Buying or selling a home is one of the most financially significant transactions most people engage in. And taking this step amid an especially competitive real estate market, as we are experiencing now, is no small matter.

A great real estate agent makes the process less daunting. But selecting an agent to work with can be challenging — and there are more Realtors now than ever before. At the end of 2021, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) membership reached a new all-time high with more than 1.5 million members, an increase of more than 100,800 over the previous year.

With all of these professionals vying for your business, how do you decide which agent is right for you? Taking the time to interview candidates is important. These 10 questions can help you find the perfect match for your needs.

Interview questions to ask a Realtor, whether you’re buying or selling

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, there is some general information that you’ll want to know about each candidate you’re considering. These three questions will help you decide whether a Realtor has the professional expertise, local market knowledge and communication skills you’ll need in a partner on your real estate journey.

1. How long have you been in business, and what is your sales volume?

“When you’re placing what is most likely your largest investment in the hands of a professional, it’s important to understand their level of experience in the industry,” says Jen Horner, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Masters in Salt Lake City, Utah. “You’re looking for signs that the Realtor knows the market well and will protect you and your money throughout the transaction.”

As part of this question, ask for sales data to back up the candidate’s recent transactions, and ask them to explain the trends they’re seeing in the market. These might include such details as supply and demand, the number of days a property is staying on market and what contractual terms are winning deals from both a buyer and seller perspective, says Horner.

2. How will you communicate with me, and how often?

It’s important for you and your agent to be on the same page from the start regarding the type and frequency of their updates. For example, if you prefer speaking on the phone, you probably won’t be happy with someone who communicates exclusively via text.

“Whether buying or selling, you want to feel their level of respect and commitment to you as a client from the moment you sign with them,” says Horner. “You want them to understand your expectations and the mode of communication you prefer, so that this is not being determined on the fly.”

3. Are you a full-time or part-time agent?

As with many types of jobs, some agents work in real estate as their full-time career, and some are part-timers. “I would always recommend working with a full-time agent whose sole focus and attention is on real estate, market conditions and trends —all of which are fluid dynamics that can shift weekly,” says Katie Severance, a Realtor with Douglas Elliman in Palm Beach, Florida.

Questions to ask when you’re selling a home

If you’re selling a home, you want an agent who will be able to get you the best price. That’s especially true if you need the proceeds from selling this house to buy another one. Here are three questions for smart sellers to ask as they interview.

1. What price would you recommend if I were in a rush to sell, and if timing were not an issue?

“Asking this question shows you what an ambitious pricing strategy might be versus a tighter, more efficient pricing strategy,” says Steven Gottlieb, an agent at Coldwell Banker in New York City. “It will also show you if the agent is capable of critical thinking and navigating a complicated market.”

Many agents quote potential sellers unrealistic asking prices in order to win the listing, Gottlieb says. Requesting more than one asking price makes it harder to fudge the numbers. You should also ask agents to show you the real estate comps and explain how they arrived at the proposed selling prices for each scenario, he says.

2. What is your marketing game plan?

“A thoughtful marketing game plan that’s documented for review is ideal,” says Horner. “Agents should provide a timeline for your sale based on the current market and a detailed outline of the marketing campaign crafted for your home.”

As part of that marketing plan, you’ll want to know whether the agent will offer such services as professional photography, videography and flyers. “Are staging services an offering they provide? Discuss open houses and private showings — will feedback be shared?” says Horner. She also recommends asking about how they would market your home digitally. “What online presence are they offering? Website, online syndication, social media exposure?”

3. How will my home be introduced to other Realtors?

“This is critical,” says Severance. “Not only do agents need advance warning that your home will be coming on the market, but they also need to see it in person — typically in a private, Realtors-only open house — so that they can properly convey enthusiasm for it to their buyers. If they like the home and the price, they will bring buyers in.”

Questions to ask when you’re buying a home

Just as there are questions specific to seller’s agents, there are also questions you’ll want to be sure to ask if you’re hunting for a home to buy. Homebuyers have it particularly tough in this seller’s market — these four questions will help you hire someone who can find you the right home at the right price.

1. How will you present my offers to sellers?

“Ask to see an example of their offer packet or format,” says Severance. “This is hugely important. You’re not likely to meet the seller in person, so all they will know of you is what is on paper when your offer is presented.”

The agent should put a professional cover letter on your offer package that introduces you and provides a compelling summary of your deal points, while also explaining why you are a desirable buyer, she says.

2. How would you help me navigate a potential bidding war?

“Discuss with the agent how they will advise you and manage the process if you get involved in a bidding war,” says Severance. “How aggressive should you be in your price and terms?  What does a highly competitive offer look like — without going too far?”

3. What is your availability for getting out to showings quickly?

With demand high and inventory low, it’s important to work with a Realtor who is able to move fast. “In today’s market, a home moves on and off the market quickly. No longer are the days of waiting to preview homes on the weekend,” says Horner. “You’re looking for a Realtor who can prioritize your showings. Part of the battle is getting into homes that hit the market quickly so that you can vie for an offer.”

4. How many properties should I see before I make an offer on one?

“This will tell you a lot about the agent’s process,” says Severance. While moving quickly is important, “buying a home should never be rushed,” she says. “It is imperative to see at least several homes before making your first offer. Sometimes a buyer sees the perfect house on the first day, but that’s the exception — and how would you even know it’s perfect if you haven’t seen several homes in the area? Make sure that you’re not being rushed.”

Bottom line

Amid a particularly competitive real estate market, it’s more important than ever to have an experienced professional guiding you through the buying or selling process. Take the time to interview prospective agents and find the best one for you — one who has the expertise, knowledge and skills to make your experience as smooth and successful as possible.