When it comes to selling your house, you might be a first-timer or a seasoned pro. Maybe you feel excited, apprehensive, or downright frustrated about selling. Perhaps you are looking for an agent with whom you can start the process or maybe a different agent who can finally get the job done.
Regardless of where you find yourself, you are a homeowner who wants (or needs) to sell. As such, you should take on the mindset of an employer who is looking to hire someone to complete a job. What do you want from the person you hire? Your list should include: experience; professionalism; skill; and most importantly, a track record of success. Many homeowners hire an agent based on personality or public image alone, without really looking into whether or not that agent is the best person for the job.
Enclosed, you will find an agent questionnaire. It is designed to help you evaluate the person (or people) you are considering hiring. Think of it as an outline for a job interview. By taking good notes of each agent’s answers, you will be better informed about the strengths and weaknesses of your prospective agents. This, in turn, should lead to a better “hiring” decision, increasing the likelihood of a successful sale.
1. How long have you been practicing real estate?
Look for a balance here. A rookie might not have the real world experience to best serve you, but a long-term veteran who is near retirement might not be as fully involved as they once were.
2. Do you have any jobs other than your position as a Realtor?
The Real Estate business is filled with part-time agents. As a seller you want a Realtor who is in the business every day, not a part-timer with divided attentions.
3. What, if any, professional designations do you hold?
There is an “alphabet soup” of realty designations – GRI, ABR, CRS, Associate Broker – all of them indicate that the individual has invested time into additional training and is more likely to be a higher caliber agent.
4. Do you work as part of a team?
Given the time commitments and the growing volume of paperwork and detail involved with a typical transaction, real estate agents are increasingly working as teams. Compared to solo agents, teams will typically be more responsive, simply because the team members can share the workload. If your agent is part of a team, ask how the team is structured. Some teams will be partnerships where each member has a personal stake in your success. Many teams, however, are set up around a “superstar” with one or more employees supporting that person. Check to see if all team members are licensed.
5. Would you consider yourself primarily as a Selling Agent or a Listing Agent?
Be careful that you don’t hire an agent who is primarily a Selling Agent. This might indicate that someone is new to the business, is a part-time novice, or is an agent with poor marketing results. Look for an agent (or team) who is primarily a listing agent or who has a balanced business from both buyers and sellers. If you’ll also be working with the agent to buy your next home, a balanced agent might be the best fit for you.
6. How many homes do you typically sell in a year?
How does the saying go? “We’re big enough to serve you but small enough to know you.” That’s what you want. If an agent sells less than 12-15 houses per year, they are struggling. Even if they are technically proficient, they are probably not going to have the resources (money) to properly advertise your home. On the other hand, if someone tells you they sell more than 50 houses per year, be careful. That’s around one per week! Are they really going to be able to give you the personal attention you want?
7. How many residential properties do you currently have listed?
Some real estate trainers recommend agents keep an “inventory” of anywhere from 10 to 25 properties. If an agent has more than 25 listings at any one time, be cautious. Are they equipped to provide good service for that many clients all at once? More importantly, are they building up a pile of listings because what they have on market is not selling?
8. What is the average “Days on Market” for the homes you sell?
During 2013, the average cumulative days on market for homes sold in the Roanoke area MLS was 163. An agent’s answer to this question is an indicator of his or her performance relative to other local agents.
9. What is the List-to-Sale-Price Ratio for the homes you sell?
Similar to the previous question, the answer here will give you insight into an agent’s relative performance. The overall local (Roanoke MLS) average during 2013 was approximately 95%.
How will you market my home?
This is an open-ended question. Good listing agents will have a marketing plan or strategy, not a random shotgun approach to advertising. The next 10 questions go into marketing in more depth.
11. Do you hold Open Houses?
This is a bit of a trick question. With some exceptions, such as new construction homes, market research shows that an open house is very ineffective in selling the property in which it is held. Many agents hold open houses, but they do so in order to find buyer clients or placate their sellers. The former reason means they are using your property as bait for buyers and the latter might mean they do not know how to effectively market. If someone answers with a gleeful “Yes!” to this question, watch out.
12. Do you advertise in the newspaper?
Similar to Open Houses, newspaper advertising is increasingly seen as ineffective, especially compared to other methods of marketing. There are two exceptions. First, for lower priced homes, the newspaper can be a more effective means of reaching potential buyers. Second, if the ad is tied to the newspaper’s website, this can occasionally produce results. (There are, however, much more effective ways of being on the Internet!) For an agent to heavily emphasize this outdated method of advertising might indicate a general lack of marketing knowledge.
13. Will you prepare a property brochure for my house – do you have an example of one I can see?
Property brochures are a tangible piece of information for prospective buyers to carry away from your house. Properly done, brochures can provide information and create an emotional pull for the buyer. If the agent uses brochures, ask to see a recent one. This will allow you to see the quality of the agent’s work.
14. What other types of print advertising can I expect?
Magazine advertising will be a common answer. Similar to newspapers, magazines are falling out of favor as the industry moves more toward being centered on the internet. If the agent still uses magazines, ask which ones and double-check the look and quality of the agent’s ads.
15. How do you use the MLS to help sell your listings?
This is one of the most under-utilized methods of advertising available to Realtors. Get the agents you interview to e-mail you some of their current listings. Look at the remarks: are they well written; do they create a desire to see the house being advertised? Also, look for multiple (well-taken) photos. Listings with multiple pictures get much more attention than those without.
16. Do you enhance your listings on Realtor.com?
Realtor.com is the official website of the National Association of Realtors. Many buyers use the site to assist in their housing search because it has such a thorough list of currently available homes. By enhancing listings on the site, Realtors bring more attention to the properties they have for sale. Visit the site to see for yourself; properly utilized, it can be a very effective method of advertising.
17. Do you have your own personal website?
Around 90% of buyers begin their search on the Internet. Agents who have their own personal site are usually savvier when it comes to on-line advertising and will usually be able to give your home better Internet exposure. Don’t be fooled by agents who have a webpage on their company site. It is not the same thing.
18. How visible are the agent’s listings on the Internet – how well are they marketed?
There are many real estate related websites where agents are able to showcase homes they have listed. Other than Realtor.com, some of the more prominent sites include Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, CraigsList, and others. Also, is the agent affiliated with a major national firm or part of a small “mom & pop” company? All major real estate companies have an online presence to help market and sell their agents’ listings.
19. Will you be doing anything else we haven’t covered?
This gives the agent a chance to talk about any unique advertising he or she might use. Perhaps they put flyers out in the neighborhood, showcase listings on social media sites, or e-mail property brochures to different databases, such as past clients or other agents.
20. Do you have a written market plan for me to review which outlines everything you just told me?
As mentioned in question 10, this will keep the agent honest. Do they have a comprehensive market strategy and is it written so you can review it? You do not want an ill-conceived or sporadically executed approach. Plus, if you have the agent’s commitment in writing, you can hold him or her accountable.
21. How much relocation business do you do?
This will give you insight into the effectiveness of the agent’s advertising, especially on the Internet.
22. How many of your own listings do you sell?
This answer will give you insight into the effectiveness of an agent’s overall marketing – do they get the phone to ring? Also it will indicate his or her individual skill level when it comes to sales – once the phone rings, can they turn that inquiry into a closing?
23. If you sell my house yourself, will you be representing me and the buyer?
“Maybe” is the correct answer. What actually occurs will depend on whether or not your listing agent has a pre-existing relationship with the buyer. If there is no prior relationship, your listing agent should remain your exclusive agent. In case you’re not familiar with these types of issues, this involves the legal relationship known as “Agency”. This is (or should be) reviewed with you in detail when you sign a listing agreement, if not before then. If a Realtor automatically says, “Yes, I’ll be happy to represent you both!” be very cautious.
24. Whether because of cancellations, withdraws, or expirations, what percentage of your listings do not sell?
Asked another way, “What’s your failure rate?” As much as raw data look for honesty here. No one likes to admit defeat, but all agents who have any significant number of listings also have a certain number of expired listings. Combine their “failure rate” with the number of listings they sell per year (excluding buyer sales), and you will have a very concise view of their effectiveness as a listing agent. Note: you want to be sure agent you hire is not “working the numbers” on a massive scale. For example, the fact that he or she sells 50 listings a year might sound impressive, but if 100 properties are listed to get the 50 sales, be cautious. Which group of 50 will your home be in? Get more information.
25. What is the length of your listing agreement?
This is a general point of information you’ll want to know before you commit to the listing agreement.
26. What brokerage rate do you charge – are you worth it?
Commission rates vary from office to office. There is no typical rate or “standard” commission. Based on the answers you’ve gotten up to this point, you should already have a sense for yourself of whether or not the agent is worth it. What the second part of this answer will show is the agent’s degree of self-confidence and commitment to his or her career.
27. Will you cut your commission?
You hope so, right? Not so quick. You want to hire a full time professional, not a hobby-level enthusiast. What might seem like “only 1%” to you could be nearly half of the agent’s net take-home pay after commission splits and costs. Be careful of agents who are quick to cut their own commission: (1) they are probably desperate for a listing; (2) they likely won’t have the money to advertise your house; and (3) when it comes to negotiations, they are MUCH less likely to defend your bottom line if they’ll give up their own income so easily. On the other hand, if they readily take the cut because they plan on reducing the compensation offered to another agent for bringing a buyer, don’t agree to it. They’ll be creating a huge disincentive for buyer’s agents to show your home, much less sell it.
28. When would you be ready to list my house?
Each sale has its own unique set of circumstances and timetables. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into making a hasty decision. While a question of “are you ready to get started” might simply indicate a good salesperson, anyone who insists that you to sign at your first meeting should probably be avoided.