Every home buying and selling experience is unique. Whether a young real estate investor or a seasoned expert, connecting with experts you can trust will be the key to your success. Before hiring a real estate agent to assist with your transaction, you need to ask the right questions and ensure they suit your specific needs. Conducting thorough interviews helps your agent understand your goals and sets a precedent for open and effective communication. You want to work with someone who has your best interests at heart. Ask these 20 questions to help you find the right agent to buy or sell your home.
Early Stages For Either Buying Or Selling
Working with a real estate agent when buying or selling your house isn’t mandatory, but it can help you get the best price within your desired timeline. Working with an agent will add to buyer expenses and reduce seller profits. It’s essential to ask the right questions and partner with an agent who has your best interests at heart.
Do You Consider Yourself More of a Buyer’s or Seller’s Agent?
Did you know there are two types of real estate agents?
A buyer’s agent is someone who represents the buyer during a real estate transaction. They work to get the lowest price for the buyer and help them through every step of the home buying process.
Conversely, a seller’s agent represents the seller during a real estate transaction. They work to get the highest price for the seller while working within their timeline and other constraints.
Why do you need to ask about this upfront? Because you need to know your agent represents your best interests. If possible, have them provide evidence of their success rate on both sides.
It’s unlikely to find an agent specializing only in one side of real estate transactions. The fact that most agents have experience on both sides ensures that you get well-rounded consultation regardless of your goals.
However, if you’re buying a new home, you wouldn’t want an agent with more proven success as a seller’s agent.
Can You Tell Me About the Brokerage You Work For?
After getting licensed, all real estate agents need to work for a broker. Therefore, the broker’s real estate history is as important as the agent’s.
Brokerages are businesses that support real estate agents. They provide them with resources, leads, and guidance for a percentage of the commission earned on each home sale.
There are giant national brokerages and smaller “boutique” real estate firms. Each type of brokerage has pros and cons.
Suppose your agent works for a big brokerage. They’re likely to have access to resources that expand their reach, or they could be associated with a larger entity that increases their brand recognition. On the downside, there are many moving parts at a big brokerage, and clients may not get an individualized experience.
Smaller real estate brokerages can have a “home-field advantage.” As a result, they may be more familiar with your target neighborhood. They might also have a good relationship with local businesses, which could come in handy during homebuying.
Ask your prospective agents what they like about their brokerage to decide if the overall company will be a good match for your needs.
How Long Have You Been a Real Estate Agent?
Experience matters in real estate. However, don’t be quick to assume that more experience is inherently better.
There are several pros to working with a seasoned agent. For starters, they’re likely to have a wealth of knowledge and an established presence in your market. That includes strong relationships with lawyers, contractors, inspectors, and other third parties who will make your transaction easier.
Don’t write off brand-new agents, though. Choosing a young agent can be like finding a diamond in the rough. A newer agent may be eager to prove themselves and work harder to get your business. Although they might lack experience, they can make up for it with a willingness to learn and a fresh perspective on the real estate world.
If you’re considering working with a new agent, look for the following qualities to make sure they’re on the right track:
- They have clear goals
- They maintain a full-time schedule while upholding flexibility and honoring boundaries
- They’re establishing a network and presence in your area
- They’re actively listening to your needs and continuing their education
How Many Clients Do You Have Right Now?
You want your agent to be focused on you, not distracted by taking on more clients than they can handle.
The number of clients an agent has is directly related to how much attention they can give you. If they’re juggling too many balls, something’s bound to drop.
This question can give insight into the agent’s business model and overall popularity. Some agents take on a high volume of clients, while others prefer to work with fewer people simultaneously. There’s no right or wrong answer, but you and your agent must be on the same page.
Don’t limit your search to agents with a small client roster. The right real estate agent for you will be transparent about their availability amid their current client volume.
Do You Work Full-Time or Part-Time as an Agent?
Ideally, you want an agent who works full-time.
A full-time agent is more likely to have the time and energy to devote to your home search. They’re also more likely to be familiar with current market conditions, as they live and breathe real estate daily.
Of course, part-time agents can have advantages. Working with a part-time agent can mean more individualized attention since they’re less likely to have a large client base.
Who Will Be My Primary Point of Contact?
You should know who your primary point of contact will be throughout the home buying process.
Sometimes, you’ll work with the agent you spoke to initially. But when working with larger brokerages, you may be passed off to a team member or an assistant.
There’s nothing wrong with working with someone other than the agent you met. Working with a team instead of just one person can make things more efficient. However, understanding the specific job functions of each team member can make or break your real estate experience.
How Long Are You Expecting The Process to Take?
Your agent should have a realistic understanding of how long it will take you to find a home and complete the transaction. More importantly, they should be invested in making the process fit your timeline.
Whether buying or selling a house, waiting too long can be costly. If you’re selling, you might miss out on market opportunities. And if you’re buying, you could pay more than necessary.
At the same time, you should also be realistic about your timeline. Set your agent up for success by coming to the table with a clear vision. If you haven’t done much planning and are making a rushed transaction, it’s not fair to expect your agent to make a top-dollar deal.
Who Is in Your Network That Will Make the Process Easier?
Speaking of timing, an excellent real estate agent will have a network of industry professionals to help you buy or sell your home quickly and efficiently.
For instance, if you’re selling your home, they might have a list of companies that can help you declutter and stage your property. They might also know a great photographer who will make your listing pop.
On the buying side, look for an agent to be well-connected among contractors and inspectors. Inspectors will help identify problems with the home that could be dealbreakers. They might also find issues to help your agent negotiate a lower asking price. After that, knowing a trusted contractor ensures any problems will be remediated quickly and at a fair fee.
How Many Transactions Do You Help Close Every Year?
An agent’s win rate says a lot about them.
If you’re working with a buyer’s agent, you’ll want to see that they’ve helped close at least ten homes per year. Expect higher numbers for sellers because a listing agent’s work typically allows them to take on more clients. Factor in how long your agent has been working. If they’re newer, their win average will be unavoidably skewed.
Raw data doesn’t tell the complete story, though. Regardless of how many transactions your agent-to-be has closed, you should consult past clients and learn about their experiences.
You can find references online by reading your agent’s reviews and brokerage. When reading reviews, don’t forget to consider the big picture and look for trends. Even the best agents are bound to have a negative review or two.
You can also ask your agent if they have a list of references you can speak to. If you get a chance to talk directly to an agent, you don’t want to waste their time. Make a plan beforehand and focus on asking about what’s most important to you.
People buying a home should ask how the agent helped them find the right home within their budget. When selling, people need to ask how effectively the agent marketed the home and prepared it for sale.
What’s Your Commission Rate/Closing Costs?
This is an important question that needs to be put into perspective.
An agent’s commission is how they make a living, so you shouldn’t expect them to work for free. That being said, the industry average is between 6-7%, depending on the home’s total cost.
Both buying and selling agents typically work for commission, but there are other pay models you might encounter.
Occasionally an agent will work for a flat fee. Flat fees are relatively uncommon but can be the choice model for informal transactions or ultra-luxury markets.
The à la carte pricing model allows agents to charge a set price for each service they perform. This model can make give clients a little more control over their budgets. A warning: à la carte expenses can quickly exceed flat rates and commission if you don’t go in with an established plan and budget.
Questions to Ask When Buying
If you’re in the market to buy a new home, your requirements will differ from those looking to sell. You need someone who can help you dispel common homebuying myths and get the best bang for your buck. Here are a few key questions to ask your agent before starting the process.
What Are the Biggest Challenges Buyers Are Facing Right Now?
Your agent should have their finger on the pulse of the market and a keen awareness of current inventory levels. Optimal buying conditions occur when the inventory (number of homes for sale) exceeds the demand (number of buyers).
While it’d be fantastic to time your homebuying experience when the market is ideally suited for it, that’s not realistic. Real estate trends can last for months, years, or even decades. If you try to time the market, you might end up waiting forever.
That’s why it’s essential to see how well an agent understands a buyer’s challenges. The best agent does more than identify when the market is optimal for homebuying; they can identify opportunities even when it isn’t on the buyers’ side.
Beware of agents who sugarcoat challenges. You want an agent who’s honest about the market and will help you develop a strategy for finding the right home. Hearing hard truths about the market might seem discouraging, but facing the truth is always better. The right agent will help keep you motivated and optimistic without withholding any realities.
How Frequently Have You Worked in This Market?
Part of being a successful agent is knowing the ins and outs of the market they work in. The real estate industry is hyper-local, so it might not apply to your particular market even if an agent has years of experience.
Your buyer’s agent should be in-tune with all recent transactions in the area. Agents often have access to data that the average consumer doesn’t, so they should constantly monitor it for critical details like any disparity between asking prices and closing prices, local variables that impact property values, and other homebuying trends.
As always, the agent/client relationship is a two-way street. Do some research to identify any unique challenges or trends in your area, then bring them to your agent. By combining your interests with their experience, you’ll get the best of both worlds.
How Will You Help Me Stay in My Price Range?
It’s not uncommon for buyers to get caught up in the excitement of the home buying process and start looking at homes that are above their budget.
Your agent should have systems in place to help you stay on track. Maybe they use a buyer profile sheet, including your price range, preferred square footage, and desired location. Using their insider information, it’s their responsibility to analyze your wants and translate them to real-world opportunities.
It’s easy to find an agent that wants you to buy a home no matter what. The best agents will tell you when it’s time to walk away.
The perfect agent will always keep your best interests at heart. If they’ve reviewed your buyer profile and tell you your wants aren’t congruent with your price range, you should hear them out.
Real estate can be a powerful wealth-building asset, but it can quickly drain your funds if you overspend. Work with your agent to reassess your buyer profile and find a home that matches your needs and budget.
The Home Passed Inspection, But Would You Buy It?
Getting a home inspection is a critical step in the buying process. It’s an opportunity to get an unbiased, third-party evaluation of the property you’re interested in.
Home inspectors look for structural damage, water damage, pests, and other potential problems. Once the inspection is complete, you’ll be able to find out whether or not you’re getting a good deal.
Home inspections are essential, especially when the asking price seems too good. Low-ball offers can be hiding issues that will cost more than the home’s value to fix.
A thorough home inspection can also reveal opportunities to get a home for a lower price. By finding fixable issues, your agent can negotiate the cost of remediation to be taken out of the asking price.
Should I Go Over, Under, or Right On Asking Price?
This is probably the most critical question to ask your buying agent: how much should I offer on a home?
The answer always depends. Every market is different, and what sellers are willing to accept varies greatly depending on the current inventory, how long the home has been on the market, and how the inspection went.
Fortunately, you hired a buying agent for this very reason. Buying agents represent your sole interests. If you’ve received satisfactory answers to the questions above, you can rest easy knowing that your agent will always give you an honest answer when setting an asking price.
Questions to Ask When Selling
A seller’s agent (also known as a listing agent) is responsible for marketing a property and negotiating with the buyers to help you sell for the most money. A listing agent will have your back when moving from marketing to staging and signing the paperwork. Here’s what you need to ask to ensure you’re working with the best seller’s agent.
What Are the Biggest Challenges Sellers Are Facing Right Now?
Like a buyer’s agent, you need to find an agent who understands sellers’ unique challenges.
Since most agents deal with buying and selling, you should research before asking this question to distinguish a genuine seller’s agent from unqualified prospects.
Some believe selling a home is more accessible than buying one, but that’s not a reliable rule of thumb.
It’s hard to make a property stand out in an oversaturated market. Listing agents are also challenged with negotiating top-dollar asking prices when the collective buyer demand doesn’t warrant it.
Ensure your listing agent demonstrates the knowledge and rational perspective to represent you fairly despite challenges.
Do You Have Anyone in Mind Off the Bat?
If the agent you’re talking to doesn’t have qualified prospects in mind, it might be a sign that they’re not as plugged into the market as they should be. Keep in mind that you’re looking to sell your home quickly.
There can be downsides to an agent being overly dependent on their network of buyers.
You want an agent with a robust network of prospects to have the best chance of finding a buyer quickly. At the same time, you don’t want an agent more interested in selling to their friends than getting you the best possible price for your home.
Can We Agree on a Minimum Selling Price?
You need to be careful with this question. It’s not uncommon for agents to lowball sellers to get the listing. A good agent will give you an honest evaluation of your home’s value and help you set a fair asking price that will attract buyers.
While low asking prices can attract a higher volume of buyers, your listing agent should prioritize quality over quantity.
Finding one buyer willing to pay an honest price for your home trumps 100 minimum offers any day of the week.
Can You Help Me With Staging, Curb Appeal & Open Houses?
First impressions matter! Your listing agent should be able to offer at least some essential staging advice and evaluate your home’s curb appeal.
This question circles back to the importance of having a well-connected agent. Your agent should be in touch with all the best landscapers, professional home stagers, and interior designers.
Once they’ve got your home in tip-top selling shape, it’s time for them to open your home to potential buyers. Open houses are a great way to generate interest in your home and generate some offers. Your listing agent needs to be deeply invested in your home showing. After all, a well-executed open house is also an excellent chance to network with new clients.
What Are Your Marketing Strategies?
You need an agent who knows how to market a home in the digital age. There are many moving parts when marketing a property, from crafting the perfect listing to designing eye-catching flyers and promoting your home on social media.
That said, the old-school marketing tactics are still relevant. Your agent should have a comprehensive plan for marketing your home online and offline. Well-paced yard signs, efficient word-of-mouth, and a robust network of buyers prove time and time again to sell houses. Your home can have unbeatable marketing paired with the latest digital strategies.
Ask The Right Questions to Find the Right Agent
When interviewing agents, be sure to ask these critical questions. This will help you find the best representative for your needs and ensure that you are aligned with your agent’s goals and expectations. Buying or selling a home can be stressful – don’t let the process of finding an agent add to that stress! Ask around for recommendations, read reviews, and interview multiple agents before deciding who to partner with. With the right real estate agent by your side, buying or selling a home can be a breeze.