By Megan Wild, author of Your Wild Home blog
If you’re planning to buy or sell a house in the near future, you will likely be working with a real estate agent. Before you decide to work with them, you need to ask prospective real estate agents a few questions. It’s best to ask these questions of at least three prospects. Their answers will help you make sure the agent you work with is experienced, professional and has availability and a working style compatible with yours.
Here are some common questions to help you choose the right real estate agent for you.
How Long Have You Been a Real Estate Agent?
There’s no substitute for experience. You want someone who knows how to buy and sell houses and has done so many times. If you hire a rookie, they are going to be learning on your dime. If you do talk to an inexperienced real estate agent and like them, make sure they are working closely with a more senior person.
How Familiar Are You With the Neighborhood?
A good real estate agent should be able to reel off facts and figures about the neighborhood in which you’ll be looking. School districts, community organizations, even crime statistics and the nearest fire department should be among the information they don’t have to look up. Plus, a real estate agent who is familiar with the neighborhood will know how fast and for what price the homes are moving. They might even have the inside track on homes that haven’t been listed yet.
Do You Work Full or Part Time?
It’s important to know whether your agent is full or part time, for several reasons. First, if you have a very busy work schedule, it might be tough for a part-time real estate agent to be flexible enough to see homes on hours convenient for you. If you do decide to use a part-timer, ask what hours they work. Second, part-time people may have a primary commitment to another job, or are just trying the real estate business on for size. Weigh your feelings about this as part of your assessment.
Do You Have Any Certifications, Real Estate Education or Continuing Education?
Many real estate agents have certifications or education in particular areas, such as property preservation and maintenance, appraisals and mortgage originations. Their education in these areas can help ensure you will be receiving good advice. Plus, their commitment to keeping up with their field is a sign of professionalism.
Do You Specialize in Buying or Selling?
Most real estate agents work both for buyers and sellers. However, most also specialize in one or the other, since the markets and expertise required in both is very different. You want a real estate agent who can give you the optimum advice for your situation. You also want one who can help you negotiate the most advantageous deal. A buyer’s agent will specialize in getting the lowest price for the buyer. A seller’s agent will know negotiation tactics to get the selling price as close to the asking price as possible. It’s best to choose an agent who specializes in your situation.
How Many Homes Did You Sell/Help Someone Buy Last Year?
There’s no one magic figure here, but you want it to be more than one or two. You want to make sure your real estate agent is active and working. If it’s a low figure and the real estate market in your area is not sluggish, avoid the agent.
How Many People Do You Work With at a Time?
Real estate professionals themselves say that an agent working with more than 10 people at a time will be stretched thin. Assess your own need for a real estate agent’s time. If you are new to home transactions and need a lot of advice or hand-holding, pick someone who isn’t pushing the envelope of being too busy.
What’s Your Marketing/Sales Strategy?
If you’re buying a home, you need a sales strategy. If you’re selling it, you need a marketing strategy. Your real estate agent should have a strategy. Does he recommend paying in cash if you can to beat a hot real estate market, for example? Should you make a bid immediately if you see a home you like? Does he recommend a video tour for marketing a home you’d like to sell? Should you do a mini-kitchen renovation as a sweetener?
Can I Talk to Your References?
This is only a rhetorical question, since everyone interviewing a real estate agent should talk to at least three references, in person. We realize many people post customer satisfaction information on their websites, but you need to ask the references specific questions. Was the real estate agent easy to work with? Were they available when you needed them? Was their advice good, practical and up-to-date?
If you’re going to be working with a real estate agent, be sure to ask them questions. You want to ascertain they are experienced and that working with them will suit your needs.