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Buying or selling a home is one of the most financially significant transactions of most people’s lives. And taking this step amid the complex, evolving real estate market we are currently experiencing 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. As of March 2023, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) had more than 1.5 million members.
With so many professionals vying for your business, how do you figure out which agent will be the best fit for you? It’s a good idea to interview multiple candidates — three at a minimum — before making a decision about who you’ll work with. Here are 10 interview questions to ask a Realtor that can help you find the perfect match for your needs.
How to interview a Realtor in 10 questions
These three questions will help you decide whether an agent 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 Masters Utah Real Estate 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 properties are 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. A pro who thinks about real estate 100 percent of the time can better help you understand things like whether it’s the right time to buy and how much house you can afford in your area.
Selling a house
Most sellers want an agent who will be able to get them the best price for their property. Here are three questions for smart sellers to ask as they interview.
4. What price would you recommend if I were in a rush to sell, and if timing were not an issue?
It’s crucial to understand how much your house is worth before entering into the market. “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 Warburg 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.
5. 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.”
That plan should spell out 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?”
6. 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.”
Buying a house
Just as there are questions specific to seller’s agents, there are also questions buyers should be sure to ask. Homebuyers have it particularly tough in a seller’s market, which many areas are still in the throes of. These four questions will help you hire someone who can find you the right home at the right price.
7. 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.
8. How would you help me navigate a potential bidding war?
Bidding wars are not as common as they once were, but they do still happen, especially in very popular markets. “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?”
9. 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. “Part of the battle is getting into homes that hit the market quickly so that you can vie for an offer,” says Horner. “You’re looking for a Realtor who can prioritize your showings.”
10. 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?”
When you’re ready to begin your search for a trusted agent, start by asking friends, family and other individuals in your network for recommendations. You’ll also want to check out the online presence of Realtors you’re considering working with. Review their website and social media accounts. While you’re at it, try to track down reviews online from previous clients. You can also request the agent provide references.
Remember, buying or selling a home is one of the largest financial transactions most people ever make. Having a professional at your side who you can easily work with, and who has a track record of providing outstanding service, makes your life easier and your real estate journey more successful.
It’s a good idea to interview a minimum of three candidates, ideally from different brokerages. Think of it like interviewing a job candidate — you’re looking for the person who’s best suited for the job, and the job is guiding you to a successful real estate transaction.
That depends. In most cases, a real estate agent will require that you sign an exclusivity clause specifying that you will work with only them for a designated period of time and in a specific geographic area. That works to your benefit as well as to theirs — the more they work with you and get to know what you want, the better their chances of leading you to it. But if you are shopping in two different geographic areas, or buying in one area and selling in another, hiring more than one agent may be a necessity.
All real estate agents are licensed professionals, but yes, some specialize in helping either buyers or sellers. A buyer’s agent represents a homebuyer in a real estate transaction, helping clients search for and acquire a property that meets their needs and fits their budget. A seller’s agent (or listing agent) focuses on helping a homeowner to list a property for sale and close a profitable deal. In some cases, the same agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a transaction — this is known as dual agency.