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If you might be selling your home, step back, take a deep breath and think about what you’re doing. Your home is most likely your most important asset. If you’re going to sell your home, you need to do it right. And doing it right means having the right real estate agent. Experts in this area say that it’s critical that you have a good rapport and comfortable feeling with your real estate agent. This is because you will be required to divulge some very personal information about your wish list, timelines and finances. Selling your home will likely take time and if you don’t get along with the realtor or don’t like his or her style, it won’t be an enjoyable process.
Obviously you need to know the terms of your contract and how to get out of it if that becomes necessary. Beyond this here are 15 questions you should ask a prospective real estate agent before signing on the dotted line.
1. Do you have a broker’s license or real estate sales license? Are you a Realtor™?
Your state issues licenses for sales agents and brokers. However, to get a broker’s license means more education and testing. And Realtors™ are real estate agents that are associated with the National Association of Realtors. They subscribe to a high code of ethics and must meet continuing education requirements. So you should have that real estate agent explain which license he or she holds and what it means. It’s important to choose someone that’s taking his or her profession seriously. These various licenses don’t speak to a person’s abilities but do show that they have pursued extra education.
2. Do you work part-time or full-time?
The way the housing market is today requires a lot of time from the pros. This means it’s important that you find a real estate salesperson that has the time required to do home searches and help you sell your house. Your real estate agent really needs to be involved on a daily basis and it’s important to have someone that is willing to focus full-time on real estate.
3. Do you work for a big company or a boutique brokerage?
You could ask about the real estate agent’s office in terms of its size, production, and market share. If the market is hot, real estate agents at a large company may have access to properties that haven’t yet been listed which could give you an inside track on them. But boutique brokerages have their advantages. For example, you might find agents who specialize in a specific neighborhood and will give you more attention.
4. How long have you been in the business?
Experience can be very valuable when it comes to making deals with other real estate agents. However, this doesn’t mean you should necessarily write off less experienced agents. Newer real estate agents can be more aggressive and work harder for you as they want to build their reputations. While experience generally wins out, don’t just discount a new person who might be really top notch.
5. Can I talk with your three most recent clients?
If you talk to former clients, this can give you a really great understanding of the agent’s style. You might also ask if the agent’s clients are generally from repeat business or referrals. If it’s from repeat business this is a sign that the agent’s clients have felt good about the experiences they had with him or her.
6. If you have a team, who will I work with?
While you could really like the person that you initially meet, it’s good to make sure that he or she is the one that will be working with you throughout the process. Many agents – especially in hot markets – have teams. Some of these teams can be effective. But as a general rule, the process goes more smoothly if you work with just one person – and that should be the agent you initially contacted.
7. What will I get for the money?
Ask the agent about those factors that will be important in your decision. This could be the quality of neighborhood schools, your commute and those other things that would help you understand where you should and shouldn’t buy. What you want is a real estate agent that can provide good market advice vs. just selling you.
8. Is this a good time to buy or sell?
A good real estate agent should be able to give you insight as to the market. He or she should be able to tell you whether now is a good time to sell or whether you should wait. Make sure that your agent is thinking about both sides of the transaction and your best interests – and not just his or her commission.
9. Which neighborhoods are you familiar with?
An agent who specializes in a neighborhood that interests you will have a competitive advantage and will know what are called the comps in your area or what comparable homes sold for. This information is critical in pricing your house correctly.
10. What will be my biggest problems?
You want your real estate agent to give you an honest assessment of what to expect. For example, there could be issues having to do with repairs and inspections. You need to know about your agent’s problem-solving skills as roughly 90% of the sale is about problem solving and not selling.
11. What do you use in the way of technology?
Time is money is especially true in the current real estate market. If your agent has a tablet with electronic signing capability this can be important. This helps submit an offer very quickly and can be critical in a hot real estate market. A good rule of thumb is that your agent should have as much or better technology than you have. Long gone are the days of big stacks of paper.
Negotiation is a great skill to have. You should know how your agent would deal with multiple offers on your house. This is especially important if there is a record amount of low inventory in certain areas.
13. How do you price houses?
A good real estate agent will be able to price your house so that it sells quickly. You might ask him or her about the difference between the listing prices of houses they sold and what they actually sold for.
14. How many listings do you have and what is your mix of buyers and sellers?
Most real estate agents work with both sellers and buyers. A real estate agent who works a mix of these can think with both mindsets. This can help during a negotiation. While an agent that has many clients may not be able to devote the same amount of personal attention to you, it can be helpful if he or she has many listings. He or she will get a lot of traffic and in many instances could redirect a possible buyer to your house.
15. Is your license in good standing?
Your state may have a system online that would allow you to check the status of your agent’s license and whether or not there have been any lawsuits or complaints. As an alternative, you could call the agent’s office manager to make sure that he or she has a license that’s in good standing.
Finally, make sure you ask the age-old question of “what questions have I forgotten to ask you that I need to know the answers?” You might be surprised at the answer