Selling your House? How to Interview a Real Estate Agent
Selling your home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make in your life. When it’s time to sell your investment, don’t entrust it to just real estate agent. Yes, your friend just used so and so and their house sold super quickly. Those glossy postcards you get in the mail from that one agent, they look so slick…they must be successful, right?
Recommendations are a great first step in gathering a pool of real estate agents to interview, but you’re going to have to do the real work yourself. You’ll need to interview a few real estate agents to find the one that’s going to be the right fit for you.
I just sold my house (yeah!). Did I ask the real estate agent I hired all of these questions? No. Did I ask him some? Yes. Should I have asked him more? Yes. Luckily I stumbled upon a great real estate professional and it didn’t matter that I didn’t due 100% of my due diligence. Looking ahead to the next time I need to sell and new agent, these are the questions I would ask.
Background and Experience
- How many years of experience do you have in real estate?
Not everyone will have 20+ years of experience. For many agents, real estate is a second career. However, generally speaking, at least 4-5 years shows a commitment to their craft and enough experience to go out on their own.
- How many years have you had your real estate license, is it in good standing?
It’s pretty easy to verify if your real estate agent has a license in good standing. Simply Google “real estate license lookup (and the state you’re in)” to find out some more details on your agent.
- How many years have you worked in this particular market?
You’ll want somebody who knows the market like the back of their hand. In addition, relationships in real estate go far. You will want an agent that has established relationships with vendors and other real estate professionals. Good relationships with other real estate professionals is invaluable during the negotiation process.
- How many homes have you closed in my neighborhood?
Every neighborhood is a niche market of its’ own. It’s valuable to have an agent who understands your neighborhood’s unique market and trends.
- What percentage of your clients are buyers vs. sellers?
Some agents specialize in being a buyer’s agent OR a seller’s agent. Some agents dabble equally in both. Which one do you want?
- What price range do you typically work in?
Is the price of your home in the range that the agent typically works in or are they going to be way out of their comfort zone?
- Do you specialize in a type of property (houses, condos or townhomes)?
Some agents specialize in specific types of properties. Do you have a unique property that might needs specialized experience?
- Describe the current market to me. Is it a buyer’s or seller’s market?
Have the agent give you their thoughts on the market you’ll be selling in. Hopefully the briefing will not only educate you on current market conditions, but it will also give you a feel for how your agent is able to articulate their ideas.
Style & Stats
- What is your preferred method of communication?
Many agents these days are all about text and e-mails, just like the rest of us. However, will they have time for phone calls if you hate texting? Do they know how to use Skype or video calling? Think about what type of communication will work best for you.
- How will we handle signing documents?
Especially if you are not local, do they have access to electronic document signing such as Docusign for example? Electronic signing eliminates the hassle of faxing, scanning, and copying. It also keeps good records for you.
- Do you work full time or part time?
Is this their side hustle or are they a full time professional agent?
- What’s your list to sales ratio for the last six months
The List to Sales Ratio = Sales prices/list price. If it’s greater than 100, the property was sold above the asking price. This ratio tells us more about how the market is moving than the agent’s actual skills. However, it’s still a helpful number to reference.
- What is your average “days on market” for the last 6 months?
This is another statistic that is a mix of the agent’s skills and talents along with the current conditions of the market. However, it’s still a helpful number to help you forecast what you might be in for.
- Do you have a team? Will I work with them? How much face-time will I have with you?
It’s quite common for agents to work on or lead real estate teams. How much face time will you get with the lead agent? A brief follow-up interview with other team members you could be working with is beneficial to see if you also like the rest of the agent’s team.
- How many active listings do you have right now?
Bigger is not always better. You’ll want to make sure that the agent has the capacity to give your listing the attention it deserves. Likewise, too few listings might also raise flags.
- Can you direct me to your last three current listings?
Check out how the listings read. Can your agents (or their team) spell correctly? Is the description professional? How do the pictures look? Does the listing look like something you’d be proud to share?
Marketing My Home
- How will you market my home?
Which websites will your home be listed on? Will there be open houses? Glossy postcard mailers? Ads in magazines?
- Do you have a photographer that will take professional pictures of my home?
Ask to see examples of the photographer’s work. Is the photography included in the commission?
- Can you help me stage my home?
Does the agent or somebody else on their team assist with staging? Would they do a walkthrough and tell you what they would change? Would they physically help stage it or have décor items on hand to use? Is there an additional fee involved?
- Do you have recommendations for other professional services I might need in the selling process?
Established agents often have preferred vendors they work with consistently. Lenders, title companies, carpet cleaners, general contractors etc.…most agents have their favorites. You can always choose your own, but an agent’s preferred vendor is mostly likely interested in treating you right and it takes the hassle out of finding your own list of vendors.
- At what price would you list my home?
An agent, especially after viewing your home, should come prepared with at least a range of recommended list prices. After consulting with your needs, (for example, do you need to sell FAST?), the range should be narrowed down.
- How did you arrive at that price?
Ask to see the specific comps (comparable sales) that support that list price. Ask to see pending sales. Inquire about how long each sale was on the market. Compare and contrast them to your own home.
- At what price do you think it would sell?
You can list your home at any price, but what price is a realistic sales price? Are they listing it high to add in room for negotiation? Do they think it will sell over asking price?
- How much do you charge?
What is the agent’s commission? Most agents ask for 6%, which is split 50/50 between the buyer and seller agents. Remember everything is negotiable.
- Do you have a proposed contract I can review?
A trusty agent will leave a contract with you and allow time for review. Don’t feel pressured to sign on the spot.
- How long is our contract good for?
Read the contract, but have a discussion about how long you are under contract with them until you can jump ship if you just aren’t feeling the relationship.
- What costs am I responsible for?
Are all services included or will you have to pay extra for staging, photography, or special marketing like ads and open houses?
Military Market Specific Questions
- What percentage of your work has involved VA loans?
If you’re selling in a heavy military market, it’s a good idea to find an agent who has experience with VA Loans. The rules, timing, and even appraisals are a little different with a VA loan as compared to a conventional loan.
- Can you walk me through the VA Appraisal process?
The VA Loan Appraisal process is different than that of a conventional loan. Does the agent understand the process? Do they have concerns about Tidewater?
- Have you worked with military families before?
An agent doesn’t have to be a veteran or a military spouse to be military friendly. However, if you are a servicemember or military spouse, finding a real estate agent with experience working with military families is a plus. The agent will be more familiar with military jargon (so you don’t have to explain what a PCS is every 3 minutes), powers of attorney, mail-out closings, and the general fast-paced (and unknown) tempo of military life.
- Are you MRP certified?
It’s not a make or break, but The Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certification shows that an agent has gone above and beyond to learn about working with current and former military servicemembers.