Choosing a Realtor – How to Interview a Real Estate Agent, Part I

Choosing a Real Estate Agent to help you buy or sell property?  Deciding on the wrong agent can be a very costly mistake.  Here are the best questions to ask your potential Realtor during the interview process.

How Long Have You Been in the Business?  You will be best served by an agent who has seen boom and bust in the market.  A Realtor who has been active since before 2005 has experienced both of these cycles. 

Are you a full time or part time agent?  A full time agent is obviously more dedicated to his or her profession.  If you are intent on using a part time agent, find out what times of the day and week your part time agent will be available to help you.

What experience & education do you have?  It’s been said that Real Estate is a “career of default.”  Most Realtors did not grow up wanting to sell homes.  Find out what background and education each candidate has and how it can help you in your situation. 

Do you work alone or with assistants?  Either way is fine; just make sure you know who you’ll be speaking with most of the time after you’ve signed a contract.  You may love the listing agent you signed with, but you may not see or speak with him again, and the assistant you do work with could drive you crazy.  On the other hand, a team could have more dedicated resources working for you. 

May I Review Documents Beforehand That I Will Be Asked to Sign?  Simple Real Estate transactions are Complex!  There are lots of liabilities, contingencies, and time frames which are all spelled out in detail.  A good agent will give you samples of the many forms you will need and make sure you understand them before you need to sign them.

How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood recently?  Preferably, you should have a Realtor who is very familiar with your neighborhood and property type.  An agent who specializes in your area will have the knowledge to properly price your home or negotiate your purchase. Local area experts may also be the first to spot trends or know of pocket listings.

How many buyers & sellers are you working with currently?  Pick which Kool-Aid you want to drink here.  If an agent has no clients, theoretically, the agent should be able to dedicate lots of time for you.  Conversely, a busy agent is a sign of success.  All things equal, I’d choose to err on the side of success.

How Much Do You Charge?  Real Estate commissions are negotiable.  Do not, however, make the mistake of choosing a Realtor solely on their price.  Do your homework.  Ask all of these questions and decide who can serve you best.  Is saving $1500 worth it if it takes an extra 3 months to sell your home?  Efficiency, marketing, negotiating skills, contract knowledge, area expertise; these are things you should base your decisions on first.  Decide upon your Realtor, and then decide upon a price for service.

Can I back out of my agreement with you?  Listing Agreement or Buyer Broker Agreement, make sure your Realtor will release you if you are not satisfied with their service.  At the same time, remember you have a duty to work with your Realtor.  A quality agent will inform you of what is expected of you as a buyer or seller under the contracts you sign.

Most importantly, you must feel comfortable with your chosen Realtor.  Your Real Estate Professional will be a member of your Team, a team in which you are the Captain.  You must hire a Realtor whom you can communicate easily and effectively with.  Choose one whom you feel you can work out disagreements with, since you may not always agree.  If, you choose correctly, you’ll have a trusted ally for life.  Choose wrongly and you’ll lose  lots of hair, sleep, time and money.

In my next post, I’ll discuss more questions you can use while interviewing real estate agents, which will cover marketing and strategy amongst other things…  How to Interview a Real Estate Agent, Part II

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

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