Buying or selling a home isn’t just like any other transaction – these are the big leagues, which means you need a tried-and-true slugger who will cover all the bases and make sure you walk out of the deal hassle-free and with money in your pocket.
But not every real estate agent is created equal. While it might be easy to just go with the neighbor who just happens to be an agent, or with the broker that your sister used to sell her home, a little more research and due diligence is called for.
You’re not just working with your real estate agent – you’re in a business relationship with them. So make sure the agent you choose is right for you.
Here are a few questions you should be asking prospective agents before signing a contract.
- How long have you been an agent?
Sounds like a boring interview question, but it’s a relevant one. The longer the’ve been in the market, the better. Being a good real estate agent is a lot more about real-life experiences than about the initial educational courses taken. And if that agent has worked with a ton of clients that are similar to you and your needs, you’ll be better represented.
There might not necessarily be any magic number as far as number of years of experience is concerned, but you should still keep your eyes peeled for agents who have enough transactions under their belts to easily handle real estate deals from A to Z with little hiccups.
You should also probably consider whether or not the agent you’re interviewing works in the market on a part-time or full-time basis. Lots of agents do this part time and on the side, which means they probably won’t be able to offer the level of expertise and service that a professional who does this every day can.
- What areas do you specialize in?
Ideally, you want to work with an agent that works closely in the area that you’re buying or selling in. That way, they’ve got their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the neighborhood. If you’re buying, they’ll have the inside scoop about which properties are coming up for sale that match your criteria. If selling, they’ll know exactly what buyers are looking for, and will coach you on how to price and present your home accordingly.
Neighborhood expertise is crucial, because different community markets can have different traits and idiosyncrasies. What may be relevant in one specific area may not be in another. For example, the suburbs are much different than city centers. If the agent you’e considering usually works in neighborhoods far from your home, it’s highly possible that he or she isn’t as familiar with your area’s market than necessary.
- How will we be communicating with each other?
Being able to stay in touch with your agent at a moment’s notice is important. A lapse in communication of just an hour or two can mean the difference between getting an offer accepted and missing a great opportunity. The agent you team up with should communicate the way it’s most convenient for you, whether it’s via email, phone, or text. It’s the real estate agent’s job is to communicate the way the client wants or needs.
- How will you be marketing my home?
You can’t just plant a for-sale sign on your lawn and expect the buyers to come flocking. Marketing a property involves way more than that, and it’s up to you to ask your real estate agent what marketing channels will be used to market your home if you’re selling. Having your home advertised on the MLS is crucial, because it puts your home in front of the eyes of other agents working in your area, as well as buyers who are doing some of their own research.
In addition to the MLS, ask the agent how many other website your home will be listed on. In addition, ask if the listing will be placed in the newspaper, local real estate magazine, or anywhere else where buyers will be looking.
Look at the agent’s past listings, which will show you how well he or she is able to boost the visibility of a property. Also, make sure that the real estate agent you hire uses high-quality images for your online ads, which will show better to prospective buyers in your neighborhood.
- Do you work within my home’s price range?
Ideally, your agent should have a decent amount of experience working with homes within your specific price range. That way, your agent will probably have a more skilled ability to see your home through a potential buyer’s eyes. If they’ve got experience dealing with buyers who are looking for properties within the same price range that you’re listing your home at, this will help the agent be more effective at negotiating at the bargaining table.
No matter how formally a real estate agent has prepared a sales pitch to convince you to use their services, make sure that they give you the answers you’re looking for. The agent you’re questioning may be an excellent one, but not necessarily right for you and your specific situation. Be sure to have a list of these questions written down so you don’t miss one, then jot down any additional queries you might have during the interview. The time taken to ask a few questions is well worth it to find the perfect agent.