12 Questions Home Sellers Should Ask Real Estate Agents
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Should you hire or pick the first agent that you call? Surprisingly, many home sellers don’t do much to vet the professional who will assist them with what will most likely be the biggest financial transaction in their lives. According to data from the National Association of REALTORs, many sellers hire the first agent they meet.
A better approach would be for sellers to treat the first meeting as an interview and ask a variety of questions to properly vet the agent.
- Do you represent both the seller and buyer?
While it’s perfectly normal for some agents to work on the seller side or the buyer side, they usually don’t work both sides in the same deal because things could get stressful or even heated. Many times agents doing double duty are encouraged by their broker to refer the buyer to another agent. There are some agents that don’t feel the need to make a referral and will handle both sides of the transaction.
- Is your real estate license active, in good standing and have you had a complaint filed against you?
Ask your agent to provide you the websites to check his or hers license status.
- What is your communication method?
Because you’ll communicate a lot with your agent, it’s best to talk about communication basics before hiring an agent. You can verify what the agent says by watching how he or she communicates with you before hiring them. Look out for not following up, sloppy emails and texts, or not respecting your communication preferences.
- What is your experience?
While there’s not a specific number to look for when it comes to experience, generally sellers should look for agents that know their area, have experience with their price range and property type and be familiar with the inventory of the area.
- Do you have a website and/or blog?
Almost all agents have a website and some have blogs. Visiting the website and/or blog will give you more insight about the agent’s personality, local knowledge and expertise. An agent’s response to comments could further help you determine the level of follow up and professionalism.
- What do you know about home loans?
Because loan issues can make or break a deal, it’s valuable to find an agent that knows his or her way around the business of mortgages. Although buyers should have their financing in place in a perfect world, a financially experienced and well-connected seller’s agent could save a deal if needed.
- Are your fees negotiable?
Because all real estate compensation is negotiable, if a prospective agent says their fee is not, then leave. There are sever.al ways for the agent to get paid, from the traditional percentage of the sales price to a flat fee. You may even present the agent with another way to get compensated and he or she may be cool with it.
- What are your sales stats?
The more data and slats an agent is willing to share, the more confident they are in sharing their expertise and ability to sell your home. List-to-price ratio is one of two good stats to look at. This is the final sold to price divided by the most recent listing price as a percentage. Another stat to consider in the agent vetting process is the average days on market, which is an indicator of an agent’s ability to price appropriately and market the home effectively.
Be aware that any slats can be manipulated and it’s good to request raw data from the agent. For example, a home originally listed at $120K, then reduced and relisted at $100K and finally sold for 99K could be stated in the stats to have a sold-to-list price ratio of 99%. But when comparing the final
sold price to the original price, the sold-to-price ratio is actually 82.5%. In some areas, the number of days on market can be reduced by removing the listing and then relisting or relisting the home with another agent. The number of days on market stats can mean different things in different markets too; a great average number of days on market in a hot market differs from that of a slow market.
- What price do you think my home will sell in the current market and why?
This will provide you with an understanding of the agent’s market knowledge and the thinking behind how he or she may price your home. An experienced agent will use recent market data, current comparable properties in the market, condition of your home and amenities in reaching a listing price conclusion.
- How long is your listing agreement?
Listing agreements can vary from agency to agency. Alivia Miller-Gardener, a Broker Coordinator with PEMCO Realty’s Atlanta office said while they do not have a minimum for listing agreements, Miller Gardener says listing agreement time periods vary depending on the type and price point of the property.
“We generally do three to six month listing agreements, which makes it less stressful for the seller but allows our agents to fully utilize as many resources possible to sell the property. For higher priced properties, the listing agreement term may be longer.”
If you can cancel a listing agreement at any time because of not being happy with the agent, the amount of the term is not important.
- Why should I hire you versus hiring another agent?
The agent should answer right away. Home sellers and buyers are looking for the following characteristics in a real estate agent:
- Easy to reach by phone or email and quick to return calls or emails
- Successful in getting results
- Know and is experienced in the local market
- Excellent negotiating skills
- Great communicator
- What have I not asked you that I need to know?
This all-encompassing question can prevent any surprises or misunderstandings in the future.
Written by Ari Meier