Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Finding a real estate agent to sell your home is easy. Finding the “right” real estate agent is the challenging part. Did you know that 70-80% of sellers will hire the first agent they speak with? That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you are asking the right questions. At this point, having been on both sides of the table and having interacted with some really great (and not so awesome) agents, I’ve found a couple common pitfalls that I’d like to help you avoid. Make sure you interview any potential agent thoroughly to make sure he or she is the best fit for you. After all, he or she will be helping you sell what is potentially your single largest investment. This is a big deal! Not sure what to ask? I’ve got you covered:
How do you market your listings? Does the realtor use the internet in marketing homes for sale? If not, this is a huge red flag. This is how the majority of people search for homes. While your listing my go up online, If the agent doesn’t do anything to draw attention there, you lose out on a major opportunity to draw potential buyers to your home. The primary reason houses don’t sell is due to lack of marketing. You need as many people to see your home as possible. That’s how you will find a buyer. If possible, before the actual interview, research the real estate agent's online presence. Sure, they may have social media accounts but do they actually use them? Do you see their listings marketed? Do they have a strong social following? Facebook live events, digital open houses, social media posts, features on websites and custom marketing material all help get your home in front of the most buyers. Make sure your potential agent is leveraging as many of these sources as possible to ensure they will get your home sold.It might be helpful to consider the following additional questions:
Does the real estate agent have a website?
Does the broker have a good website?
Does the real estate agent utilize social media?
What kind of digital marketing will be utilized to sell my house?
Who takes the listing photos? Again, the majority of buyers are looking online first to purchase a home. Listing photos can be your greatest asset or enemy. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. We’ve all seen photos of poorly lit corners of a room or photos that highlight the furniture more than the home itself. Poor listing photos are the fastest way to turn off a potential buyer, so they don’t even step foot in the door. Professional photos are ideal because professional real estate photographers know exactly how to highlight the best features of your home so that it is most attractive to potential buyers. Ask for examples of listing pictures if the realtor takes the photos themselves so that you know the quality is good. Otherwise, insist on using a professional for the best possible results. The good news? The price is typically included if you go with a full service real estate company. The bad news? If you use a discount real estate company you could be taking those photos yourself.
How do you determine the price of the homes you sell? There are several different methods used to price a home. The most common methods include a comparative market analysis (CMA) and price per square foot. A CMA tends to be much more accurate as it takes into account different features of the home other than just size. During the interview, a prospective Realtor should be able to provide an example of a CMA. The level of detail is crucial here and will tell you a lot about the amount of time and effort he or she will spend on pricing your listing.
How frequently do you communicate with your sellers and what method do you use? Lack of communication is the most common complaint among sellers. Asking this question up front lets you know what to expect and help you figure out if the agent would be a good fit. It also helps to know WHO you will be communicating with. Sometimes, it might not be your listing agent themselves. Some agents have showing services, assistants or even other agents handle showings and it is helpful to know that up front.
How will you get feedback on my listing? Getting feedback from buyers’ agent is a crucial part of the selling process. Sometimes they may note an issue with the home that was missed and can be quickly remedied before the next showing. Communication is a crucial part of getting your home sold as quickly as possible for the highest price. You can’t fix a problem or barrier you don’t know about. Knowing if and how a realtor follows up after a showing is important to be able to correct any potential issue to get your home sold as soon as possible!
Can you recommend tips to help me get my home ready to sell? A great real estate agent can be a huge asset here. Between listing and showing appointments, a skilled realtor has seen a ton of houses and can tell you exactly what changes will get your home sold faster and for more money. He or she might be able to provide recommendations on any repairs or improvements to make prior to putting your home on the market. Experience staging is also a plus because it can help frame your home in the best possible light.
What do you think will be our biggest challenge? The truth is, every housing market and every real estate transaction will come with its own set of challenges. A great agent will be able to anticipate those challenges and address them head on BEFORE they become a problem. Look for a combination of both honesty and also humility here. The agent should be straightforward about any potential issues or barriers and then create a plan to address them.
What is your commission rate? First and foremost, know that commission IS negotiable. However, just because a realtor is willing to discount his or her commission doesn’t mean you’re getting the best deal. In fact, it could end up COSTING you money. The truth is, if an agent is not great at showing their own value and justifying their cost, he or she has the potential to cost you a lot of money at the negotiation table. Think about it. If your boss came to you and told you that for the next month, instead of your regular rate of $30 an hour you would be making $22, how hard are you going to be working? Will an agent who quickly cuts commission still spend money to promote your home? How hard will they negotiate for you when you get an offer? If they are willing to quickly take a hit on their personal income, consider how their negotiation skills might impact the sale price of your home. Having an agent that can articulate value is crucial in getting top dollar for the sale of your home, so a quick commission reduction can be a red flag on an agent’s ability to do this. Plus, there are many real estate agents or companies who make a habit of cutting commission percentages to secure a listing. What they don’t tell you as a seller is that they do not plan on spending any money on selling your home and that they do not provide the level of services and attention that a top producing agent can. The majority of discount companies are not full-service, so you could end up taking your own listing pictures, fielding buyer’s agent phone calls, holding your own open houses and/or negotiating your own contracts. Not only will this take up a lot of your time, without an experienced professional to guide you, it can also put you at a severe disadvantage from a negotiation perspective. Knowing exactly what services you are getting for the commission rate you agree to is crucial to making sure your needs and expectations are met and that your home is sold quickly and for the most money.
Know that getting the "best deal" on an agent is so much more than getting the cheapest commission structure. There are so many other things to consider. A great agent will more than make up their cost of commission in the sale of your home. Every real estate company and agent are very different so the interview process is crucial to making sure the relationship is a good fit for everyone. After all, your home is likely your largest investment, so you want someone who will represent it (and you) well.
Have you interviewed an agent before? What questions did you find helpful? Comment below and let me know!