What to ask when interviewing a real estate agent

Selling your home is a big deal — so while it may be tempting to go with the first word-of-mouth recommendation you get, when it comes to choosing a real estate agent, it pays to do a bit more research. Your real estate pro will be responsible for setting the sale price, marketing your home, running open houses, speaking with potential buyers and ultimately, walking you through the selling process. To make an informed choice, ask friends and neighbors for personal recommendations, but also take the time to interview several of the best candidates before making a decision. Here are 15 questions to ask potential real estate agents.

Interview1
Nicholson Builders, original photo on Houzz

1. What is your experience and education? Though a new real estate agent can certainly be motivated and eager to please, a pro with years of experience will have the knowledge and skill to face unexpected challenges. Taking continuing education courses shows a commitment to keeping up with changes.

2. Is this your full-time job? Having another job shouldn’t necessarily cut a potential real estate agent out of the running, but you need to be aware if this is a part-time gig before committing. Someone who also works somewhere else may be harder to reach and could miss out on opportunities to show your house.

3. Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors? Membership in this professional organization is what allows a real estate agent to use the title Realtor. Being a Realtor means that the person has agreed to follow the organization’s ethical guidelines and to keep up with continuing education.

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Traditional Exterior, original photo on Houzz

4. What’s the price range of most of the homes you have sold? You probably already have a ballpark figure in mind for your home’s price. Does the agent typically represent homes in that price range? If most of the homes the agent sells are in a far higher — or lower — price range, he or she may not be as familiar with how to market your home.

5. How many homes did you sell last year? This will give you an idea of the volume of work a real estate agent is used to taking on. This number alone is not enough to base a decision on, but keep in mind that a very high number may mean the agent is not able to give each client as much personal attention, whereas a very low number could be a clue that homes are languishing on the market.
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6. Which neighborhoods do you primarily work in? If the agent typically works in areas far from your home, it may mean that he or she is not as familiar with the market in your area.

7. How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood? Good word of mouth tends to spread within neighborhoods, so if your real estate agent has had a lot of home sales in your area, that’s probably a good sign. Familiarity with your neighborhood can only help your agent sell your home.

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Cassie Daughtery Realogics Sotheby’s Realty, original photo on Houzz

8. On average, how close to the asking price is the final sale price on homes you have sold? This figure will give you a good picture of whether the agent tends to price homes well. If most of the homes the agent has represented have sold for far less than the asking price, that’s a sign they were priced too high. Realistic pricing results in home sales that are close to or at the asking price.

9. How will you market my home? There is a lot more to marketing a house than putting up a for-sale sign on the lawn. In addition to MLS, on how many websites will your agent list your home? Where will he or she look for buyers? A good marketing plan can be what makes the difference between a speedy sale and a home that languishes on the market.

10. What are the negatives of my home? You are not looking for a rainbows and unicorns response here. An agent that is a good fit should be able to name several potential drawbacks to selling your home, from repairs to location and beyond. That said, you will be spending a good deal of time with your real estate pro, so seek out someone with a realistic but tactful approach.

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Hudson Place Realty, original photo on Houzz

11. Do you work on your own or as part of a team? If the agent you are interviewing heads up a large office, it may be that he or she will not be the one doing business with you the entire time. If that’s the case, you should know upfront exactly how the agent will be involved, and you should be able to meet the other agents who will be working with you.

12. How many clients are you currently representing? There is no magic number to look for here; just use your common sense. If the number is very high or very low consider that a red flag — you are looking for someone with a thriving business who still has time to devote to your home sale.

13. What type of support staff or resources do you have? This could include anything from technology help for creating a beautiful website for your home to an in-house real estate attorney.

14. How will you keep me informed about progress? Find out how frequently you can expect your agent to check in with you, and when he or she is available for you to call with questions or for updates.

15. Can I see your references? Ideally, ask for the names and phone numbers of three of the most recent clients. You want to know whether people are happy with the real estate agent’s work now, not five or 10 years ago. When you talk to former clients, ask how easy it was to reach the agent when they had questions, and whether they felt well supported and advised throughout the process.

To sum up: It’s common for real estate agents to prepare an informal presentation to give you in your home. This gives the agent a chance to see the property in person, and explain what he or she can do to represent your home. Consider keeping a written list of your questions in front of you during the presentation, and jot down additional questions that occur to you during it. Wait until the end and ask any questions that weren’t covered.

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Sarah Greenman, original photo on Houzz

Once you have your list of candidates narrowed down to a few top contenders, take the time to call those references, and check to make sure that each agent’s real estate license is in good standing. And when the interviews and research are done, trust your instincts — you’ll be sharing sensitive financial information (not to mention spending a lot of time) with this person, so you want it to be someone you trust (and like).

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