Whether you are buying or selling a house, a quality real estate agent is worth his or her weight in gold. But most parties in a real estate transaction don’t give hiring an agent the amount of thought that it deserves. Most, in fact, hire the first agent they see, usually because they underestimate the agent’s role in the process. Here are 8 Things To Ask Before Hiring A Real Estate Agent. Follow these and get a professional, who will deliver the best results.
1. What kind of real estate are you looking for?
Not all agents have the same area of expertise. If you are looking to break in to the commercial real estate side — buying or selling — then you won’t want an agent geared for single-unit residential in lower income neighborhoods. By the same token, commercial real estate specialists are not as well equipped at knowing the short sale market, and flipping that switch of working for clients willing to pay $2,000 per month in rent to serving a family of four looking for something in the $600 range takes a magician’s touch.
2. Is the agent’s experience community-based, market-based, or both?
Twenty years in the real estate market may sound great on the surface, but if most of that experience comes in coastal high-end, then you who seek the fixer-upper in the midwest need not be impressed by the agent’s experience. Should he transplant to your area and try to sell you that line, think twice. He may be great at what he’s done in the past, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll bring the right touch to your community. Ultimately, you want someone seasoned in the art of working with buyers and sellers, who also has an intimate understanding of the community where you’re looking.
3. How does the agent promote, advertise, and generate leads/listings?
Whether you’re putting a home on the market or going house-hunting, this is one of the most important things to ask before hiring a real estate agent. Buyers will want to know they have chosen an agent, who has an inventory that can place them in the right home for them. Sellers need reassurance that the agent is doing all he can to sell their house or property so they can move on to the next chapter without having to carry two mortgages payments. A good agent should be prepared to discuss his marketing practices freely.
4. Asking price vs. Selling price: how close are they in the average transaction the agent oversees?
Few real estate transactions result in the seller asking for X amount of dollars and getting every penny’s worth. For sellers, it’s important that an agent have a history of getting as close to the asking price as possible. For buyers, it’s the exact opposite. Do not hesitate to ask your agent for this information because it will empower you to make wise decisions — know when to hold them, know when to fold, in other words.
5. What is the average search time or time on the market in a real estate transaction?
Also important to both parties in this list of things to ask before hiring a real estate agent is this gem. Houses and commercial real estate can both sit empty for a long time, costing the owners more and more with each passing day. An agent, who is motivated to help you find what you’re looking for or get rid of what you’re hanging on to is one that will save you money over the long haul. Agents live and die by these figures, so if one says he cannot tell you or doesn’t track this information, be very careful about dealing with him.
6. How many clients are you working with?
The truth is, you’re not the only client in the world. Your agent will need to divide his time between you and others — that is, if he’s good at what he does — but at the same time, you are making a commitment and deserve his best. Don’t be scared off by a busy agent, but only give your time to those who will cherish it. Be honest about your expectations upfront, and if he’s still eager to take you on, then that’s a good indication he’ll be there when needed.
7. Has a client ever filed a formal complaint on this agent?
There is no harm in asking the agent point-blank. He knows, and you should know, that there are ways of learning the truth anyway. The National Association of Realtors is one source. The Better Business Bureau is another. State and local boards are also possibilities. You can always double-check whatever he tells you with any of these organizations, but he’ll likely be upfront if you ask. You may also consider asking his broker whether any customer complaints have come to his or her attention. They, too, understand the checks and balances out there, and will want to make sure you’re in good hands because it’s their reputation that could be at stake.
8. Buyers vs. Sellers: have you ever represented both on the same transaction?
If the answer is yes, you should run. Far away. It’s impossible to do right by both. The very nature of the transaction process — wherein one group is wanting as much as possible and the other is wanting to withhold — means that someone is compromised should an agent represent both parties. Yet it happens. But it doesn’t have to happen to you.
Don’t go in business with the first real estate agent you talk to — at least, not without checking out other sources first. Take time to consider. Remember these 8 things to ask before hiring a real estate agent, and then make your decision.