Interview Your Agent!
I highly recommend that you interview your agent before deciding to work with them. Start the process early so you get the most value out of the relationship. This also gives you enough time to get to know your agent so you can replace them if they aren’t doing a great job BEFORE you get into contract to purchase a new home or sell your old one.
Yes, I’m an agent recommending that you interview me and or other agents for the job of representing you in this process. I think it is the only responsible thing to do. You don’t have to do it sitting across a table from them, but you should know the answer to most of these questions before getting too far into the business relationship.
Here are some of the top questions to ask:
Are you a Realtor? We have a fiduciary duty to our clients, and a good agent takes this very seriously. Being a Realtor means that an agent has to adhere to the Realtor Code of Ethics and that little logo is a good sign, but it’s not a guarantee. Knowing that your agent can stand up to the Realtor code of ethics year after year is a strong starting point.
How long have you been in the business? Length in the business is no guarantee that the agent will do a great job and being new to the industry doesn’t mean that they wont do a great job, but it’s a very good conversation to have. You want someone that knows what they are doing when they are advising you on such a major decision.
How will you market my home/how will you help me find the right home to buy? This should be a huge conversation with color handouts and a binder full of plans. There should be schedules and past examples. You should be allowed to keep the materiel so that you can follow up on the performance throughout the process.
Can you provide references? Don’t just accept yes as the answer to this question, follow up and get the references.
What separates you from your competition? If your agent can’t give you a good answer, maybe there isn’t anything that separates them from the competition…
Can I review the documents before I need to sign them? There are so many pages required in real estate and it is all small print. Do yourself a favor and review them well in advance of needing to sign them.
Will you help me find other professionals? Agents live by referrals and so they should have a great list of people that they would refer out. Some of the top people to get referrals for are mortgage brokers, property inspectors and title companies.
Do you have your own website? If your listing agent doesn’t’ have a website in today’s market, you might want to find out how technically savvy they are. Do not underestimate the vast importance of online marketing. Buyers need a way to search for listings on their own time in addition to what their agent is doing for them, and a good site can make a huge difference.
What is the best way to communicate with you? Really you are looking for them to ask you “what is the best way to communicate with you”? They should be good with what ever your preferred style is. I love communication by phone and email, but I’ll do it by text if that is what my clients work best with.
What is your average list price to sales price? If you are a buyer you want an agent who can get you a discount. If you are a seller you want a agent that sells as close to 100% of list price as possible. Sellers will also want to find out what the agents average days on market is.
What are my options if I’m not satisfied? As a buyer you don’t want to be locked into buying through an agent who isn’t working for you. Sellers shouldn’t be locked into long listing contracts and should have some options to terminate the contract if they want to.
How do you get paid and how much do you charge? Agents get paid out of the selling price of the home, but I have seen some crazy things over the years. The seller has the most to gain or lose by asking this question since most of the time all the costs of both agents come out of their proceeds. Remember that cheaper isn’t always better, discount brokers don’t provide all the services that make a house sell for top dollar.
For sellers you should also ask the agent what type of camera they use. You want a high quality camera using a wide angle lens or better yet, you want them to pay for a professional photographer. I’m a great photographer and take good pictures of properties, but the guy I hire has a camera bag that is worth more than my car. Remember, this is the first impression for many buyers.
Sellers should also ask if the agent can help them make their home more marketable. The different between a well prepared home and one that isn’t can be weeks or months in sales time and/or many thousands of dollars in sales price. Handout for you, the agents walkthrough and bringing in a professional stager are all keys to look for.