Ask These 8 Questions Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent
Hiring a real estate agent is a smart move for anyone buying or selling a home—but especially when market conditions are challenging. Real estate agents have the necessary experience and expert knowledge of negotiation, complex real estate processes, and the local area where you’re doing business. They’ll make your transaction smoother and your life easier while getting you a great deal; you just have to find the right fit for you.
How do you do that? You can find a great real estate agent via the web and online reviews, social media, or word-of-mouth recommendations. Wherever you find yours, don’t hire them until you’ve asked these eight questions.
1. What’s your availability like?
Ask this question to get an understanding of how occupied the real estate agent is. Everyone is busy—but if the agent has an overloaded schedule, an upcoming vacation, or other conflicts, it might be worth looking into another option. You should feel sure that the real estate agent has time for you and that your needs will be met.
2. What’s your marketing strategy?
This one is important if you’re selling a home. How will the agent get your property in front of potential buyers? Does their marketing plan include professional photography? What about social media advertising and email blasts? Print media?
There are many different marketing tactics a real estate agent can use to sell your home, and just as no two homes are alike, no two real estate transactions should be treated as identical. Your potential agent should talk to you about your goals and come up with a unique-to-you plan for achieving them. If they don’t, keep shopping around.
3. What’s your negotiation style?
Whether you’re buying or selling, negotiation is potentially the most nerve-wracking part of the transaction—for everyone! Asking this question will help you understand how the real estate agent will negotiate on your behalf. Do they play hardball or are they more compromising—and which do you prefer? It will also tell you how confident the agent is in their ability to get you the price you want and the terms you’re looking for, so make sure you’re happy with their answer.
4. How do you like to communicate?
Buying or selling, it’s important to have a real estate agent whose communication style is compatible with yours. Do you prefer calls, emails, or texts? Do you like bare-bones, straightforward information or do you prefer a little sugar-coating? Make sure your preferences match before committing to a situation that could end up frustrating you. Now is a good time to ask how often the real estate agent will be in touch and what kind of updates you can expect to receive.
5. How long have you been in business in this area?
Asking this question will give you an idea of the real estate agent's experience level and their familiarity with the market. These things are important because they influence how expertly the agent will be able to navigate any issues that arise. It will determine how well they place your home in the market if you’re selling and how easily they find you your dream home at the right price if you're buying. Local expertise and years of experience also come with a priceless network of relationships and contacts to help you meet your goals.
Does that mean you should never go with a new real estate agent? Not necessarily. But a brand new agent should have an experienced team backing them up to provide guidance and everything else they need to ensure your success.
6. What are your fees?
Ask this question to be sure you understand how much you will pay the agent for their services. If you’re a buyer, you generally don’t have to worry about it. Typically, buyer’s agents and seller’s agents are paid a percentage out of the proceeds of the home sale. If you’re a seller, make sure you know what that percentage is so you’re not surprised when the sale goes through.
Many real estate agencies also offer additional services like staging, repairs, and even remodeling for homesellers. If you'd like to use any of these, make sure you know what the costs are and whether or not you have to pay them upfront or after you sell.
7. Do you have any references?
Buying or selling a home is a huge decision, and who you choose to accompany you on that journey can mean the difference between mega success and mega stress. Great real estate agents understand that, and they should be happy to provide references from clients who had good experiences working with them. It’s also a good idea to look up public reviews of any real estate agent you’re thinking of hiring. This will give you an idea of what it’s like to work with them and what sort of results you can expect.
8. What experience do you have with these market conditions?
The answer to this question will tell you how confident the agent is that they can help you reach your goals—even if the market is difficult. It will give you an idea of how tuned in to the market they are and if they’re aware of the current potential pitfalls and struggles. It also gives you an opportunity to see how straightforward the real estate agent is with their communication. A good follow-up question is: “What’s your plan for making sure we’re successful in this market?”