For ethical reasons, agents can't tell you how much to offer, says C.D. "Chip" Boring, broker/owner of Re/Max Realty Plus in Sebring, Fla. Instead of asking directly how much the home is worth, you ask indirectly, by seeking information about comparable sales, or "comps."
An agent should arm you with plenty of comparables -- prices of similar, nearby homes that have been sold recently -- along with high and low ranges for a particular property, Boring says.
Your agent can tell you how long homes are staying on the market, and the percentage of the asking price sellers are getting, says Dick Gaylord, past president of the National Association of Realtors and broker with Re/Max Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. This information tells you how hot the market is where you are looking, he says.
Also ask how long the property has been on the market. If it's been languishing for months with nary an offer, it could be slow market or it could be overpriced, says Robert Irwin, author of "Tips and Traps When Negotiating Real Estate."