With home prices up pretty much everywhere, you may have decided to sell your home. To get the most out of your property, you’ll need to hire a good real estate agent who knows how to price a property, market it, and negotiate effectively. To find the right agent, you’ll need to ask the right questions—like the ones below.
First, find a prospective agent
You can find an agent by researching local agents online, or through the Find a Realtor search tool, but most commonly home sellers find an agent through their own personal network (40% according to the National Association of Realtors ). Of course, even a referral from someone you trust should be taken with a grain to salt. You’ll want to schedule an interview with any prospective agent and ask them the following questions:
What are your real estate credentials?
Knowledge is confidence. Make sure your agent is licensed by your state and has met the minimum levels of education, training, and testing. Also, ask if they’re a realtor, a designation which means they’ve had additional training and follow a strict code of ethics as members of the National Association of Realtors (roughly 50% of the agents are realtors). The organization also has all sorts of impressive certifications that your realtor might have, including the highest certification, known as the Certified Residential Specialist (held by about 4% of Realtors nationwide). A “broker” is another designation that comes with more education (it gives a realtor the power to oversee ordinary agents).
How much experience do you have selling homes?
Ideally, you’ll want an agent with some experience. Look for at least three years of experience selling residential real estate, particularly homes like yours. As home selling is a legal process with many moving parts in a limited time frame, an experienced agent will have a better sense of the possible pitfalls (like changing market conditions or failed inspections) and how to deal with them calmly.
The trade-off here is that you will likely pay for that experience through higher commission fees (6% is the national average). You might be able to negotiate a lower commission rate with a less experienced agent, but that will carry some additional risk. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a rising star, either. You’ll want to ask about their track record, which leads to our next question:
What is your success rate?
Ask your prospective agent for the listing and sales dates of their most recent transactions; you’re looking for completed sales within a couple of months, not homes that take months or years to sell (especially in a good market). A good agent should have a strong handle on what your home is worth. Ask about their average list to sale price ratio: over 100% means that your agent is consistently selling homes above the list price, which is what you can expect from a top-selling agent. The list-to-price ratio has its limits, however—market valuation is not an exact science, and even a good agents can post a list price that turns out to be slightly overvalued. But as a rule of thumb, an average ratio below 100% tells you that your agent is consistently selling homes for less than the listed price.
What do you think my home is worth, and why?
You don’t want to hire an agent just because they suggest the highest list price. Your agent’s job is to assess your home’s worth accurately using recent market data and apples-to-apples comparisons of similar homes recently sold. They should be able to explain their thought process and make a convincing case for their price point, using concrete examples. You’ll also want an agent that knows your local area inside and out.
What is your marketing plan?
When hired, your agent will place your home on a home listing database called the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), schedule open houses, or otherwise arrange for buyers to visit your property. But that’s just the bare minimum. Your prospective agent should be able to offer a blend of both offline and online marketing. They should be able to produce high-quality images of your house, both video and photos; promote your property on social media accounts (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter); and print high-quality glossy brochures (especially for an open house). A good agent will have good ideas for staging and able to suggest a professional stager if you agree that it’s needed.
An interview will help you determine whether your realtor is the right fit for you. You want an agent that is patient, objective, and resourceful. If you feel like they are pressuring you to hire them, walk away.
What are other good questions you might ask a prospective agent? Let us know in the comments.