Are you thinking of entering the housing market? Approximately 86% of homeowners use a real estate agent or broker when buying or selling a home, so choosing the right agent is crucial to a successful real estate transaction.
- Choosing the right real estate broker or agent involves asking questions about their experience with the local market and your kind of property.
- Ask a broker about their marketing plan, methods of communication, references, and connections with other real estate professionals.
- Be sure to hire a professional who works full time.
- A realtor should be able to walk you through the process of searching and purchasing a home.
- Don't discount local realtors working for themselves. They may have inside knowledge of a community versus a larger real estate outfit.
6 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent
Selling your home is likely the largest financial transaction of your life, so choosing the right real estate broker is important, though daunting. To help with the task, we asked Victoria Vinokur, a New York City-based real estate agent, to comment on the most important questions to ask when you interview brokers. Here's a summary of what Vinokur had to say with the list of top questions to ask:
1. What Experience Do You Have?
This does not necessarily mean how long a broker has been in the business; instead, such a question will help you understand how well they know the local market and your kind of property. Ask them what has sold in your area in the last three months, the last six months, for how much, and after how long. Ask questions like, "What are the prices of comparable properties?"
A good broker will not agree to market a property they consider overpriced. Since listing your home at the correct price is critical, ask how often they've had to reduce the price of a property to make a sale. Brokers should have all this information at their fingertips and back it up with data, and understand the psychology of the market.
2. What’s Your Marketing Plan?
You want a detailed description of everything the broker will do to put your property "out there." Does the broker have creative ideas proven to work, such as blogs or special events such as an invitation-only cocktail party for select brokers and prospective buyers? How will they make your property stand out from the field of other properties a buyer will encounter?
Since digital marketing is crucial (more than 95% of buyers search online), have them show you sample web listings.
Be sure that a professional photographer is included in the marketing budget—not a photographer who will shoot ho-hum wide-angle photos. You want one who can capture the detail and the important and interesting aspects of your property—the spectacular view from your deck, perhaps, or a unique feature of one of the rooms.
3. How Will You Keep Me Informed?
Tell the broker how you like to communicate: text, phone, or email. Note that texting is not appropriate for any important, legal-related communication. Ask if they’ll commit to a regular schedule of detailed written marketing and activity reports (every two weeks is a reasonable expectation), and make sure they can be easily reached when you have questions or need an update.
Also, find out whether they have a skilled colleague to cover for them if they are unavailable, and make sure that they never let anyone view the property unless they or their representative is present.
4. What’s Your Commission?
The standard commission rate for real estate brokers is 6%, usually split between the sales agent (a.k.a. the listing agent) and the buyer's agent. A portion of it first goes to the listing brokerage, so the agent personally receives a cut of between 60% and 90% of that commission. However, the amount of the commission is never set in stone, and there may be room for negotiation.
Ask to see the budget, and be clear about which sales-related expenses will come out of the broker's commission and what you may have to pay for yourself (e.g., staging).
5. How Well Connected Are You?
This doesn’t mean that you want to know how many friends the broker has on social media. Instead, it means that you care how well connected they are within their firms and in the real estate field. A seasoned broker will have solid connections to other real estate-related professionals: staging companies, real estate lawyers, photographers, and even moving companies that you can trust.
6. Do You Have Any References?
Don’t overlook this one. Be sure to get the names of recent clients. It’s always helpful for the broker to have a page or two of quotes from clients for that first meeting, but don’t rely solely on that. Make the calls.
The number of real estate establishments operating in the U.S., as of Q3 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Real Estate Broker Hiring Checklist
Beyond the above-mentioned questions, there are other criteria to consider when hiring a real estate agent or broker.
Find Someone Who's Readily Available
While there are competent part-time agents who sell properties, you must hire someone who can show your home at varying hours or—if you are a buyer—can take you out to see properties at a convenient time.
Ask your real estate agent whether they are flexible regarding when they can hold showings or show you properties if you are a buyer. You may prefer a full time realtor, but don't overlook a good part-time realtor. Just ask them about their availability upfront.
Find Someone Who Offers Suggestions
Savvy real estate agents know which characteristics sell homes in the area—whether it's a pool, screened-in porch, or some other desirable feature. To that end, they will make suggestions on the rooms or features to emphasize or deemphasize.
During the initial interview, ask the agent if there are any changes you could make to the house that would improve its desirability. More often than not, the best agents will make these suggestions without prodding on your part.
Find an Area Expert
Hire or retain an individual who knows a great deal about the area. These agents will also be more aware of the typical offering and selling prices than those agents who do not usually work in that neighborhood.
One way to find a local expert is to ask a local brokerage or your friends or relatives if they know anyone who has sold many homes or businesses there. Another suggestion is to look through the local real estate publications and see which agents have the most listings in certain areas.
Find Someone You Like
Sellers, in particular, should seek out agents whose personalities mesh with theirs. For a house to sell quickly and at a favorable price, the listing party and the agent must be on the same page regarding how they are going to market the property, the price that will be set, and how and when the home will be shown. Coordinating these ideas will be easier if the parties involved get along and understand each other intuitively.
How Can I Find a Real Estate Broker?
You can find a real estate broker by asking your local friends who they recommend or you simply visit the real estate brokerages in your town or city. Searching the National Association of Realtors (NAR) database online can be useful as well.
Do I Need a Realtor to Sell My House?
If you hope to entice multiple bidders selling your house via an experienced realtor versus listing it "for sale by owner," it is usually worth the commission. It is extremely hard work to sell a house, and a realtor will help you vet buyers, untangle the rules and regulations surrounding a sale, and advocate on your behalf with the buyer's agent. Real estate agents can also access large networks of realtors and others when they are selling a house, which will drive potential buyers into your home.
How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate agents on an averaged-based salary earn $61,890. Of course, where a real estate agent works and how many houses they sell each year will absolutely impact their salary. There is high earning potential working on commission as a realtor, but high-paying sales depend on long hours and hard work.
The Bottom Line
Even if you've retained someone you believe is an ideal agent, think twice before signing an exclusivity agreement. While your agent might be competent, if you are a seller, the more agents you have that can potentially show and sell your home, the better the odds of the sale. Unless some extenuating circumstances exist, retain a listing agent, but insist that the property is placed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).