by George Lawson
Okay, you’ve searched for a list of real estate agents and you’ve prepared for their interviews. Now comes the questions themselves. Certainly, you probably have some specific questions in mind. But you’ll probably want to make sure these are also included -
1) Would you provide me with a list of at least 3 references?
Everybody has references. Even new agents have references from previous employers. Someone who comes highly recommended by people you trust is fantastic, of course. But if the agent isn’t a referral from friends or family, you’ll want to get an outside perspective on his or her performance. And once you get the reference list — use it!
Ask if you can call the references with additional questions. Before you start calling the names, you might also ask the agent if any of them will be particularly pleased or disappointed, and if any of them are relatives.
When you speak with the referral, ask about the agent’s negotiation skills, attention to detail, and reliability. The most telling question you can ask is, “Would you hire this person again?”
2) Do you work full time?
Many agents are only able to work on a part-time basis and they might not have the time or energy to give you the attention you deserve. For the most part, you’re often better off with a full-time agent who keeps up with the local market, financing considerations and laws. Part-time agents can usually provide full-time attention to only one client at a time.
3) What has been your history in real estate?
You want to know more than simply the number of years they’ve been licensed. Most agents specialize … what is their particular area of expertise? When they answer, consider these four things:
Commitment – Many brokers are only interested in representing properties within a certain price range or geographical area. If your home isn’t in it, they might not give their all.
Experience – Ours is a very “transient” industry, meaning lots of untested agents are constantly coming and going between offices. How long have they’ve been working in real estate? In their current real estate office?
That’s not to say that newly licensed agents aren’t valuable. In fact, newer agents tend to have more time to concentrate on you and your home. Much depends on the team they surround themselves with. If they have access to competent mortgage, legal and escrow experts you wouldn’t necessarily be working with a lone individual but the combined experience of the team. This is important … it can mean the difference between knowing how to handle a difficult situation, ignoring it or not recognizing the signs of a potential problem before it develops into a fiull-blown crisis.
Have they ever had any trouble with previous clients? Ask for the agent’s license number (also referred to as their DRE number). Here in California, you can easily check if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints by visiting the Department of Real Estate website and entering their license number.
Knowledge – Having experience will definitely help a seller in a slowing market. But it’s also crucial that the agent is knowledgeable about your community and type of home. How well does he or she know your neighborhood? How many houses have sold there recently, for what price range, and how similar were they to your home? Also, they may not be familiar with your type of home. An agent who specializes in fixer-uppers, for example, may not be the best bet for a luxury home. Make sure they understand the market for your particular home.
Availability – Although it may sound like a reasonable expectation, you definitely want to hire someone who has enough time to help you. Ask how many clients they are actively working with and how much time you can expect them to devote to you on a daily or weekly basis.
4) What is your track record?
If you’re looking to sell your home quickly and to avoid costly price reductions, you’ll need to find an agent who knows how to price homes right and move them quickly. A couple of useful ratios:
The final sale price (what a buyer pays for the home) is usually not what the home was listed for. The Sale-to-List Ratio is expressed as a percentage. If the average above 100%, then the homes they represented sold for more than their list price. If it’s less than 100%, the homes sold for less than the list price. And, if the list price is reasonably set, a competent listing agent should be able to negotiate sales prices that are very close to list prices.
Days on Market (DOM) Ratio
For some sellers, how long a home remains on the market can be critical to their financial plans. What is the average number of days their clients’ homes remain on market before being sold? For the last year?
Knowing the agent’s ratios speaks volumes about their work.
Copyright 2012, George Lawson (all rights reserved)
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