It doesn't matter whether you're buying or selling, you need an experienced real estate agent on your side. Real estate transactions are complicated, and even if you read books on how to sell your own property or search for articles online, you may discover that navigating this complex world is harder than you think.
Luckily, you don't have to go through it alone. Working with a real estate agent can lift a burden off your shoulder, and possibly help you buy or sell faster. But just because real estate agents have experience buying and selling homes doesn't mean you should pick any random agent, and you shouldn't always go with a friend either. To help you find the right agent, here are six questions to ask when interviewing potential realtors.
1. How much experience do you have in residential sales?
Some agents concentrate in commercial sales and others work in residential sales. It’s okay to work with an agent who specializes in both types of properties, just make sure he has plenty of experience in residential. For example: How many residential properties has he sold in the past three or six months? How long as the agent had his real estate license? You should also inquire about his experience in the city or neighborhood where you're looking to buy or sell. The more knowledge he has about the area, the better he can serve you. If you're looking for a family community in a particular section of town, your agent may not be able to provide much insight if he primarily sells or buys in another city.
2. Is this your full-time gig?
Ask the agent whether real estate is his full- or part-time job. There's nothing wrong with real estate being your agent’s side gig. Just know that if he has another job, he may not be available at the times you are, and getting in touch with him can be difficult.
Even if this is the agent’s only income source, you should ask about the number of clients he’s currently working with. If he only works with a few clients at a time, he will likely have plenty of time to give you a fair amount of attention. On the other hand, if he’s working with 10 or 15 other clients, you may have a hard time scheduling time to look at properties and he might be slow returning phone calls.
3. On average, how long does it take you to sell a property?
Real estate agents cannot guarantee a timeframe for selling a property. You can, however, ask how long it takes him on average to sell properties that are similar to your home. If you speak with two agents and it takes one agent three weeks on average to sell a house, yet it takes another agent three months on average, the first agent may have a more aggressive marketing strategy.
4. What’s your marketing strategy?
It's also important to inquire about a real estate agent’s marketing strategy. If you're a motivated seller and need to sell your house quickly, you need an agent who’ll use every tool at his disposal to get the word out about your property.
Some agents are old school and only rely on yards signs and the multiple-listing service. These methods work, but you might have better results working with an agent who uses technology to his advantage. For example, an agent can use his Facebook or Twitter account to spread the word and market properties, or he may hold regular open houses and use direct mail to drum up interest.
5. How do your asking prices compare to final prices?
Buyers love to negotiate, so you probably won’t sell your house for the exact asking price. Nonetheless, you want to come as close as possible. When interviewing agents, ask how their final sale prices compare with their asking prices. If a realtor's final sale prices are usually within a couple thousand dollars of the asking price, this demonstrates skill with pricing properties and indicates knowledge of the area.
6. Can I receive references?
Some buyers and sellers never ask for references, but it’s perfectly acceptable to request the names and number of two or three of his most recent clients. Some agents are prepared with a list of names, but they won’t hand over this information unless you ask.
Call up these clients and ask a couple of questions about the agent. If the client was a seller, did the agent use an effective, aggressive marketing strategy? Did he return emails or phone calls in a timely manner? Did the agent listen to his needs and only show homes within his price range? Would he use the agent again?