Ten Must Ask Questions for Your Realtor® When Buying or Selling a Home

Unless you are a veteran real estate investor, buying or selling a home often is challenging. While rookies sometimes think it’s easy—and choose to make it a do-it-yourself (DIY) project—it isn’t. As seasoned buyers and sellers know, professional Realtors® help you avoid this process becoming your full-time job. Unfortunately, this is a “job” that costs you time and money.

10 Questions that Help You Find the “Right” Real Estate Agent for You

Here are some important questions to ask those Realtors® you are considering to help you navigate the unsettled waters of buying or selling a home.

1. Can I see your references?

As you interview potential real estate agents, you’ll hear all their positive successes, but you’ll seldom learn about how he/she reached those achievements. Whether you are buying or selling, you want an experienced professional to represent your interests.

Always ask prospective agents for some client references—and call them to learn about their experiences with this agent. Were they happy with him/her? Was he/she professional when handling your home sale or purchase? Did he/she communicate with them regularly to keep them informed about progress? Key question: Would the clients recommend this agent to others?

2. Can you give me a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) for the area?

CMAs list homes now for sale and recently sold (within 6 months) in the neighborhood or area you’re considering. These “comparables” are used by professional appraisers to establish accurate market values for area homes. Getting this data makes you an “informed” consumer or seller.

3. Is this a growing or declining neighborhood?

Areas, over time, statistically grow or decline, which affects home market values. You must know whether the value and popularity is trending up or down before you buy or sell. The answer helps you learn how well (or, sometimes, not well) the agent knows the area.

4. Do you perform your duties as a “solo act” or as a member of a team?

Currently, agent teams are popular. Whether sharing the workload or an agent working with a strong support staff, you should know who will be your primary contact during the buying or selling process.

5. How many buyers or sellers do you now represent?

This may be an awkward question for both you and the agent. You need to decide before you ask what might be an ideal number of clients for a real estate professional to handle, after you discount a massively high number of listings or buyers. Who has time for over 45 seller listings and/or 15-20 buyers? You want to ensure that you’ll receive appropriate one-to-one attention from your agent.

Seller Questions:

6. What is your marketing strategy to sell my home? 

A seasoned real estate professional employs strategies that work, not “trial and error” rookie plans. Real estate pros will spend sufficient dollars advertising (using multiple methods) excellent properties and creating excitement for sellers’ homes. For example, yard signs alone are insufficient to market your property to those buyers who are planning a move to your area.

7. What are your Realtor fees?

Most agents want a percentage of a home’s final selling price, not a flat fee. A rule of thumb: 6 percent, although the rate is the agent’s choice and, sometimes, negotiable. With home prices escalating, this percentage could be a significant amount. Sellers should ask if the agent’s fees are negotiable? In all cases, find out what their fees are and how they work.

8. How much real estate selling experience do you have?

Do more than accept an answer that states how many years he/she has been in the business. Learn the agent’s typical “list price to selling price ratio” by comparing the original selling price to the final sales price of the agent’s listings. While 100 percent is impossible to achieve, you’ll want this ratio to be as high as reasonable. Seasoned agents will be prepared to disclose this number and explain why it’s high.

Buyer and Seller Questions:

9. What methods will you use to communicate and keep me informed?

This is another key question. Your agent needs to “keep you in the loop” with info on progress (appraisals, home inspections, etc.) via cell phone, instant messaging, and/or email.

10. What are the drawbacks of the home?

Good Realtors® will know the drawbacks of your home (sellers) or the home you want (buyers). Seasoned agents realize that sellers and buyers should know, too. Sellers may be open to lower their asking price and buyers need to evaluate any drawbacks to determine if they are major or minor. Remember, no home is ideal for everyone, personal preferences rule.

Sellers and buyers should create a checklist before hiring an agent. You can use these questions as a base, adding any items you feel important. Do not confuse real estate agents with Realtors®.  The basic difference: A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors® and a licensed agent is not.