With that in mind, it is helpful to have a set of questions prepared to ask your prospective agents. These questions are designed to get a good sense for the agent’s background and ability, while also giving them a chance to speak on what makes them a good choice and what they bring to the table. Considering the potentially large commission they stand to make from your purchase or sale, don’t hesitate to ask all of the questions you have before signing any agreement.
The six questions below are a great place to start when interviewing an agent. Feel free to alter these questions or add others so you have a list that helps you gather all of the information you need.
1. Are you a full-time agent and how long have you been in the business?
Real estate is a business that has all different kinds of agents working within it. Many agents are full-time working in real estate, while others do it as a side job to make an extra income selling the houses of family and friends. While there is nothing wrong with a part-time agent, you will probably want to find someone that is fully committed to the business. A full-time real estate agent will work hard to sell your property quickly and for the best price, and will also seek out all of the possible homes that you may be interested in purchasing.
A real estate agent’s experience is another important point to consider. You probably want to avoid any agent with less than a year or two of dealing in real estate. Property purchases and sales can be complicated transactions, and having an experienced hand on your side will reduce the stress and allow you to relax knowing your agent has everything under control.
2. How many deals have you closed in the last 12 months?
Having a bunch of listings is one thing – closing deals is quite another. Don’t assume an agent is successful just because you see there are a lot of properties listed on their website. You need to ask how many deals they have been involved in closing over the last twelve months to see if they are getting the job done. You can’t judge simply by a raw number, so have them explain their business a little bit and tell you the story behind the number of deals they’ve finished. If there seem to be far more listings than deals being completed, you might want to look for an agent who is moving properties more quickly.
3. What are the terms of our agreement?
Whether you are buying or selling a property (or both), the agent you work with will be paid a commission on the final sale price of the home.
The industry standard is that the seller pays the commission out of the final sale price, and that commission is usually between 5%-6%. If both the buyer and seller have an agent, they will split the final amount of the commission. While these rates are pretty standard, real estate agent commissions are negotiable. You might be able to negotiate the commission down a little bit (maybe half a percent) and save a couple thousand dollars in the end. If you are able to significantly reduce the commission, be cautious. Your agent may either be desperate for a listing, or may be just as quick to lower the price of your listing during a negotiation with a buyer.
Also, find out about the exclusivity portion of the agreement. How long are you committed to this particular agent? What if the relationship isn’t working out and you wish to part ways? Many seller agreements are for six months, but be sure to verify before you sign. Buyers agreements can be longer or shorter, so ask for the shortest period possible to avoid being locked into a deal that could leave you stuck.
4. Do you have a website?
It should go without saying that most home-buyers start their search online. If your agent doesn’t have a website, or has a poor one, it could hurt your chances of selling the home quickly and for the best price. Good looking websites will reflect well on your property and demonstrate that your agent is serious about their business. For a good indication of the quality of their listings, find the pictures that the agent has taken. Plentiful pictures of a good quality are a sign that the agent takes time to assemble listings and present houses in a good light.
5. What is your experience in this neighborhood?
Each neighborhood is different and having experience in a particular area will help with your transaction. If the agent has listed and sold homes within a couple miles of yours, you can be sure they understand pricing in the area and how to present what buyers are looking for. Be wary of an agent that has a home base far away from your community – they may lack in the local touch needed to connect with the buyers and strike a deal.
6. How many other clients are you working with currently and will I be working with you or your team?
Working with a big, well-known agency always seems like a good idea until you realize you are getting passed off to a newly hired agent with little experience. Ask directly who you will be working with on a daily basis and what their qualifications are. You will want to meet with that agent before signing. You want to be comfortable and familiar with the person that you can call whenever you have a question or problem. Many buyers and sellers choose mid-sized agencies because they can work directly with the owners who are more invested in the business and typically more experienced as well.
In reality, it is not that hard to find a quality real estate agent. Most agents are ready to work hard for their clients and close a deal so they can earn that commission and continue to build their brand and their image. By asking the simple questions above, you will be able to get a good idea of what each agent has to offer your needs and settle quickly on the one that is right for you.
Additional questions can be found on our Real Estate Agent Interview Questionnaire