have trailing their name or how many designation logos they have plastered on their business card.
Did you know that you can find out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice on your state’s Real Estate Commission web site? In Texas you can run a search on an agent to see if they have any ethics violations filed against them by going to the TREC Disciplinary Actions Page. If they have any violations, depending on the violation, you can either cancel the interview or interrogate them about the action.
No Sale, No Interview
Don’t waste your time interviewing your brother-in-law’s neighbor who’s starting out in real estate and wants you to be his first client. Also don’t bother interviewing an agent who lists homes three times your size and price, all the way across town. Not only do they not know your location, but they cater to a different market. You’re either an agent specializing in million-dollar homes, or your an agent that specializes in first-time homebuyers. First-time homebuyers do not shop for million-dollar homes. Of course you could do worse, you could interview an agent who can’t sell a house at all. Be sure to only interview Realtors that have actually sold something in your neighborhood and in your house’s price range. That’s the type of agent we look for at AgentHarvest, when we select agents for you.
Analyze their Track Record
Be sure to ask each agent being interviewed for a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of just the houses that agent listed. Have them run one report that has all of the houses in the entire MLS coverage area, and have them run a report that focuses only on your neighborhood or area. If you know one of the homeowners listed on the report, don’t hesitate to ask them about their experiences with that agent. Look at their track record for stats like Days on Market (DOM), Sales Price as a percentage of list price (SP%LP) and number of houses sold, active, pending, cancelled, etc. For more information, go to Analyzing a Real Estate Agent’s Track Record.
During The Interview
Be sure to address these points during the interview.
Ask Interview Questions
AgentHarvest has a list of great agent interview questions you may want to ask your agent candidate.
There’s No “I” In TEAM
However, you can assemble the letters to spell MEAT. So go MEET the team. Ask the agent being interviewed to provide a list of team members, their specialties, and every piece of contact information you can get your hands on, cell phones, e-mail, etc. Ask how your listing would be handled by each member of the team and how the team would communicate with you.
Promotional Materials or Self-Promotional Materials?
Examine marketing materials. Do they promote the home or the agent? If you see a full page ad with a full-page glamour shot of the team surrounded by postage stamp sized pictures of the houses they list, what do you think they’re really advertising? Make sure they are promoting your house, not using your house to promote themselves. Look at their ads. What do you immediately notice, the house, selling features of the house, or the agent. Look at some of the agent’s flyers. Ask yourself, does this flyer make me want to buy this home? Is it unique or a template that all agents from that company uses. Also look at their listings on their web site or the realtor.com site. Do the pictures look good? Do they pictorially describe the house well enough to create interest? Or did the agent take 5 steps into the house, shoot a few pictures and quickly leave? If you’re not sold, your buyers will not be sold. That means your house will not be sold.
How Neighborly is the Agent?
Make sure the agent knows about the neighborhood and how to effectively price your house. Find out how your competitors are pricing their houses, and how their home’s features compare to yours. Also ask about the pricing trends for your area.
The Price is Right
Priced to high and the agent is just telling you what you want to hear just to seduce you into signing a contract. Priced too low and they are looking for the quick sale. You want a price somewhere in between. Make them explain how your house compares to the neighborhood market price and then explain how they calculated the price. Their track record can reveal if they overprice or underprice based on either a below average Days-on-Market, or DOM or an above average DOM. A larger than average LP%SP stat will also reveal problems. Have all of the agents bring the data and determine an average DOM, LP%SP and number of houses sold. Then determine how each agent falls along that average. Low DOM and high LP%SP compared to the average may mean they tend to price their houses lower than the rest, a high DOM and lower LP%SP means the house sat longer, probably due to being overpriced, especially if the LP%SP was significantly lower than comparative track records. If it’s close, then don’t worry about it, but if it’s significant, you may want to question the Realtor about it.
Room for Improvement
Give your agent a tour of the house and property. Have them point out your house’s benefits, detriments and have them suggest possible improvements that could justify a higher list price. Also ask if they can recommend people to perform those improvements.
You Can’t Have it All
There’s an old adage concerning remodeling projects, you can have the lowest cost, fastest service, and the highest quality. Pick any two out of the three, but you can’t have all three. Determine what is most important goal for you to accomplish with this sale. Do you want a fast sale, a high price, convenient showing schedule, or something else? Prioritize your wants and ask the agent how he/she would help you meet your goals.
Agent or Superagent?
Ask each agent what will they do to sell this house that makes them better than any other agent. Their answers may surprise you. Hopefully they’ll impress you.
After the Interview
After you interview the agent, you may wish to do the following tasks.
By now, you should have enough info to determine a gut feeling about this agent. Be sure to write down your opinions about that agent immediately after the interview, while it’s fresh on your mind. After all of the interviews, spread everything out on the living room floor, sort it into piles and determine what’s most important, and then rank how each agent measured up in each category.
References Available Upon Request
Most people would suggest you ask for references. Why do that? Do you think they would give you a bad reference on purpose? Instead, look at their CMA and pick some houses that they listed and pick a sample of 3 to 5 houses. I’d use the neighborhood CMA first. You should already know people on that list. Remember, not everything is the agent’s fault. If you find a negative reference, especially if it’s one you discovered on your own, be sure to ask the agent what went wrong.
You’ve Got Guts
Assemble all of your data, rank and file each agent. Then choose your most favored agent. Who did you like? Who do you think you could work with? Go with you guts and pick your favorite. Then relax while you can because the fun is just beginning.
For Those of You Who Like Lists
Before The Interview
- Get the names of top-selling agents in your area.
- Lookup their license status.
- Find out if they have any accredited designations and look them up.
- Do an ethics violation search.
- Only interview agents who sell like houses in your neighborhood.
- Analyze the agent’s track record.
During The Interview
- Ask interview questions.
- Meet the team and find out how each member would work with you.
- Examine the effectiveness of their promotional materials.
- Find out how much they know about your neighborhood.
- What do they think would be a good sale price for your house?
- How could you get more for your house?
- Determine your priorities and find out how they will address them.
- Find out what makes them a better agent?
After The Interview
- Write down all of your thoughts and opinions.
- Talk to former clients.
- Go with your gut instincts.