Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent as a Buyer and Seller
A real estate agent is your guide to making the biggest decisions of your life. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, it’s important to find the right person for the job, one that won’t take more commission than they deserve, will always make your needs top priority, and won’t needlessly extend the buying or selling process because of a lack of experience, marketing, networking or planning.
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In this guide, we’ll cover the questions that you should ask your real estate agent as both a buyer and a seller, covering both bases and preparing you for the big decisions that lie ahead.
Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent as a Seller
When you’re selling, it’s crucial to find a capable real estate agent. They will have the contacts, marketing potential, and experience to sell your house quickly and to ensure you get an amount that is on or near the purchase price. Hire the wrong person for the job and you could face months of frustration and disappointment.
How Many Homes Have You Sold in my Area?
It’s okay to hire a real estate agent who has only just started and is offering you some benefits in exchange for their inexperience. However, it’s usually best to side with experience. You want someone who has sold multiple properties in your area, especially if they don’t have a lot of listings.
Lots of listings and very few sales may indicate that they are not the right person for the job. Some agents try to push the fact that they are local and live in the area or have lived there for a long time. This helps, somewhat, but it isn’t essential and won’t make up for a lack of experience.
Who Will You Work With?
A real estate agent working alone is destined to fail. This is rare, but not unheard of, as it means they can keep more of the commission for themselves.
Ideally, you want a real estate agent who has their own team of trusted and reliable professionals, from contractors to inspectors and mortgage brokers. It shows that they are committed to getting the job done at any cost and have been around long enough to build a strong network of skilled workers.
How Will You Market My Property?
The agent may insist that your house is so good it will sell itself and that may be true, but some marketing will be required and if you’re selling at the wrong time or in the wrong area, those marketing efforts need to increase.
A good real estate agent will explain how they will market your home without prompt. These marketing methods typically include listings on real estate websites as well as the agent’s own site.
If you’re not convinced by their answer, keep pushing and ask them what they will do if the offers don’t come in and the house is still on the market 6 months down the line.
Do You Work Full Time?
You don’t want a real estate agent that works part time. This applies to both sellers and buyers and will ensure you get someone who is devoted to your needs, as opposed to someone who tries to squeeze phone calls, appointments, and messages into a small three-hour window at the end of every working day.
What’s Your List to Sale Ratio?
The “list to sale ratio” is a percentage figure that calculates the original list price and compares this to the eventual sale price. For example, if the house is listed at $200,000 and sells for $180,000, the list to sale ratio is 90%, as $180,000 is 90% of $200,000. The higher this figure is, the better the real estate agent is at his or her job.
Of course, this figure changes considerably from region to region, so it only works if the calculations are all based in your town and are not inflated by sales taking place in more prosperous regions.
Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent as a Buyer
A good real estate agent is not as important when you’re buying, but it’s still something that needs to be carefully considered. They can help you find the perfect house within your budget, saving you time and stress in the process.
Do You Work in my Price Range?
Real estate agents work on commission and, understandably, will always focus their attention on the clients with the biggest budgets. On average, they make 5% on the purchase price. If you’re dealing with an agent used to budgets of $2 million and you have a budget of just $200,000, it’s obvious where their time is going to be spent.
To you, it’s still a lot of money and is deserving of their time and attention. To them, it’s the difference between earning $10,000 and $100,000, which means you’ll fall to the bottom of their list of priorities.
That’s not the only issue. If they spend their days looking at $2 million mansions and beach condos and suddenly need to look for a small family home in the suburbs, they may be out of their depth.
Ask your agent how much their clients usually spend and determine whether or not they will be a good fit for your budget and your needs.
How Many Clients do you Have?
This is important for sellers and buyers. A real estate agent with many clients is less likely to devote time to you. There’s only so much they can do and if they have stretched themselves really thin you may find that your messages go unanswered and your calls are ignored.
There is no ideal amount, but if they have more than 30 listings then their focus will definitely be compromised, especially if they are working on their own.
What’s the Viewing Process Like?
A good buyer’s agent will work around you, your job, and your needs. They will arrange viewings quickly to ensure the house is not sold before you get a chance to view, but will also factor your availability into the equation.
The questions you need to ask include, how quickly can you arrange a viewing, and Can I contact you on my available days? If you’re only available on the days they’re not working, you’ll struggle to arrange a quick viewing.
How Often Will You Update Me?
Whether they are emailing, calling or texting you, it’s important to have a regular schedule you can rely on. It’s also important to hold them to this schedule, because if they start moving you down their list of priorities then those updates may become less frequent.
Make your expectations very clear—whether you want regular updates without delay or prefer a slower and less intrusive approach. That way, if they fail to meet those expectations, you can hold them to their original promise and there will be no ambiguity.
How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent
Before you ask any of these questions, you’ll need to do some research of your own. The US has over 2 million active real estate agents, only 1.3 million of which are realtors, which means they have a license and are registered with the National Association of Realtors.
To put this into perspective, there are fewer than 1.4 million lawyers and 1.1 million doctors. Everyone and their dog seem to be a real estate agent these days and that means it’s more important than ever to do your research and narrow your options down:
Look for a Realtor
As discussed above, a Realtor is different from a real estate agent. Before a real estate agent can call themselves a Realtor, they need to get a license, pay a membership fee, and agree to abide by a strict code of ethics.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that all Realtors are legitimate and good and all real estate agents are scammers. Far from it. However, if you limit your search to Realtors there’s a higher chance you will have a favorable experience.
Ask Friends and Family
User review sites have made it easier to find legitimate and suitable contractors and other professionals. However, these sites can be manipulated, and you never know whether the review you’re reading was written by a genuine customer or by a friend of the agent themselves.
The best solution is to opt for the old-school method of asking friends and family members for referrals. Focus on people in your network who have actually been through this process and didn’t have any issues, but don’t lend too much weight to their recommendations if that was their first time using a real estate agent and their circumstances were different to yours.
A simple Google search goes a long way. It’s a basic method, but it’s also tried and tested. Type the agent’s full name followed by keywords such as “real estate” “agent” and “realtor” and be sure to look through several pages of results and not simply focus on the first few options.
If there are any lawsuits, major customer complaints, scam warnings, and other issues, you will see them here. And if everything checks out, you can run similar searches on social media, looking for former customers and checking for complaints and serious issues.
It’s okay if there are a few bad reviews. You can’t please everyone all of the time and customers are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good ones. However, if there are more bad reviews than good, stay away.
You don’t need to sign with the first real estate agent that you interview and should arrange meetings with several different ones. You’re looking for someone who provides the right answers, projects a professional and experienced demeanor, and is a good communicator.
Go with the one who makes you feel good about the situation, the one you’re confident will do the best job and provide the best service throughout.