Tips for Interviewing Realtors®

Tips for Interviewing Realtors

Hiring a real estate agent to help you buy a home or to sell a home requires careful consideration. You’re about to handle one of the biggest financial transactions of your lifetime; one that impacts your lifestyle as much as it does your bank account. In order to choose the right agent to represent your interests, it’s best to get recommendations for agents to interview, follow up on references and take the time to interview two or three until you find someone who gives you confidence and is compatible with your communication style.

Experience counts, but so does enthusiasm

While you may like a real estate agent recommended by a friend because that agent is a fun happy hour companion, it’s best to pick someone who has experience with the kind of transaction you are undertaking. That doesn’t mean that a new agent isn’t a good choice. In fact, a relatively new agent could work harder for you than any other agent just because he or she has the time to focus on you. In addition, new agents recognize the importance of building a good reputation for customer service that contributes to a growing stream of referrals. If you’re interviewing a newer agent, just be sure to ask whether the agent has a mentor or a broker who can give advice if something gets complicated.

Questions for your potential real estate agent

As you start interviewing agents, there are some questions that you should ask whether you are a buyer or a seller, such as:

  • Are you a Realtor®? In order to use the term "Realtor®", the agent must be a member of the National Association of Realtors® and therefore has to uphold the code of ethics of the association.
  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in? Some agents work in a wide geographical area, but if you want to focus your home search in a particular area, you may want to pick someone who knows every house in that community. If you’re selling, you’ll want an agent who is very familiar with your neighborhood’s attributes and will be able to market your property appropriately.
  • Do you specialize in a particular price range? Many agents work in all price ranges, but some specialize in affordable starter homes and others focus on the luxury market. Even if an agent comes highly recommended, if you’re selling an affordable house, you’re less likely to get a lot of attention from an agent who normally sells high end properties.
  • How often should I expect to hear from you? What’s the best way to reach you? It’s good for agents and their clients to decide how they want to communicate and how often. Setting expectations is important, because you may assume your agent will be updating you daily on any interest in your home if you’re a seller, or on new listings to review if you’re a buyer. Your agent may have other clients and think a weekly check-in is good enough, so do work this out ahead of time and choose an agent who is responsive to your interests.
  • Can you provide me with some references? Most agents have testimonials on their website from happy clients, but you can also ask to contact one or two people to ask specific questions about their experience with the agent.

If you’re a buyer, you may want to discuss these questions with potential agents:

  • Are you an Accredited Buyers’ Representative (ABR)? An ABR has received additional training and has a certain level of experience specifically with buyers.
  • Have you worked with first-time buyers or move-up buyers or both? Agents typically work with a variety of clients, but it would be helpful to hear about how much experience they have with people in similar circumstances to yours. First-time buyers should ask about whether an agent can help them find out about homebuyer programs and give them some extra guidance on how to recognize value in a property. Move-up buyers may want some additional advice on how to make the transition from one home to the next, such as whether to buy the next home first or sell their current home first.
  • Can you recommend a lender? Real estate agents should refer you to a lender or several lenders and make sure you are preapproved for a loan before you start shopping.
  • Can you give me advice about future home improvements or renovations to consider before moving in? Some agents are particularly experienced with fixer-upper homes and can recommend contractors and help you visualize your options for a home.

If you’re a seller, your real estate interview questions should include:

  • How many homes have you sold in the past year? This should be an indicator of the agent’s level of experience but also will give you an indication of market conditions.
  • How fast are homes like mine selling right now? Do most sellers get full asking price? This will inform you about market conditions, but this also gives the agent the chance to talk about their negotiating abilities to get you the best price.
  • Can you tell me what I should do to get my home ready to sell? Experienced agents can talk to you about small things that can make your home more appealing to buyers as well as address how to handle any bigger issues that could hurt your sales chances.
  • How do you plan to market my home? Will you have professional photos taken? Each listing agent has a marketing plan, so listen to several before you decide which one you think will work best for your home.

The purpose of asking these questions is not only to find someone with good experience and proper credentials, but to educate yourself about the market, to make certain you can build a rapport with your agent, and to gain confidence that you’ve found a real estate professional that will guide you through your home buying or selling transaction successfully.