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Choosing the right realtor may be the difference between selling your house for top dollar and getting less than your house is worth. Hiring the wrong listing agent could cost you time, money, and lead to headache after headache. Avoid putting yourself in this scenario: here are 12 must-ask questions when hiring a realtor.

Q: How long have you been an active agent?

Active is the keyword here. Many agents obtain their license and then they go inactive to avoid paying higher fees. Some do it part-time or as supplemental income. Some as a hobby. A good rule of thumb is to look for an agent who has at least 3 consecutive/active years in the industry. This is usually ample time for a full-time agent to gain enough experience in processes and procedures, legal obligations, contracts, and negotiations to feel confident in them to do a good job. 

Q: How long have you lived in the area?

This is important, you want to make sure your agent has familiarity with the local market and can effectively gather comparables. These comparables will give the agent guidance in pricing your house, but comparables are not easy to determine. A thorough understanding of neighborhoods, demographics and local attractions and amenities is an essential aspect when listing a house. The wrong realtor could price your house too high leading to inactivity and potentially cost you thousands of dollars in added mortgage payments, utilities, and house maintenance costs. Or, they could price your house too low and miss out on thousands of dollars.

Q: How many market transactions have you closed?

Don’t just ask about the total number of listings. Instead, ask how many market transactions they’ve closed. This is an important metric that many new or inexperienced agents will try to avoid answering. Agents may also try to count investment deals in their numbers, and these have no relevance to closed sales. Listing a house is one thing, getting it sold is another. Remember: an expired or canceled listing is not a sale. Realtors know most people aren’t educated enough to ask the right questions.

Q: How many deals have you closed representing the seller?

If you interview a listing agent that has 300 closed transactions but 299 of those are representing the buyer, this is probably not the right agent to list your house. Representing buyers is different than representing sellers. The two call for different styles of negotiation and require different processes to be followed.

Q: What is your marketing strategy?

Ask potential realtors what their marketing strategy includes. Many agents try to make it seem like they are doing way more work than they actually are. They claim they will list the property on popular listing platforms like Zillow, Realtor, and Trulia, but that is something that automatically happens when you add the property to the MLS. A good agent has an actual marketing plan in place and will go above and beyond to get your house sold.

Q: Would I be working with you or someone else in your office?

Oftentimes, busy agents that meet you in an initial listing interview won’t be the same agent you deal with throughout the transaction. The agent has their name on the sign, but you may work directly with an office admin or agent in training. This is an important question to ask. Sure, you may still get the listing agent’s resources, but without their expertise, you may lose part of the appeal and potential.

Q: Do you have a list of contractors you work with?

99.99% of the time, there is something that comes up on an inspection report that needs to be fixed. Make sure your agent has reputable contacts in their arsenal who can fix any issues that arise. You don’t want to, nor should you have to, spend time looking up companies to fix issues with your house. Your agent should have this covered as part of their service – they are making commission and should put in the work to earn it.

Q: Do you have any buyers in mind already?

This is a big question that will separate experienced realtors from the rest. This will also give you insight as to how connected your potential agent is. Even if they don’t have a particular buyer in mind for your property, asking this question will give them an opportunity to reiterate their marketing strategy to get your property out to buyers.

Q: How much do you charge and how much does the buyer’s agent receive?

The average is 3% commission off the total sale price for the seller’s agent and 3% for the buyer’s agent. Make sure the buyer’s agent isn’t getting shorted. If they are, it can be a deterrent for them to bring their buyer when they know their commission is being cut short. The point is to make sure both the buyer’s and the seller’s agent put in the work.

Q: Do you have any client references that you can show me?

As with hiring any potential service provider, asking your realtor for client references should go without saying. Even if you hire a realtor who’s propped up by a popular agency, you still want to see their references. New or part-time realtors may have very few or even no past clients to reference. While this may or may not be a sign of their efforts, it’s a good indication that you should look elsewhere if getting your house sold quickly and for top dollar is your priority.

Q: If I hire you, what is the first thing we will do? What schedule will we follow?

Once you hire a realtor, what they do first, and the schedule they keep, are two of the most important determining factors when it comes to selling your house. Setting up and delivering milestones on time, and keeping your agent accountable to this schedule, will ensure you don’t waste time or money. Many times, if a house doesn’t sell within the first few weeks, it can be due to the agent’s efforts or strategy. Keep things on track by asking this question up-front and avoiding any potential hiccups or roadblocks before they happen.

Q: What other questions should I ask that I haven’t yet?

This is a big question because it potentially exposes the trustworthiness of the agent, forcing them to be honest and provide clarity. If they give you something else to think about, that is a great sign. If not, be cautious that they are either hiding something or aren’t thinking deeply enough to come up with something of value. If they can’t find something to say when you ask them this question, how good are they going to be during negotiating, or when it comes to asking tough questions?