Selling your house sounds complicated but it really isn’t. The best advice is to find a quality listing agent who you feel comfortable with and trust. Interviewing agents is the most important step in the process, as they will be your eyes and ears in the real estate transaction and they will be your advocate. The goal is to get you the most money in the shortest period of time using their knowledge and expertise. Getting a referral from a trusted source is always a great way to find agents to interview.
Once you have found a few agents you are interested in working with, ask for an interview.
Key questions to ask when interviewing an agent.
- How long have you been in the business?
Newer agents tend to have more time to concentrate on you. However, they might not have enough time if they are working a second job because they’re just starting out. You can ask about this as well.
There’s no bar exam for real estate agents and no school offers a degree in how to handle problems in a transaction. They learn on the job. The more sales an agent has completed, the more they know. It’s even possible that they have taken courses and attended seminars, and it’s okay to ask about this, too.
- What is your average list-price-to-sales-price ratio?
An agent’s average ratio depends on the market. Excluding sizzling seller’s markets, a competent listing agent should have a track record for negotiating sales prices that are very close to list prices.
Also, you might want to find out just where most of these homes were located. Is the agent familiar with the area in which you want to buy or where your property is located? This can be an important consideration. Ask the agent, how many homes have you sold in your city?
- What is your best marketing plan or strategy for my needs?
As a seller, you’ll want to know exactly how the agent will sell your home. Is a direct mail campaign appropriate? Why or why not? Where and how often do they advertise? What kind of photography do they offer? Do they market online? What steps will they take to prepare your home for sale?
Most important, ask if there’s anything about your home that they think might detract from its potential for sale. You could possibly remedy and avert the problem.
- Will you please provide references?
Everybody has references. Even newer agents have references from previous employers. Ask to see them and whether any of the individuals providing references are related to the agent.
Ask if you can call the references with any additional questions. You might not need references if the agent has a large number of reviews online.
- What are the top three things that separate you from your competition?
A good agent won’t hesitate to answer this question and should be ready to fire off several reasons why they are best suited for the job. Everyone has their own standards, but most consumers say they’re looking for agents who say they’re honest, trustworthy, assertive and excellent negotiators.
They might tell you that they are always available by phone or e-mail or that they’re a good communicator. They might indicate that they’re friendly and able to maintain their sense of humor under trying circumstances—and there will be some.
It all comes down to the characteristics and qualifications that you value most.
- Can I review documents ahead of time that I will be asked to sign?
A good real estate agent will make forms available to you for preview before you’re required to sign. Ask for these documents upfront if possible.
You’ll also want to see the agency disclosure if you’re the seller. Ask for a copy of the listing agreement as well.
- How will you help me find other professionals?
Your agent should be able to supply you with a written list of referring vendors, such as mortgage brokers, home inspectors and title companies. Let them explain who they work with and why they have chosen these particular professionals.
- How much do you charge?
Don’t ask if the fee is negotiable because all real estate fees are negotiable. Agents typically charge from one percent to four percent to represent one side of a transaction, either the seller or the buyer. A listing agent might charge 3.5 percent for themselves and another 3.5 percent for the buyer’s agent for a total of seven percent.
The adage, “you get what you pay for,” holds true in real estate. Top agents tend to charge more.
- What kind of guarantee do you offer?
Would you release me from my listing if I am not happy?
- What haven’t I asked you that I need to know?