Whether buying or selling a home, hiring the right real estate agent is crucial to ensuring a smooth and successful process. But with the volume of agents serving the area, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right one.
Start by asking friends and family for referrals in the target area. Find out their experiences when selling or buying a home and, hopefully, some names of real estate agents will come up.
Once a short list of agents is collected, schedule a time to meet with each of them. Here are some questions that can help in choosing the right agent.
Ask how long they have been selling real estate.
While the number of years in business doesn’t necessarily translate to success, real estate is a commission-based business with long-term success largely hinging on word-of-mouth referrals and repeat customers. It would be difficult for an agent to survive for a long time providing poor service. Ask about the volume of business handled in the prior year. This will indicate whether selling real estate is a full- or part-time job. Part-time agents may face competing time obligations.
Ask their average number of clients.
This is an indirect way of asking “do you have time for me?” If agents are working with a high volume of clients, find out what resources they have at their disposal to remedy the situation should they need additional support. Do they have a team member or assistant who can help?
Ask about their ratio of buyers to sellers.
Many agents specialize in representing buyers or representing sellers. An agent who primarily represents buyers may not have the experience necessary to sell a listing or vice versa. If someone is in the market to sell his current home and purchase another home, hiring an agent with experience both listing and selling homes who can oversee the entire process will make it more seamless.
Ask what types of buyers and sellers they work with.
Agents can also specialize in the type of transactions they facilitate. Make sure the agent has experience handling the specific type of transaction whether it is for a long-term investor, first-time homebuyer, house flipper, selling an estate, upsizing, downsizing or short-selling. These are just a few of the unique scenarios a home buyer or seller may find himself in. Go beyond asking if agents have experience handling a specific type of transaction. Ask agents for specific issues they have encountered in the past and how they would handle them.
Ask what their commission or fee is and what is expected for that fee.
In most cases, the home seller will pay commissions to both the selling agent and buying agent in the transaction. Typical commissions for existing homes in the area range from 5 to 6 percent of purchase price, which is then split between the agents.
Sellers should ask for the agent’s marketing plan for the home. This is what the agent will do to get the home sold for the most amount of money in the fastest amount of time. Specific examples include paid and unpaid digital and print mediums, open houses, realtor open houses, signage and home photography.
Ask how they plan to communicate updates.
Everyone has a preferred method of communicating, whether it’s in person, by phone, by text message or email. Find out the agent’s mode preference and frequency of communication. Set communication expectations upfront.
Ask if they have a recommended network of industry professionals.
Most experienced agents have developed a trusted network of industry professionals they can rely on to provide the same level of professionalism and expertise needed to ensure a smooth transaction. Industry professionals that may be needed include home inspectors, appraisers, lenders, contractors and title companies/closing agencies.
Ask them if they have any questions.
An agent with a client-centered service approach will be prepared to ask questions that go beyond how much a home seller may want to get for a home or how many bedrooms and bathrooms a home buyer may need. An agent who cares about understanding buyers’ or sellers’ needs will get to know them and their priorities, goals and lifestyle. They may ask questions regarding expectations. Establishing expectations for both the customer and the agent upfront can set the transaction up for success.