Couple interviewing a real estate agent.

Questions To Ask A Real Estate Agent

Cathie Ericson7-minute read
November 16, 2021

If you’re getting ready to sell your home, you’re probably in search mode for a great real estate agent. As you narrow your list, check out these questions to ask a real estate agent that will help make sure you have an ideal fit.

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How Do I Choose A Good Real Estate Agent?

A good real estate agent can make your life much easier, while a poor (or merely inexperienced) one can complicate the process, and often leave money on the table. When choosing a real estate agent, you might start with people you know in your own social circle who might be working as real estate agents, or ask your family, friends, neighbors, or anyone else you trust if they have a suggestion.

Another avenue to explore is driving around your neighborhood or surfing local housing ads online to see if there are certain names that repeatedly pop up – that could indicate they are a local specialist who will be able to provide excellent guidance.

Trust is paramount when deciding whom to work with in selling your home, and agents always appreciate when their information is passed along from one happy client to another, says Daniele Kurzweil, a licensed real estate salesperson with the Friedman Team at Compass in New York City. However, she adds, “Just because your mother/uncle/college roommate had a fantastic experience with someone does not mean that you should skip doing your due diligence.” It’s important to create a dialogue to find out what you need to know to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

One of her favorite tips is to focus on their style – particularly the negatives, such as whether they badmouth others or are a “bulldog” type. “You want to find someone who will represent you in the best light possible and avoid someone whose style might alienate your potential buyers,” she says

How do you do that? By keeping in mind some of the best questions to ask a real estate agentto get to know them better.

How Do You Interview An Agent To Sell Your House?

The best way to find the right real estate agent is to interview several. Remember, you’re looking for expertise, but also for “fit”; that is, the sense that you’ll be able to work closely with them and trust them. Here are some top questions to ask an agent :

How long have you been in the business?

Most home buyers and sellers want someone who has some experience they can call on to give the best representation. However, there’s a flip side to that: Sometimes the most well-known real estate agents are also the busiest, which means that your service might suffer. That’s why there’s no perfect answer to this question – an agent who is just starting out might go more than the extra mile to prove themselves, and are likely backed by a team with more experience to answer any tricky questions.

What is your area of expertise

You may have heard the adage that “all real estate is local.” That means someone who specializes in your area could be a good first choice. And that goes for the type of real estate you are selling, as well, notes Kurzweil. “Your sister might have been delighted with the broker who sold her downtown condo, but has that person ever sold single family homes? Every product is different and as such you have to make sure whomever you hire has a working knowledge of how to sell your particular kind of property.”

What can I expect in the current market?

What you’re looking for here are some metrics regarding days on market, average sales price, and other pertinent details for your specific neighborhood. You want an agent who knows their stuff and can help you feel confident that they are up to date on what’s going on where you live so they can provide the best guidance to sell your home for top dollar.

How do you determine pricing?

Correct pricing is the single most important aspect when listing the property, believes Maria Dininger with F.C. Tucker Company Inc. in Indianapolis, Indiana. “Homes that are priced too high will sit on the market and over time will turn away buyers, who will assume there is something wrong with it since it hasn’t sold,” she says. “However, if you price too low, you risk losing what your home deserves.” Find out what metrics the agent plans to use to arrive at the asking price, and then find out how the initial price and eventual sales price of other recent sales correlate, to gauge your potential agent's ability to arrive at an appropriate price for your home.

What should I do to help maximize my home’s value?

Donna Castillo of Keller Williams San Jose-Gateway recommends that you get some insight on how to better bolster your home’s appeal. “Ask them something like, ‘Looking at my home, are there any improvements you think we can make that will help us sell more quickly or for more money?’” she recommends. Or ask if the agent recommends staging or other cosmetic improvements. And then, if indeed work needs to be done, she recommends asking if the agent will coordinate the contractors and services on your behalf, as well as whether there is an additional fee involved.

How will you market my home?

If you get the sense that the agent plans to just stick a sign in your yard, list it on the Multiple Listing Service, and wait for buyers to flock to you, you’d better look elsewhere. Robust marketing plans should include techniques like a virtual online tour, open houses, vibrant social media outreach, and cross-marketing with other agents in their office. Ask them to present a plan and then to give a case study of what strategies they have successfully used for a similar property.

How will we communicate, and how often?

The last thing you want is an agent who puts a sign in your yard and disappears – or one who calls you constantly while you’re trying to work. Deciding the preferred method of contact – whether it’s texting, a phone call, or email – will help you and the agent better understand how you prefer to communicate about progress, suggests Dininger. “Also, inquire about how frequently your agent stays in touch – whether that’s weekly or after every showing. The more communication the agent can provide for you, the better.”

What is your general “style”?

As a seller, it’s important to know how your broker will interact with you, such as whether they are a “take-charge” person or are waiting for your input, Kurzweil notes. And, she says, this begs the question about what kind of seller you want to be, as in whether you want final say in everything or would rather have someone else deal with the minutiae. “Find someone who complements your style ... if you are laid back then you might want someone who will keep you focused and on the right path with weekly check-ins and status reports,” Kurzweil says. “If you are obsessed with factual data, then maybe a more ‘big picture’ type will bring a new perspective to the table, instead of regurgitating what you already can see during your own research.”

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Can Realtors Lie About Other Offers?

Ethics are certainly important, and that should be one of the factors you consider during the questionsto ask your potential agent. But, any real estate agent will tell you that they intend to be upstanding, and how do you really know? The answer is … you don’t … however, here’s where the distinction between a REALTOR® and an agent comes in.

Only members of the National Association of REALTORS® can use the designation of “REALTOR®,” and they are bound by NAR’s Code of Ethicsto be truthful, says Terry Reed of Keller Williams Realty Coastal Partners in Palm Beach, Florida. “However, an agent who is not a member of the NAR is not required to adhere to the same ethics, which is the biggest reason to work with a REALTOR®.”

While there could be consequences for unethical practices to a REALTOR®’s license, it would be difficult to prove they were lying. The good news is that the majority of agents – whether a member of the NAR or not – would not be willing to risk their reputation to lie about an offer.

Can A Seller Not Respond To An Offer?

Sellers have no obligation to the buyer, and therefore don’t have to respond to any offer. Particularly in a multibid situation, they may just focus on the ones that are the most appealing, and ignore those that are completely off-base with price, or don’t have the prequalification or other paperwork that shows the potential buyer is serious.

However, ignoring an offer is not always the best strategy. That’s because you never know which offers will come to fruition, and you might inadvertently ignore one that could have ultimately been a winner. By responding to an offer – even to let them know it’s not sufficient – you at least give the potential buyer the chance to raise their offer or provide another incentive to sweeten the pot. Any response can open the door to a continued conversation, which might prove beneficial to your situation.

Do Banks Lie About Multiple Offers?

While banks could technically lie about competing offers, it’s unusual. “Any price increase they might get by lying could be dwarfed by the reputational damage that results should buyers find out the bank lies,” notes James McGrath, licensed real estate broker with Yoreevo

The Bottom Line

A real estate transaction can be daunting, but having great real estate representation can increase satisfaction. You’ll want to do your homework and ask the right questions. You should also know that agents often prefer clients who have a mortgage preapproval in hand. And whether or not a prospective agent requires it, a preapproval should allow you to more clearly explain to your agent what you can afford. It should also help you make strong offers right away on houses you find. Get preapproved today to start your home buying journey on the right foot.

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Cathie Ericson

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, small business, education, retail/ecommerce and other topics for a host of brands and websites. Her work has been featured on major media websites, including U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Business Insider, The Oregonian, Industry Dive, Boston Globe, CNBC, MSN.com, Realtor.com and Yahoo Finance, among many others. Find her @CathieEricson.com.