Thursday, April 26, 2007

How To Interview Your Realtor

My post last week about "The Real Estate Secret Service" got me thinking about helping consumers avoid the agents that I was describing (and complaining about quite honestly).  The agent you hire to represent you in the purchase or sale of your home doesn't necessarily need to be me, but it most definitely need NOT be an agent who can't seem to understand the concept of continuing education courses, among other things.  So in an effort to help you weed those agents out of the mix, I thought I would provide you with a comprehensive list of questions that you might want to ask when interviewing your realtor.

  1. Are you a full time agent?  With the frenzied market came an influx of real estate agents who got into the business with visions of golfing every afternoon and collecting big checks.  Sorry to disappoint, but that's not the way it works.  Real estate is a full time (plus some) business that cannot be done effectively as a part time hobby.

  2. Do you work with a team or have a support staff that can handle affairs when you are unavailable?  There are times when we, as real estate agents are not always available.  Maybe we're out showing homes to our buyer clients, or maybe even on a vacation.  The business doesn't stop just because we might be unavailable for a period of time.  It helps to work within a team network, so that there is no down time.

  3. Do you have a follow-up system so that we get valuable feedback after every showing?  Buyer's and buyer's agent's feedback is critical.  As a seller, wouldn't you want to know how your home compares to the one down the street in the eyes of the buyer.  Of course, any good real estate agent can give you an objective sense of how your home compares (lot size, condition, amenities, upgrades, floorplan, etc), but, after all, who are we most concerned about liking your home.....THE BUYER!

  4. How will you advertise my home for sale?  Studies have shown that as many as 80% of the home buyers start their search on the internet.  Your home needs to have the most exposure possible on the internet to catch the interest of those buyers.

  5. How many listings do you or does your team currently have?  Keep in mind that more is not always better.  You obviously want to make sure they have an inventory of listings, but having too many may mean that the personal service being promised is next to impossible to provide.

  6. Will you provide me with periodic updates of the activity in my subdivision?  This is a critical element to customer service during the listing period.  You don't want to be kept in the dark as to the latest activity.  This is your competition and if they make an adjustment in price it can have a profound affect on the success of selling your home.  To not be tuned into what your competition is doing would be a huge mistake.

  7. Can you offer me some ideas on what I need to do to get my home ready for sale?  A good real estate agent will have the experience to tell you what buyers like, and therefore what might need to be done to your home to have the best chance of selling for the most money possible.

  8. How did you arrive at the listing price that you are recommending?  With our current market conditions, pricing is more critical than ever before, because in today's market, buyer's have more choices than ever before.  You want to make sure that your home is priced correctly right out of the gate.  You can't afford to put your home on the market at the wrong price.

  9. Do you have any references or testimonials?  There are a couple of important things that you can find out through talking with past clients that are a little uncomfortable to discover while interviewing somebody.  First of all, you want to find out if the agent know the contracts and knows the buying/selling process well enough to guide you through the transaction avoiding any pitfalls that may present themselves.  Secondly, as a buyer, you want to make sure that they are going to be patient with you while you look at homes to find the right home for you.  I've heard of horror stories about agents who want to show their clients a limited number of homes and then push them to make a decision among the homes they've seen.  Sometimes it takes some time to find that home that speaks to you, and you need an agent that's patient enough to work with you through the process.

Choosing a realtor is a complicated process.  Or course, you need to make sure that the agent you hire is competent enough to get your home sold in a timely manner and for the most money possible, but the agent also needs to be someone that you get along with personally.  Selling a home can be a long process and having to work with someone on a daily basis that you can hardly stand to talk to will make it seem like it's never going to end.  

I hope these questions will help you while interviewing the next real estate agent that you hire.

-Steve Nicks