Questions to Ask a Realtor
How to Interview a Real Estate Agent
Smart consumers interview potential real estate agents before deciding which agent to hire. Nowadays, we find that too many people are interviewing only one realtor. However, it’s important to get a feel for how different realtors do business to determine who would be the best fit for you. We recommend that you interview between 2 and 4 agents and make a decision based on those interviews.
Just as you are sizing up the potential for a good fit, rest assured that the real estate agent will likely be interviewing you, too. Be wary of agents who don’t ask you questions and probe for your motivation. You wouldn’t work with just any agent off the street, and good agents are just as selective about their clients, too.
Whether you’ve found your potential agent online, through a friend or family member, from a bus ad, or from a direct mailout, these are the best questions to ask a realtor when deciding who will represent you in the largest purchase or sale of your life!
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SELLING REAL ESTATE ON A FULL-TIME BASIS? HOW MUCH REAL ESTATE EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE?
I cannot stress how important it is that the realtor that you choose is selling real estate on a FULL TIME basis. Real estate is not a part time job, and when the realtor you choose is dealing with the largest purchase and investment you have likely ever done it is important that their focus is 100% on real estate and not their other job.
When asking these questions, make sure that you don’t get experience mixed with the amount of time an agent has been in the industry. Some newer agents may have more experience than agents that have been in the business a “long” time. For example, someone that is full time in the industry for 1 year may have more experience than someone that has been in the business part time for 7 years. What’s even more interesting, is there are records of brand new agents selling 49 homes in their first year, and in comparison to other agents that have sold 4 homes a year for 10 years it’s pretty safe to say that the “new” agent is more experienced. You can also ask the agent how many homes they sold this year. Listen closely to the way the realtor answers your questions – Are they quick to answer? Does it seem they have interview experience? Are they good at coming up with answers on spot or do they seem nervous? Do they satisfactorily answer all of your questions? These will all be indicators of how experienced the agent is.
Another question to ask them is if they have previous work experience that relates to what they are doing in real estate. Do they have negotiation experience? Do they have sales experience? Do they have marketing experience? Ask them what did they did before real estate and how they’ve integrated the skills they had in to their current business model.
DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN THE TYPE OF HOME THAT I AM BUYING OR SELLING?
Just because a realtor has been selling homes for 20 years doesn’t mean that they have experience in the home that you are looking to purchase or sell. What types of properties has he or she sold in the past? Perhaps all of the realtors experience is in selling condos in Vancouver, but you have acreage in Maple Ridge. Appropriate advertising methods, a network, and knowledge of the property and market will vary greatly depending on the type of property that you are selling so make sure that their expertise is strong for your particular needs.
WHAT IS YOUR CMA FOR MY HOME? WHAT IS YOUR LISTING STRATEGY BASED ON THAT CMA?
Your realtor will prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) [also knows as a Competitive Market Analysis] that will indicate the true market value of your home. When it comes to determining the market value of your home and what you should price it at, your realtor will analyse a number of factors that affect house value:
- What comparable homes have sold for in the last 30-60 days
- What comparable homes are currently listed for
- Look at unsold homes in your neighbourhood
- The positives and negatives of your property
- The current market conditions and your target market
- Recent renovations that you have done and their typical return on investment
While the above are market related factors that affect your house value, the efforts of your realtor with regards to marketing and negotiating are also a large determinant in whether or not you receive top dollar for your home.
Once you have determined market value, your realtor will present you with a listing strategy that is most likely one of three options:
- List at market value
- List below market value
- List above market value
There are pros and cons to each strategy, so it’s important to let the realtor know your goals throughout the real estate transaction to determine what the best and least risky option for you is.
A note on listing strategy: This is a common tactic that agent’s use to get the listing. It’s so common that there’s actually a real estate term for it: “buying the listing.” An agent will come through, they give you some crazy number that sounds great but isn’t really based on anything, and you get so excited about the thought of making that much profit that you list your home with them. Here’s a play by play of the next 90 days. It sits on the market. The agent hammers you to reduce the price. It still sits on the market. More bullying. Another price reduction. 90 days later it finally sells at what the market value was in the beginning – or more often than not, less. Why? Because the longer a property stays on the market the more a buyer thinks there’s something wrong with it. Result: a low ball offer. Truth: Agent’s don’t decide what your home is worth, the market does. Which is why it’s so important to look at what the market is saying, run the numbers, and choose an agent based on marketing and negotiation. Those are about the only 2 factors that will increase your home’s value above what the market is saying.
WHAT IS YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY OR PURCHASING STRATEGY FOR MY HOME?
As a buyer, you will need to know:
- How will you search for my new home?
- How will you notify me of new properties that come on the market?
- How many homes will I likely see before I find a home I want to buy?
- Will I be competing against other buyers?
- How do you handle multiple offers? What is your strategy?
- How do you handle subject free offers? How can you ensure that I’m still protected through terms and warrants – what types of these do you use?
- Will you be there to join me at open houses?
- Do you have access to exclusive listings? What is your network of realtors like?
- Do you present offers yourself in person or via email?
As a seller, you will need to know:
- What is your online strategy for my home? What kind of online presence do you have?
- Will you be using social media to advertise my home? Are you familiar with Facebook advertising?
- Can I see examples of how you’ve marketed a home that you were selling previously?
- Do you outsource professional photography? What kind of photography do you offer?
- Do you offer virtual tours for the home?
- Will you have a professional floor plan completed?
- What kind of print material do you use for open houses? Can I have a piece of print material that you have used in the past?
- Is there a custom website dedicated to the home for sale?
- Is cold calling or door knocking for potential buyers appropriate? Why or why not?
- Is a direct mail campaign appropriate? Why or why not?
Pro Tip For Sellers: Is their email address updated to their brand address? If they’re still using a @shaw.ca or @gmail.com account for their business then they’re missing some pretty basic branding and marketing techniques.
DO YOU HAVE ANY REFERENCES?
Like anyone in a job interview the agent that you’re interviewing will likely emphasize all of their strengths and positives when it comes to working with them. It’s important that you ask for references to confirm that what the realtor you are interviewing is saying is true and to get a third-party opinion on the quality of experience with that realtor.
Ask for 1-3 references from past clients that have used that realtor for the same service that you are asking for. For example, if you’re planning on buying your first home ask the realtor for a reference to a first time home buyer. Call or email a few of their references and ask previous clients about their experience with the agent based on what is important to you. Some great questions to ask are:
- Was the agent easy to get in touch with? Were they available on evenings and weekends as well?
- Did the agent keep them well informed?
- Were the agent’s contract writing skills up to their expectations?
- Would you recommend the agent to your friends and family?
- Was the agent available and helpful after the deal went firm or did they just disappear? How did they keep in touch with you prior to completion?
Google reviews are another good way to pre-interview your realtor, it comes directly from the client’s account so it is a trustworthy source.
DO YOU WORK ALONE OR AS PART OF A TEAM? WHAT IS YOUR AVAILABILITY?
These days real estate teams are pretty common. Whether it’s a pair of agents who share the work, a single agent with a support staff behind her or a group of several agents all under one business name, you’ll want to know with whom you’ll be working.
Working alone vs. being part of a team has its pros and cons. Solo agents can be unorganized, teams can be unorganized – it depends on how the systems are set up. Here are some pros and cons to think about when you’re hiring a solo agent versus a team.
Pro – they know your home inside out, they’re the one answering the calls, and you know exactly who you are dealing with.
Con – The key is finding out their workload and availability. The obvious con is that they’re working on one schedule, trying to wear multiple hats (marketing, sales, negotiation, online web, showings, tours, etc.) & working with multiple clients and in turn are more likely to get overwhelmed, they can be difficult to get a hold of if they’re not organized. It’ll be a higher likelihood that you’ll be overlooked and not the agent’s number one priority.
Pro – multiple schedules & multiple skill sets, more well rounded, usually easier to communicate with, tend to have systems set in place for organization and training purposes. It’s likely that you’ll have more face time with a real person [i.e. someone will be able to attend open houses with you], instead of working on the phone or via email all the time.
Con – if the team is too big then you may have people answering questions about your property that have never seen it, you might not actually be working with (let alone ever speaking to) the team leader who’s the biggest and the best, if the team is too big you may end up with a newbie agent anyways that’s just under the team name.
Pro-tip: Check that they’re not a “Secret agent”
If you’re having a tough time finding their information online, then other realtors and potential buyers probably will too. Real estate in Vancouver moves fast, and your agent being readily available is absolutely critical to your success.
Check for signs that the realtor that you’re interviewing is a “secret agent”:
- They don’t have their cell phone number on their website
- The phone number on their signs and/or business card is always the office phone… and you’re constantly directed to a brokerage receptionist.
- They only list a contact form on their website, rather than an email address.
HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE FOR YOUR SERVICES?
As a buyer: If you’re a buyer, you shouldn’t have to pay real estate commissions as the seller is responsible for paying the buyer’s agent commission. Read your buyer’s contract in detail and discuss any situations (if any) with the realtor to see if you will ever be responsible for paying a commission.
As a seller: During the interview, once the realtor has gone through all of the other questions you’ll want to talk money. The most important thing to focus on is what your net return will be. Most agents don’t charge a flat fee but take a percentage of the home’s final sale price. This percentage will cover both the listing agent and buyer’s agent commission.
A note on real estate commissions: The negotiation process during offers is a huge player when it comes to getting more money in your pocket. Real estate is 100% commission based, and if as a realtor we can’t even negotiate on our own behalf to feed ourselves and our family, then how do you expect us to stand strong and be a shark when it comes to negotiating on your behalf? It’s not going to happen. Discount realtors just don’t have the skills, which is exactly why they discount. That’s the only value proposition they have. The realtors that are out there, hustling for you, grinding for you, and ultimately that are going to get you the highest profit are often times going to be the most expensive. Don’t make the mistake of saving money on the front end (commission) only to lose money in the backend. (sales price)
WHAT KIND OF GUARANTEES DO YOU OFFER?
Ask the agent if they have some sort of service or communication guarantee. If you sign a listing or buying agreement with the agent and later find that you are unhappy with the arrangement, will the agent let you cancel the agreement? Will the agent stand behind her service to you? Do they have a written agreement prior to signing that you can cancel at anytime? Is there a communication guarantee so they can’t just disappear as soon as the deal goes firm? You will want to make sure that you are hiring an agent that holds themselves to the highest standard.
WHAT IS YOUR UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION? What are the top three things that separate you from other realtors?
A good agent will have this answer prepared and will be ready to fire off the reasons why he or she is best suited for the job. The reality is that a lot of realtors do not have a unique value proposition (UVP), and you’ll be able to tell the great agents from the OK agents by asking this question. There are about 14,000 realtors in the Greater Vancouver. A lot of them say they can get you top dollar or do something in the quickest amount of time – you need to find out how will they do that better than the other 13,999 agents. It could be their strategies and tactics, background, experiences, tools, expertise, guarantees…
We hope that this blog has helped you to determine the best questions to ask a realtor when interviewing for the position of assisting your home purchase or sale. If you are looking for a realtor, give us a call at 604-765-0376. Prefer text? 604-319-0200 or email [email protected] to set up an interview.