We often say, “buying or selling a home is a process or a journey, not a destination.” There are a number of moving parts to any transaction; however, what we have found far more important is the moving parts of the transition that our clients are experiencing during the home buying or selling process. People may question the value of a real estate agent; however, we think when you find a really great agent – there is no question of their value. Still, interviewing agents is hard. You’re going through a life transition that is causing you to buy or sell a home, add in the stress of interviewing multiple real estate agents and the process can quickly feel overwhelming. We don’t want that. We want our clients to know that their transition is top of mind to us. So, we have put together a list of some questions you might want to ask when interviewing agents as well as why we feel that is an important question. We hope you can find this useful as you prepare for this next transition of your life.
Questions for Sellers
- What is my home worth? Sure, we know that you have an idea of what your home may be worth, but it is important that you ask this of your agent. While the monetary value is certainly important, you want to be sure that you understand how they arrived at that value as well. This gives you insight into your agent’s understanding of the local market as well as their ability to negotiate on your behalf for the price you agree on.
- Where is my home marketed? Does the agent just rely on the multiple listing service to market the home to agents? That isn’t marketing. You need an agent who will strategically market your home to both agents and qualified buyers. The marketing plan for your home shouldn’t just include what actions will be taken, but why the agent believes these strategies are effective.
- How do you connect buyers with my home? Yes, this question is similar to the marketing question; however, it takes a different angle that focuses on actually selling your home. Selling a home is more than views, Facebook likes, and retweets. Selling a home is about marketing the home’s story and connecting well-qualified buyers with the home. How will an agent focus their approach to target buyers for your home?
- What neighborhoods do you focus in? Don’t let an agent tell you they work “everywhere”. While agents can have a deep understanding of a wide range of markets, a neighborhood specialist is best suited to sell your home. You want someone that understands market trends, current off-market activity, as well as local marketing strategies. Sure, the portals get views, but local marketing sells homes.
Questions for Buyers
- Can you talk to me about the homebuying process? Even if you aren’t a first-timer, an agent’s ability to clearly explain the homebuying process to their client (or potential client) is crucial. There are many moving parts to a transaction. Having an agent who can clearly articulate the process and the steps to take is important to you navigating the transaction as stress free as possible.
- What are some negotiation strategies that you use? This question is extremely important in an active real estate market. Multiple offers, short listing periods, and rapidly moving inventory are just a few of the obstacles you may face as a buyer. It is important to know that your agent can not only navigate these scenarios, but can continue to put you in the front of the pack. Sure, financial barriers may exists that can impact your ability to compete; however, there are many other tactics that can be effective when used by a buyer’s agent. Some of these include: personal letters from the buyers to the homeowner’s, understanding the terms the seller is looking for, and being able to suggest various courses of action based on experience – just to name a few.
- Discuss the local areas of interest. While this is less of a specific question and more of a conversation, it is no less important than the other questions. Local expertise is one of the most important qualities of a great buyer’s agent. This isn’t something that can be taught out of a real estate book, but rather, it is gained over time and experience. Does your agent know about the plans for the new interstate? How about the school down the street? Is re-zoning being considered? Where is the closest Starbucks? These are all things that your agent needs to understand to best represent your interests.
- What additional fees are charged to a homebuyer? A good buyer’s agent should be able to tell you about all fees associated with a transaction. Will you be surprised by an administrative fee at the closing table? Not with a great agent. What are your taxes going to look like? Although the closing attorney will be able to provide the most accurate numbers once you are under contract, a good agent should be able to clearly articulate what you can expect.
Whether You’re Buying or Selling…
- How will you communicate with me? The answer here is an interesting one. While there isn’t one perfect answer, there is an answer you will want to look for, which is another question “What is the best way to communicate with you?”
- What is your commission? This may seem like an odd question to suggest from an agent, but I firmly believe it is an important question to ask, so long as you understand what the answer means. The lowest commission rate isn’t always the best choice for you. Not only should you expect an agent to price themselves based on the quality of service that you can expect to receive, but you should take note of how the agent answers this question too. An agent that immediately lowers their commission at the first mention probably isn’t going to be able to go to bat for you in negotiations. As I explain it, this is the first negotiation your agent will go through for you. As a seller, if they are willing to give up their money, how do you think they will deal with yours? As a buyer, if they don’t fight for the rate they quoted, how can you expect them to fight for you?
Regardless of whether you are a buyer or a seller, interviewing your agent is one of the most important things you will do in the process. Having a good agent means that your interests are always well-represented and that is what you need in today’s market. As great as referrals are, your agent has to mesh with you as their client. That takes an understanding of your life and each other that doesn’t always happen naturally. Do yourself a favor and take the time to evaluate the agent that fits your life and you’ll be guaranteed to have a memorable home buying or selling experience.