How to Interview a Real Estate Agent
When Selling Your Home
Is interviewing a real estate agent such a daunting task? No Really!
Heck, most people don’t even think twice about it, really!
Once the idea of selling their home pops up in their minds, the first agent who they get exposed to, either through a marketing drop in their mail box, via a ‘For Sale’ sign in someone’s yard, or even an open house, the vast majority of home sellers will hire that one particular agent on the spot!
You’re asking whether I’m joking.
Unfortunately, I wish I was making this stuff up!
According to the “Highlights From the 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” by the U.S. National Association of Realtors (NAR), 72% of home sellers contacted only one real estate agent before deciding on the ‘right agent’ they like sell their home through.
The big question here is how does one avoid choosing the wrong real estate agent for the job?
Either you interview a real estate agent and decide to hire him right there and then; or you opt to interview a couple of real estate agents. Whichever route you as a home seller decide to take, make sure you have prepared at least a handful of questions, which should quickly determine whether your decision to hire that real estate agent was the good one (or not)!
Believe me: most real estate agents will not expect you to be asking these types of questions!
Personally, I always recommend my home sellers to interview 3 agents before choosing a real estate agent, as this will give them a much better feel for suggested marketing price, as well as see which agent’s personality is perhaps a better match!
Let’s hope this list of 10 questions on “How to Interview a Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home” will come in very handy in separating the wheat from the chaff:
Question #1: How long have you been a real estate agent?
As much as enthusiasm and passion a beginning real estate agent might bring to the table, when it is time for contract negotiation, it will be the (negotiation) experience of the agent which will bring the deal to a successful close!
The more contracts a real estate agent has written over the years, the more experience he will have in detecting, avoiding, preparing, and anticipating potential pitfalls! As any experienced real estate agent can attest to, there’s no such thing a ‘simple contract’ – every contract is unique and will require a customized legal frame work, making sure the terms and conditions of the deal are ironclad!
Of course, you’ll always have these superstar agents who are making a killing in their first year of real estate, but those are rather the very, very exception to the rule!
The other nine questions below will filter through whether you’re dealing with such a super-talented agent or just a fly-by-night individual!
Question #2: How many real estate transactions did you close last year?
This might perhaps be seen as a rude or inappropriate question to ask if it were asked in any other field than real estate.
Real estate agents are always talking amongst one another about production numbers, as it’s an integrate part of their business models, annual goals, and getting more business!
Whereas the abstract figure won’t necessarily tell you a lot (other than give you a rough idea how much commission the agent made), it does give you an idea of how active the real estate agent is.
It might be tempting to look at the total number and use it as the sole measuring stick on how successful the agent was, but one needs to put it into perspective:
The real estate agent who sold the lower number of properties over the past 12 months might not immediately be your first choice; neither should the agent who sold 50 properties in a particular year.
And why might that be?
During mandate presentations, some real estate agents aren’t too ethical when it comes to providing the correct marketing price. By telling you as the homeowner what you’d like to hear, they’re hoping to get to mandate (in real estate jargon, that’s what they refer to buying the listing) and price council you lower over the next few weeks or months. The many possible reasons why an agent would do such things is worthy of an entire other blog article.
Feeding the greed, as I call it, happens more often than we realize. Agents, who give the highest listing price, do get a lot of business from home sellers, who don’t necessarily know any better, until it’s too late and the property has been exposed to the market for way too long! The overpriced properties you see lingering about for months on end, and plenty of expired listings are proof of that.
In other words, the ratio of houses the agent eventually sells versus the (overpriced) properties that he still has on the books (which is called the sales-to-listing ratio) will be an important number to watch.
Thus, while not immediately evident by hearing a raw number, put into context, it is very revealing who is the better agent: a real estate agent who sells 16 out of his 20 listings compared to another agent who sells 35 out of 70 listings!
Question #3: Is being a real estate agent your full-time job?
There is this misconception that being a real estate agent must be such an easy job, which lets you sleep in long, go home early and pay golf every day, AND is making you bundles of money in no time!
Wouldn’t that be nice?!
So, if you interview a real estate agent who’s been around the block, you will more than likely hear something completely different!
While one might initially be going through training and learning the ropes on a part-time basis, providing a professional service to your clients does require a full-time real estate agent.
How is the part-time agent going to handle all the incoming viewing requests, specific property enquiries by home buyers or property valuations for home sellers if he’s too busy working another job?
Never mind what might all happen if there’s talk of writing an offer at the ‘wrong time’ for this part-time agent?! Time constraint? Availability?
Imagine as a home seller to be losing such an interested home buyer because the (part-time) agent’s agenda can’t accommodate!
Needless to say, hiring a part-time real estate agent is not advisable!
Question #4: How often can we expect feedback from you?
Perhaps the line of questioning ought to go in the direction of who will be providing the feedback!
Is the real estate agent working on his own, together with a personal assistant or is there an entire team behind the scene?
And more importantly, who will end up being the person you, as the home seller, will get all the feedback from? The listing agent? The buyer agent? Their assistant?
It’s only normal for a home seller wanting to know what the home buyers have been saying about their property during the viewings over the course of the week. Most well-oiled teams have this part covered with a feedback system to make sure the home seller gets properly AND timely informed about the buyer feedback!
Not only before the property is sold, but also during and afterwards, it’s vital for the agent to keep the home seller in the loop of where they stand in the process: is a home inspection due or is the bank appraisal taking place soon? Plus, will the agent be present during those activities as well?
Each of those events, as small or big as they may be, requires feedback to the home seller. This is where a professional real estate agent (and/or team) stands out from the crowd! It’s my belief there’s no such thing as too much feedback!
Have you ever heard a real estate agent tell you at the mandate presentation that he’ll give you feedback all the time until you specifically ask him to slow it down?
Question #5: How do you normally communicate with your clients?
Depending on how the agent responds to the previous question, you’ll lead right into this one.
Once you’ve established the frequency or timing of the feedback, you need to figure out which communication medium your agent uses with other clients.
When you interview a real estate agent, you need to make sure to inform the real estate agent of your preferred method of communication!
Some people are stuck on a personal phone call following every showing appointment, others might be too busy and rather prefer you to send them a text message or email them a summary of what happened during the viewing.
Having said that, one of the biggest complaints people have against agents is the lack of communication.
If an agent happens to be in a client meeting and can’t pick up the phone, we all know that those things happen and a return call afterwards will set everything straight. However, I’m referring to the blatant lack of respect on part of a lot of real estate agents who believe returning phone calls the same day is something of an unnecessary luxury!
This agent is in control of the sale of your life’s most expensive asset, so the least he can do is treat you with respect by returning your call(s) ASAP!
Question #6: Can you provide us with a recent list of client references?
There are pretty much two options you could go with:
(1) Ask the agent for a list of recent client references, which is something he’ll more than likely have written out on a personal testimonial page on his website. Realize he may have already filtered through the ‘less stellar’ reviews before publishing the reference information.
(2) Maybe a better option would be to request the details of the last few homes he sold and consequently contact those people yourself. It might take a little bit more time and effort, but the feedback you’ll get from these previous clients will more than likely be quite informative, and more importantly, be unprepared by the agent!
Question #7: How did you determine the asking price of our home?
Here, you have a couple of popular ways to arrive at the market value:
(1) There’s the so-called price per square foot (or meter) calculation, which (personally speaking) has too many flaws to really be used in residential real estate. After all, how can one use the same method in arriving at the price for a 3-floored mansion, as well as the price of a converted double-story penthouse, and this is without even bringing up either property’s physical location?!
(2) The most commonly used method (as well as the best one) is the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which allows the agent to look at the recently sold properties in your immediate vicinity, as well as the current properties for sale, all within a similar size, look and price range, in order to arrive at a fair market value!
As you interview a real estate agent, nothing stops you from asking him to show you some proof regarding the CMA’s conclusions!
Mark my words: you’ll catch a lot of agents off guard with this question, as most agents don’t expect to be questioned about their ‘market expertise’!
Question #8: Will you personally be taking pictures of our home?
How often have you browsed a property portal and come across some incredibly bad pictures?
What was the agent thinking? And how did the seller approve that marketing material?
This makes you stop and think who could have possibly have taken those unprofessional photos?
Whereas there are agents who have particular good photography skills and appropriate equipment to present your home at its best, the majority of real estate agents don’t. Yet, too many still think they can get away by using their mobile phone to take photos. Really?!
The importance of having great photos as part of your marketing cannot be stressed enough!
Bottom line: unless this real estate agent is half a pro at taking real estate photos himself, don’t even entertain the option! Get a professional photographer through!
Question #9: Which advertising tools will you be using to market our home?
Besides the traditional advertising tools, such as ads in newspapers, magazines, on bus benches, billboards etc., any decent real estate agents needs to have a strong online presence.
Marketing should be happening all over! Your property needs to get exposed to as many potential home buyers as possible!
As a quick reminder, 90% of the home buyers start their home search online!
Why would an agent not want to be in front of that audience?!
The internet is where all the researching and reading up happens, months before the home buyer even contacts the agent!
Through the agent’s online activities across many social network platforms, his personal website, and an active blogging calendar, chances are very good that the home buyers will keep running into that agent’s content during their information-gathering phase!
And who will they more than likely be contacting to help them find homes for sale in Northcliff once they’re ready?! After all, without even having met the agent, these home buyers already have quite the impression of him due to this dominant online presence!
Question #10: Do you provide any additional services?
Sometimes it’s nice to know whether the agent can offer you something different from the other agents!
Any experienced agent will immediately suggest helping out with the presentation of your home: from the cleaning & decluttering, to some of the needed repairs to the house, to getting that garden up-to-date, with extra attention pruning the shrubs & trimming the lawn!
Provided that the agent has been working in the local area for many years, he’ll be able to set you up with a list of vendors as well, ranging from local handymen, attorneys, moving companies, to name but a few.
Keep in mind that the better agents have your best interest at heart and don’t mean anything personal or hurtful if they point out potential negatives throughout the house.
The real estate agent’s advice shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it’ll be in his interest as well to have a more desirable AND saleable product to present to his buyers!
This “How to Interview a Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home” article with its 10 interview questions will hopefully give you the necessary ammunition to decide on the right real estate agent for the job!
Furthermore, once you’ve gone through these agent interviews, it ought to become very clear that not all real estate agents do the same things when selling a property!
There are so many differences which might be a deal maker (or breaker) for you, ranging from agent contract negotiation experience, or the promised service, and of course the way each agent goes about marketing the property!
A home seller will interview a real estate agent and likely ask about the commission rate. Please note that I specifically omitted questions related to the commission rate structure. Whereas the cost to the home seller is obviously important, and inherent to the home selling process, I believe it shouldn’t be an important factor while you interview a real estate agent! (I’m sure I’ll get some slack from other real estate agents saying that!)
Commission rate structures are mostly quite standard, so once the right agent for the job has been chosen, a discussion regarding appropriate commission rate can take place.
Let me ask you: Would you have selected a different agent just because his commission rate was slightly lower? Or refused to work with this ‘right agent’ if his rate was slightly higher than anyone else?
As with everything in life, you get what you pay for.
Red Adair once said, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
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