Your home is one of your biggest investments, which means when you decide to sell, it is also one of the largest transactions you will undertake. This is why it's critical that you become pickier when hiring a real estate agent to help sell your home. You want to make sure you’ll be working with an expert who will protect your interests as a seller, guard your equity, find the right buyers, and sell your home fast without leaving money on the table.
Thanks to the wealth of information already at your fingertips, from online reviews to referrals from family and friends, you can now be extra savvy in knowing how to choose the right agent for you. However, it is still easier said than done as not all real estate professionals are the same.
In this article, we've put together 10 essential questions you should ask when interviewing a potential real estate agent. Asking the right questions will help you gain insight into the agent’s personality, capabilities, and expertise so you can make the best choice before entrusting your home.
Before anything else, ensure you're working with a trained, accredited real estate professional. They must have a state license and be a member of the local real estate board, where they’ll get access to the Multiple Listing Service® or MLS. This is where they can list your property to attract more buyers.
While having other affiliations is advantageous, it’s also helpful if the agent already has a few years of experience on their plate. This not only shows their dedication to the profession but also means they’ve had enough opportunity to understand and get a good sense of the market, especially in their local area.
Likewise, be curious about whether the agent works full-time or part-time. Selling your home is a full-time job, so you want them to be focused. A part-time real estate professional may not be able to give you ample time and attention and be unavailable when you need them most, especially if they are already handling multiple clients.
The next thing you want to find out is whether you will be working with one specific agent or with members of the agent's team. Each set-up has its pros and cons. So whether it’s a single agent with support staff, a pair of agents who share the same work, an agent who’s a part of a small team, or a group of several agents all under one business name, you’ll want to ask specifically with whom you’ll be working with.
For instance, an agent with a small team means more resources and assistance, especially since there’ll be support staff working behind the scenes. This means your agent has more time to attend to your needs and accommodate you during showings. You should be informed beforehand about what aspects of the work the agent will handle personally and whether you'll be in contact with the other team members or only your agent. This is so you won’t end up feeling like you are being passed off to someone else.
You'd want to avoid being passed off to someone else, but you also don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. Although word of mouth is key to having a good real estate business, choosing a real estate agent to sell your home must not only depend on how popular he or she is. Likewise, the agent's current client numbers aren't always an indication of how good they are. Lots of factors, such as team size and communication style, come into play and need to be considered to see how many clients an agent can effectively handle.
While there’s no magic number, be wary if they’re handling a ridiculously high number of clients. Remember that each client’s needs are different, so too many clients means their time and attention will be divided too thinly. In such cases, they might not take the time to ensure all of your needs are met. Working with an agent who’s difficult to reach or who's constantly with other clients could lead to a frustrating experience for you, and could even have a negative impact on your home sale. This is why it’s necessary for your agent to understand your expectations of their involvement.
Although it isn't a guarantee of a quick sale, the track record of your potential agent will provide some assurance that they know what they’re doing and that you’ll be working with someone who has experience. Ask them for stats and data—how many clients they’ve worked with in the past, the number of houses sold, the price range of the homes they sold, average sale to list price ratio, average days on the market, etc. The more your agent is confident in sharing their expertise, the more you can guarantee that they will also maximize your chances of a successful sale.
The next question to ask a realtor is whether he or she specializes in selling homes in the area. You want to ensure that your potential agent knows the local market and has already sold homes like yours in your neighborhood. Because even though almost everything you need to know about an area can already be found online, there are some things that only a local real estate agent is knowledgeable about. They'll know the selling points of the area, which is beneficial when talking to potential buyers. They must be aware of any upcoming developments, plans for stores, and other amenities that might affect the value of surrounding properties, including yours. They also likely know what local buyers are currently looking for in real estate. Having a local expert can be a huge advantage to you as a seller since he or she must be able to not only sell your home but also your neighborhood.
Even for someone who has made a house sale before, the process can easily get complicated. More so if it's your first! So you want to feel comfortable knowing and understanding all the steps involved—from preparing to list your home, setting a price, marketing, reviewing and negotiating offers, dealing with home inspections, managing timelines, anticipating closing costs, etc. A good and experienced real estate agent will take the time to explain these things to you in a way that’s easier to understand. As they share how they will guide you through the process, you will also see why an agent is a valuable expert to have on your side as you depart from your beloved home.
There's nothing wrong with talking about money when interviewing potential realtors. How much is he or she going to charge you to sell your home? It is important to ask not so much so you can hire the one with the lowest fee, but so you can understand the cost and figure out exactly what your realtor brings to the table.
Rather than getting paid hourly or weekly fees, most real estate agents typically work and earn under split commission. The traditional rate is 6 percent in most cities, which is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent. A good real estate agent must be able to justify his or her fee and break down what you’re going to get from him or her.
Other than the commission, don’t forget to discuss the agent’s cancellation policy. Ask what kind of early cancellation fees may apply to you just in case you become unhappy with the realtor somewhere down the road before the contract expires.
Your home is your biggest investment, which means you want to know how much you're going to walk away with when you sell it. You want to be prepared for the upfront costs you will be paying in the real estate transaction so you can plan accordingly. This includes the real estate agent’s commission, closing fees, title fees, attorney fees, taxes, appraisal, inspections, and more. A trusted real estate professional will explain any of these costs to you as they could affect your bottom line. They should also be able to give you a pretty good estimate of how much you will net from the sale.
Communication is key in most relationships, and this is also true when it comes to your partnership with your agent. After all, you are dealing with one of the most important investments of your life, so you and your realtor should be able to communicate regularly. You need to know upfront what will be your method and frequency of communication, which are all important in successfully selling your home.
Make sure you tell your agent if you prefer texts or emails over phone calls, and vice versa. If they prefer email, you want to be assured that they reply in a timely fashion. Moreover, what will be the frequency of updates: will you get it weekly, or just on an as-needed basis? Find out what business hours they keep and if you can call them outside those hours just in case questions or concerns arise. These things can also be verified when you check their references and feedback from past clients.
Another way to know if they are an experienced and savvy realtor? They know exactly how you can get your home ready and what you can do to make it more appealing to buyers. They probably already have a textbook list of suggestions for their clients, but will also have more after making a walkthrough of your property. Ask them what budget-friendly repairs or upgrades you can make to attract more buyers, and whether your home needs staging aside from a good cleaning.
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