How to Look For a Good Real Estate Agent
So many people think that real estate agents are all the same, or that they will only spend a couple weeks with the person, so it doesn’t matter — but when you’re bringing another person into your life, your finances, and your home for weeks at a time, it’s important to take the time to choose the right one because that person will become your business partner, advisor, best friend, and therapist.
Choose a real estate agent wisely, or you’ll be stuck with someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with, or worse, someone you don’t trust. So here are questions to ask a real estate agent you’re thinking about working with.
1. Can I See Your Real Estate License?
Why ask this? Just to ensure that you’re working with a trained, accredited professional. Every listing agent would understand that when asked, they would need to deliver proof of their license after all, in the beginning we are all strangers to each other. If they can’t deliver, then aren’t you glad you asked? Move on because they’re trying to do business illegally.
2. Can You Pass Along a List of Referrals?
Like a license, every listing agent—and home buyers’ agent for that matter—would not mind showing this if they are legit. If they don’t have a list of referrals, they might be new and should be working with a broker. Find out how many years the brokerage have been doing business and research their reputation.
3. What Is Your Listings’ Average Days on Market?
Always ask to see how long their listings sit on the market so that you can compare it to other agents interviewed. If theirs is oddly high, ask for an explanation. If they can’t attest to why their listings tend to stay on the market longer than others, find another agent.
4. What Is Your List-to-Price Ratio?
An agent should be able to show the prices at which they list a home, but more important is to see how that compares to the price the homes actually sell—up to date, of course. A good list-to-price ratio will depend on the market and location, but be wary of percentages too far below 90%.
Also, if an agents’ ratio is skyrocketing over 100%, be careful of their strategy of underpricing homes to pad the ratio. Request specific details about their motivation for the listing price.
5. Have You Sold Homes in This Neighborhood?
Neighborhoods in San Francisco differ greatly in terms of what types of homes sell, what buyers want, and more. Plus, to sell a home, agents are also selling the neighborhood and the perks of living in it. If an agent has experience in your specific neighborhood, it’s a major advantage.
6. Have You Sold Homes in This Price Range?
Price range can dramatically affect decisions for marketing and selling a house. The buyers also become more sophisticated as the price range gets higher. Agents familiar with selling within a particular price range will have their skills and experience guide them towards a smoother transaction.
7. How Long Have You Been a Real Estate Agent?
New agents are not a deal-breaker if they have stellar referrals.
8. Are You a Part-Time or Full-Time Agent?
Be far more cautious if an agent is only a realtor part-time because selling your home needs to be a full-time job, and they should be focused on it.
9. How Many Sellers Are You Currently Representing?
Focus is the key here. It is also a concern for agents who are juggling several listings because you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.
10. What’s the Ratio Between Buyers and Sellers You Represent?
Listing agents need to be experienced in, of course, listing. If history shows far more experience on the buying side than the selling, it’s not a deal-breaker, but be comfortable with an agents’ answers for all of the other questions. It could benefit to have a network of eager buyers at the disposal.
11. Will I Be Working With You Directly or a Team?
There’s nothing more frustrating than getting incredibly comfortable with an agent and then seeing someone new at every meeting. A small team is OK—it means more resources and assistance—but get introduced to everyone. Don’t allow your home to be another nameless, faceless listing.
12. How Do You Plan to Market the Home?
Every realtor should enter this partnership with a plan. Be wary if they don’t have a plan or a strategy in place that they can present to you.
13. Do You Have XYZ in Your Network?
Experienced listing agents should, at a minimum, be able to recommend the following: lenders, escrow companies, a lawyer specializing in real estate, mortgage advisor, handyman, home stager, house cleaners, and moving companies. Part of the benefit of working with a real estate agent is access to their vast network.
14. How Do Your Realtor Fees Work?
No surprises, understand ahead of time how you are going to pay the real estate agent. Typically, listing agents work under split commission. When the seller pays a listing agent, for example, 6% commission, that agent will split it with the agent who brought the buyer to the home. However, agent commission fees are always be negotiable in California.
Questions for After You’ve Chosen a Real Estate Agent
Now that you’ve picked a real estate agent to work with, it’s not time to stop asking questions. Stay involved in the process. At this point, realtors should be the ones asking the questions, but stay in the loop by coming to the table with your own questions, which are the following:
15. Can You Explain the Home Selling Process from Start to Finish?
For home-selling novices, the process can seem long and complicated. Feel comfortable understanding the key points along the way—preparing the home, showings, how to manage offers, home inspections, what happens post-accepting an offer, timelines, etc. A realtor should make you comfortable along the way, though always expect the unexpected.
16. What’s the Best Way to Contact You?
A realtor should never be out of touch, within reason. A good realtor is responsive, returns your calls and emails within an acceptable time frame – on the same day, usually.
17. Can I See a Written Comparative Market Analysis?
A “CMA” is the first step to determine a price for the house you’re selling. The cma examines the neighborhood, it shows prices at which similar properties sold.
18. What Price Will Sell This House?
No nonsense, a realtor should tell it like it is. If you’ve followed the first 14 checklist questions above, and chosen a real estate agent you can work with and trust, now’s the time to listen to what they have to say.
19. What Do You Believe Will Sell This Home?
This is the second most important question to ask a realtor. Listen to the realtor’s input even though it might be hard to hear and hard on the wallet. They will most likely recommend a remodel, removing all family photos, a new roof, new flooring, re-painting of the entire house, etc.
20. How Can We Best Work Together to Sell This House?
Selling a home in the Bay Area may require the home to be empty, remodeled, re-painted and staged. Be prepared to invest money on this, because your competition (other sellers in the market) are already doing it. In the Bay Area, staging a house for sale is almost the norm.
21. What Should I Already Be Packing Up?
Preparing for a listing and then showing the home will almost always include the sellers removing personal property from the home, whether a professional stager is involved or not.
Ask what the realtor believes should go—the clutter of children’s toys, the wall full of family photographs, the bed from a room that will be staged as an office—and get a head start on packing for the move.
22. What Are The Closing Costs?
Be prepared for the upfront costs sellers may need when closing on a home offer. The total costs will depend on the buyer’s offer, but a good real estate agent should be able to estimate the money sellers need on hand, which can include attorney fees, title fees, broker commission, appraisal fees, and more.