Should you hire an agent on gut feeling?
When it comes time to list their home, most sellers have two questions for their real estate agents: How much will they get for the property and what will the commission be? Beyond that, according to data from the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents say few sellers take time to ask additional questions, and many hire the first agent they meet. Most people hire an agent on appearance and gut feeling, but selling a home is a very big and important transaction, and sellers should probe deeper to find out why that agent is better compared to another agent.
A better approach, real estate agents say, would be for sellers to treat that first meeting with a listing agent as an interview and ask a wide range of questions before making a decision. Here are seven questions that sellers should ask prospective real estate agents.
What's your experience?
It may sound like an obvious place to start, but surprisingly many sellers don't ask potential agents about their job experience. But sellers should look for agents with enough sales under their belts to comfortably handle deals from listing to closing. Equally important, agents need to know the area and have familiarity with the local inventory. So, ask agents about their recent listings.
How do you plan to market the listing?
If you don't market a home, it won't sell. And if you don't ask how the agent plans to market your home, you're not doing your due diligence. Sellers really need to ask agents how they plan to market their home to the greatest number of potential buyers. Find out what your agent's philosophy is for marketing listings, and ask what the agent will do after taking the listing.
It’s key to check out the agent's marketing track record. By looking at past listings, sellers can see how well the agent raises a home's visibility online -- a must-have skill because most buyers find their home through Internet listings. Make sure the agent you hire uses quality photos for the online listings.
How will you communicate with me?
You'll hear from your agent a lot. So it's a good idea to go over some communication basics before hiring an agent. The seller needs to have expectations for frequency of communications and should know what media will be used for communications. Will the agent call you on the phone, email you or text you? There should be some understanding upfront, and the agent should approach the sale of your home as if he or she is part of a team.
Verify what the agent says by looking at how he or she has communicated with you so far. If the agent hasn't respected your preferences, has failed to follow up, or has been sloppy with emails and texts, there's no incentive for the agent to shape up after he or she is hired.
Do you represent both sides of the transaction?
It's perfectly normal for some agents to work on either the sell side or the buy side, but not both. But some agents do both, which means it's a good idea to ask what happens if your agent ends up on both sides of your deal.
Although it isn't automatically a conflict of interest, a situation where the agent represents both the buyer and the seller in the same deal can get sticky, and many clients end up feeling like they don't know whose interest the agent is really looking out for.
What's important is that the agent is able to walk you through their protocol for such a scenario before an actual offer, otherwise, things can get stressful and heated.
Do you work with buyers in this price range?
It's a good idea to see if your agent can see your property through a buyer's eyes. That insight into the mind of a buyer makes an agent a more effective negotiator. If the agent works strictly with listings, they only understand half the market.
What do you know about home loans?
Always ask a potential agent what they know about home loans before you hire them. It's valuable to find an agent who has a solid grasp of home financing because loan issues can make or break a deal. For a home sale to go smoothly, a buyer needs a reputable and reliable lender to secure their home loan. If you find a buyer who is affiliated with a distrustful lender, you could end up dealing with delays or the whole deal could fall through. Or your buyer might make an offer based on a projected interest rate from a lender and when the final paperwork comes out, the lender has raised the rate or changed their policy.
In a perfect world, buyers should have their finances in order when they make an offer. But realistically, a good seller's agent can salvage a deal if they're financially fluent and well-connected with quality lenders.