Guest Writer January 30, 2021
Sharad Gupta is the owner of Gupta Realty Group and is a member of the California.com Recommended Business Program, which highlights only the best businesses in the Golden State. To be featured, each business must be highly regarded, have a unique California story, and make a positive impact in their community.
Picking an agent is a critical decision that can cost or save you thousands of dollars, so don’t be afraid to take your time and find the right fit. While there are likely dozens of things you’d like to know about the buying or selling process, there are a few specific questions to ask a real estate agent to ensure you’re getting the best representation for your needs.
Some agents may be open to your inquiries, but others would prefer if you didn’t ask these questions since the knowledge you'll gain from their honest answers gives you a good idea about what to expect from their services. In real estate, as in life, not all things are created equally, so interviewing realtors before committing to one is well worth your time.
Questions to Ask A Realtor Before Signing A Contract
Hiring a real estate agent is like any employment process, but you’re in control of who you work with. Since purchasing real estate is likely the single largest financial investment you’ll ever make, choosing the right professional is critical.
1. What is your differentiator and why should I list my home with you?
Today’s real estate market is much tougher than it was a decade ago, so standing out is crucial. When meeting with an agent, consider what unique marketing plans and programs they have in place to ensure your home is a favorable option compared to competing homes. You’ll also want to think about what this agent can offer you that others won’t—and if it’ll help you sell your home in the least amount of time, with the least amount of hassle, and at the highest price possible.
2. What is your company's track record and reputation in the marketplace?
Many real estate agents seem to brag about being the best at something or other—but with everyone boasting similar claims, the agents all start to blend together. As a potential client, you’ve probably become immune to this information, looking instead for how quickly an agent can sell your home for top dollar.
To help you determine if each agent will satisfy your needs, you should be asking them how many homes they’ve sold. Since success in real estate is often associated with the number of deals closed, you’ll want to consider why one agent is outperforming another and what they’re doing differently.
Surprisingly, many agents sell fewer than 10 homes per year. This low volume can make it difficult to implement full impact marketing for your home because it is cost-prohibitive. This lack of marketing budget means many low-volume agents can’t afford advertising, special programs, or assistants who can help ease their workload. Ultimately, if your agent isn’t selling very many houses, they may have to do everything on their own, so their service to you could suffer.
3. Who controls your advertising and what are your marketing plans for my home?
Marketing can play a large role in how quickly your property sells, so how much each professional spends on advertising should be a deciding factor when interviewing real estate agents. Whether they advertise in newspapers, on TV, or in magazines—and if they know how effective each medium is—also matters, so don’t shy away from these questions.
In addition to where they plan to market your home, it’s important to figure out who controls their advertising. If the agent takes care of it on their own, you’re more likely to be in a good position. If the agent’s broker manages marketing, however, your home will be competing for advertising space with the listings of every agent in the brokerage, so keep your priorities in mind when mulling over your options.
4. What has your company sold in my area?
While it might seem like one of the obvious questions to ask your real estate agent, you should ask what each professional has sold in your area. Agents should provide a complete listing of their own sales and other comparable sales in your area. If they can’t offer you this complete listing, they might not be the best choice.
5. When your listings sell, how close is the selling price to the asking price?
The average for all agents is provided by the Real Estate Board, so you’ll want to compare each individual agent’s average to the board average. Their performance on this measurement will help you predict how much you will receive from the sale of your home.
6. On average, how long does it take for your listings to sell?
This statistic is also captured by the Real Estate Board. Understanding how long it typically takes each agent to sell a home will help you determine if they sell faster or slower than the board average and, more importantly, estimate how long your home will be on the market before it sells.
7. How many buyers are you currently working with?
While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, this ought to be included in your real estate agent interview questions. Whether they are working with several buyers or just a few, it’s also worth finding out the system each agent has for attracting buyers—but keep in mind that the more buyers your agent is working with, the better your chances are of selling your home quickly. This also impacts the price your home will sell for because an agent with multiple clients can set up an auction-like atmosphere in which many buyers bid on your home at the same time.
8. Do you have a list of client references I can contact?
Your potential agent’s previous clients have already gone through the process and likely know the answers to your questions, making them a great resource. Ask each real estate agent you’re seriously considering working with for a list of references, and contact a few of them to see what the transaction was like.
9. What happens if I'm not happy with how you’re selling my home?
Before signing a contract, make sure all of your questions for the real estate agents have been answered, including this pivotal item. You should know beforehand if you can cancel the listing contract, and be wary of any agents who try to lock you into a lengthy listing contract that they can get out of but you can’t. There are usually penalties and broker protection periods that safeguard the agent's interests but don’t protect yours. So, when you think you’re ready to commit to an agent, make sure to figure out if they’ll allow you to cancel your contract without penalty if you’re not satisfied with the service they provided—even if they’re confident they will exceed your expectations.
Evaluate each agent's responses to these questions carefully and objectively to determine who best fits your needs.
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