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What are questions I should ask a REALTOR® before hiring one?

Buying and selling real estate is the largest transaction anyone will make in their lifetimes, so it’s vital to hire a REALTOR® to help navigate the process.

Real estate agents can assist when buying a home, helping negotiate a fair price between the buyer and the seller. In a competitive real estate market, like the one here in Boise, they can also help guide your offer so that you’re competitive in your bid.

When selling a home, a REALTOR® will help market your home to prospective buyers and will help you sort through offers, especially if you receive multiple offers on your property.

Whether buying or selling, real estate transactions require attention to detail as there are many moving parts. So, it’s imperative to find a real estate agent who will represent your best interests and provide expert guidance in navigating the transactional process.

How do you find the best REALTOR® to represent you? Recommendations from friends and family are a good starting point, but interviewing agents is essential to understand their experience and connections. It’s also good to work with an agent whose personality you connect with.

What are questions you should ask a REALTOR® before hiring one? We’ve compiled a list of questions to ask real estate agents to help you gauge the best one to help you buy and sell a property.
questions

General questions to ask prospective real estate agents

How long have you been an agent?

Experience matters, so working with an agent who has a lot of experience is a bonus. There’s nothing wrong with working with a less-experienced agent if they’re part of a team that can help navigate the transaction.

Are you a full-time or part-time agent?

Working with a full-time agent shows that the person is dedicated to real estate as a career. While there are good part-time agents, there may be reasons they’re only working in the industry part-time.

How many homes do you close a year?

This helps give you an idea of how many deals an agent does annually, as you want someone who closes deals.

Do you work with both buyers and sellers?

Some agents work with only buyers, and others only deal with people selling their homes. Some agents work with both. Depending on your goals, e.g., you’re buying a home, it may help you decide to use an agent who specializes in buying or selling. There’s also nothing wrong with using someone who has experience on both sides as they can offer perspective from both sides of a deal.

Do you have any certifications?

REALTORS® can get certifications designating that they’re specialists in certain aspects of real estate. Here are some of the designations:

ABR® – Accredited Buyer Representative – Agents who have completed specialized training in representing real estate buyers.

CRS – Certified Residential Specialist– The highest designation awarded to residential real estate agents.

GRI – Graduate, REALTOR® Institute – REALTORS® with this designation have in-depth training in sales, professional standards, technology, and legal and regulatory issues.

SRS – Seller Representative Specialist – Awarded to agents who demonstrate expert knowledge and advocacy when dealing with home sellers.

SRES® – Senior Real Estate Specialist – Agents who have undergone specialized training for ethically serving real estate clients over the age of 50.

You can see the complete list of designations on the National Association of REALTORS® website.

Do I have to sign an agreement? If so, can I cancel without penalty?

It’s commonplace for agents to require clients to sign a contract that lasts for a specified time. There are both listing agreements and buyer’s representation agreements. If you’re not satisfied with the service, ask if you can cancel the contract without a penalty.

How do you set expectations?

Communication is crucial, and depending on the market, an agent who sets realistic expectations instead of being overly optimistic will be a good guide. Agents who keep clients grounded and realistic with their expectations will lead to a better experience.

Who will be my primary point of contact?

Agents can be busy. Sometimes some things need urgent responses, so not returning calls, texts, or emails quickly can be a detriment. Agents who have the team’s support can help designate a primary contact to field questions, helping with timely responses.

Can I see your real estate license?

As much as we’d like to say that everyone is honest, some people aren’t licensed or are running a scam.

Questions to ask a buyer’s agent – someone who will help you buy a house.

How many buyer clients do you have currently?

It’s good to be busy, but having too many clients can affect how well an agent services them. Of course, agents with little to no clients can also be a warning.

Do you have references I can call?

An excellent real estate agent will have references you can connect with to speak about their experiences.

Have you helped buyers find homes in these specific areas?

If you’re looking to buy a house in a particular area, it’s good to work with a REALTOR® who has assisted other people in buying homes in the neighborhood. This demonstrates their expertise and knowledge of the area’s market and can make recommendations on the area.

Have you helped buyers find homes in these price ranges?

Coupled with the question above, this helps you see if an agent searches for homes in various price ranges or if they focus on types of homes. For instance, an agent who specializes in million-dollar listings may not give a client with a $400,000 budget the same attention.

Will I be working with you directly or members of a team?

Agents who work on teams have people who assist with the transaction from start to finish, helping provide a designated contact.

How do you help your buyers compete in this market?

Skilled buyers’ agents have experience helping clients win bidding wars for coveted homes. They’ll offer you advice on how to structure offers to increase the chances of success.

How long does a buyer typically work with you, from seeing a home until finally making a purchase?

Sometimes the buying process is a marathon, taking several months to complete. Agents who consistently work with buyers for extended periods without closing a deal may indicate a lack of negotiating skill or representation quality.

What is your commission?

This question is straightforward, asking the question about how the agent is compensated for what they do.

Do you have a list of recommended resources or preferred vendors?

Real estate agents should have a list of vendors they can suggest to help with repairs, mortgages, etc.

Questions to ask a seller’s (listing) agent – someone who will help sell houses.

Do you have references I can call?

Just like buyers, listing agents should have clients they’ve helped sell a home who would be willing to speak to prospective sellers about their experience with the REALTOR®.

Will I be working with you directly or members of a team?

As with buyers, agents who are part of teams have vast resources to help with transactions.

What is your commission?

Listing agents are compensated just like buyer agents. You can ask how they’re compensated, who pays them, and what’s included as part of that commission.

How will you market my home?

While many firms will stick a sign in the yard and list the property on the MLS, there are other marketing activities agents can do to help get your home in front of as many prospective buyers as possible. Finding out how they plan to market your home and what tools they’ll use can help identify good agents with quality resources.

Have you sold homes in this area before?

Agents who have sold homes in your neighborhood will understand the community and any challenges it faces when marketing a property. They’ll also know about how to market your property to get the maximum value for it.

How did you arrive at the listing price for my home?

Real estate agents will look at comps (comparable homes near your home) that have sold within the last few months. Based on your home’s features, upgrades, etc., they’ll be able to show you a realistic sales price.

Do you have recommendations to increase the value of my home?

Some upgrades and repairs can be made to a home that will help boost its sale price. An experienced agent can recommend things to improve that will add value to the house.

The Last Word

There are a lot of REALTORS® in the Treasure Valley, all with varying degrees of experience. Buying and selling property is exhilarating, and having an agent representing you during the process will help you have a smoother transaction. It’s essential to work with someone who represents you and your interests and has the knowledge and skill to help you navigate the competitive local real estate market.

Asking some of the questions above before selecting an agent will help you find the best one for your needs.

Main Photo Credit: iStock.com/SDI Productions

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