Finding the Right Agent
When going through the process of buying or selling a home, choosing an agent is the most important thing you can do. As a seller, you want to make sure you choose someone to represent the sale of your home who has the same goals and motives as you do, as well as someone who you know will have you in their best interest. When buying a home, on the other hand, you will want to find an agent that has experience servicing your market as well as one that you know will listen to you and consider your wants and needs to the best of their ability.
There are several important questions that should be asked when interviewing agents to make sure you are choosing the best one.
Years of Experience
The first thing you'll want to find out when interviewing an agent is how much experience they have and how long they've been in business. Some people might prefer a seemingly stronger agent with a lot of experience, while others will want to work with a newer agent.
The benefit of working with a newer agent is that they will have the most up-to-date training as well as reliable mentors along their side. However, working with a more experienced agent will benefit you if a problem were to arise. A more experienced agent will probably be able catch any problems quicker than a newer agent will. Ultimately, choosing an agent based on their experience levels will come down to personal preference.
Proven Track Record
It is important to choose an agent with a proven track record of success. A great question to ask your potential agent in this regard is what their average list-price-to-sales-price ratio is. Basically, the information that you're trying to find out from the agent is how close they can get the sales price of the home to the price it was listed for. The closer the sales price to the list price, the better.
A buyer's agent with a great history of successfully serving clients will have a rate anywhere between 90% and 105%, which means they have submitted offers on properties on behalf of their clients for 90-105% of the list price, and their offers have been accepted. In other words, the agent is competitive and will do everything they can to help their buyer get the property they want, while at the same time stay within budget. A listing agent with a similar history of success will have a rate anywhere between 95% to 110%. This means that they have represented their clients and their properties so well that they have repeatedly sold those properties for 95-110% of the price they listed them for.
The more money for the seller, the better. If the agent you're interviewing has an average ratio of the numbers mentioned above, it means they consistently do good work, rather than only sometimes.
The next thing to think about when interviewing your potential agent is their strategy for business. If you are selling your home, you will want to make sure you find out the agent's advertising process. Ask to see samples of flyers or hear samples of radio advertisements, tv commercials, etc.
Also, frequency is very important; the agent you hire should be advertising your home on a weekly basis to guarantee optimal traffic. On the other hand, if you are in the market to buy a home, you will want to hire an agent who will agree to represent only you. Meaning, if they agree to work with you, they should not be agreeing to work with or already working with any other buyers that would be looking at the same inventory of homes as you. Also, look for an active agent. An exceptional buyer's agent will show you 5-7 homes a day until you find a home.
How do They Stand Out
A great question to ask your potential agent when interviewing them is, "What three qualities about you separate you from your competition?" There are plenty of good qualities you will want your agent to have, and if they can give you three when asked, it will show confidence.
Some examples of good qualities to look for are being an excellent negotiator, analytical, friendliness, honesty, having a sense of humor when under pressure, being a great communicator and having flexible availability. When interviewing an agent, you may choose to ask about some of these specifically, depending on where your preferences lie.
Ask for Documents
To go along with a few things we've already discussed here, being experienced/well-trained and being honest, real estate documents should be a huge topic of discussion. If an agent shows any hesitation to see documents up front, it should be a huge red flag. A good agent will have no problem with you previewing the documents you will be signing with them if you choose to hire them.
If you are a buyer, you should ask to see the Buyer Disclosures, the Purchase Agreement, the Agency Disclosures, and the Buyer's Broker Agreement. If you are a seller, you should be asking for the Seller Disclosures, the Listing Agreement, and the Agency Disclosure. The agent shouldn't hesitate to give these to you up front so you can take time to read them and make sure there isn't anything you disagree with.
Commissions or Fees
Upon discussing documents, you will reach the topic of real estate fees. These are the fees that agents charge to represent you either buying or selling a property. The important thing to remember here is that all fees are negotiable.
Most agents will charge anywhere between 1% and 4% of the sales price of the property. Top agents will generally charge more, so consider this when choosing an agent as well. Some agents will charge more than average to accommodate for the buyer's agent. For example, a listing agent might charge 7% and split it in half with the buyer's agent. Every agent is different, though, so make sure you are asking these questions when in the interview.
Lastly, another one of the most important things to discuss with an agent is their guarantee of satisfaction. If something happens with your listing as time goes on that you don't like, will the agent let you cancel with them in order to find a different one? This is something you will want to find out right away before any paperwork is signed because some agents will not let you cancel your contract with them.
What Else Should You Ask?
While all of this is a lot to remember, you will probably still wonder if there's anything else you need to ask before the interview concludes. A good question to ask is, "What haven't I asked that I need to know?" Asking this question will give agent the opportunity to not only make sure every important detail in their process is incorporated in the conversation, but also to advertise themselves.
Aside from this, they should also be asking you questions about your wants and needs. If the agent has the ability to summarize your objectives with you, you have most likely found the right agent that will get the job done correctly and efficiently for you.
The most important thing to keep in mind when getting ready to interview an agent to sell your home or help you buy one is to be prepared. If you have an outline of everything you want to know from the agent and every goal you have in the real estate process, the process will go so much smoother and you will find the right agent for you.