The Right 5 Questions to Ask a Prospective Selling Agent

These 5 questions will help you figure out whether the agent vying for your listing is really the one who can get your house sold.

By Joanne Y Cleaver | Published Oct 28, 2013 7:06 PM

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How to Choose a Realtor


Groomed and energetic, the real estate agent seated on your sofa seems like a perfect fit for the job of helping you sell your property. She loves your house and neighborhood, and having promptly delivered a complimentary marketing analysis, she hints that she may already have a buyer in her back pocket.

But how can you be sure that she’s capable of making a sale in a timely manner and for the best possible asking price? The questions that follow will help you identify the top-performing realtors among the handful of professionals you are considering.

Related: 10 Simple Home Staging Tips Every Seller Should Know

1. What percentage of her listings does the agent actually sell? 
This number, the agent’s sell-through rate, is the percentage of houses an agent successfully sells within a given time period out of all the listings she represents. Check to find out how this agent’s rate stacks up against the average maintained by the local realty association. Consider only those candidates whose sell-through rate exceeds the norm.

2. Among the sales the agent has made, what is the median ask-to-sale ratio?
This figure lets you know to what extent the agent discounts her listings to make deals. Realtors are notorious for initially setting a high asking price, then later recommending a lower figure. If you discover the agent routinely sells houses at a discount of 5 percent or more, that means her modus operandi may set you up for a disappointing sales price.

How to Choose a Realtor - Sold Home


3. How will the agent market this house to its most likely buyers?
Whom do you envision as the most likely buyer of the house you are selling? If you think your place would appeal most to an existing homeowner in the area, that’s a good reason to opt for an experienced agent with ties to the community and a network of local connections. If, however, you would like to reach first-time buyers, an agent who is more adept with online marketing, even if she is less experienced, might prove more effective. If you think your property would appeal most to younger house hunters, ask the agent you are vetting whether she has a social media strategy or whether she intends to cross-post the listing. Knowing that 92 percent of home buyers rely on online sites like Zillow and Trulia, many agents expect houses to sell themselves on the Web, when in fact more aggressive tactics generate better results.

4. In online listings, what key metrics does the agent collect, and to what end?
Agents collect an array of metrics from online real estate listings. Perhaps the most important is known as the conversion rate: What proportion of those who look at the listing ultimately go ahead and ask to see the place? And here’s a follow-up question: When a given listing has a low conversion rate, how does the agent diagnose and fix the listing so that it invites more interest?

5. Will you sign a three-month contract?
Because the market undergoes so many rapid shifts, the last thing you want is to be locked into a long-term contract with a realtor who has given up on selling your house. For a talented agent representing a well-priced home, three months is long enough to get at least one qualified offer.