Real Estate Buying

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Realtor

The best listing agents serve as coaches and copilots, helping home sellers navigate a market that can be lucrative and treacherous in equal amounts. It’s wise to invest some time in choosing the best person for the job. To begin, ask around for recommendations and search real estate sites and ads to find your area’s top sellers. Next, set up some meetings. Finally, pose the following questions, designed to lead you to the perfect agent for a dynamite deal.

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How many homes have you sold in this neighborhood?

Every part of town—and sometimes every street or even every block—has its own market conditions. You’re looking for assurance that this agent knows the nitty-gritty details in your neck of the woods so he can negotiate the best price, answer buyers’ questions, and tout all the advantages (while playing down any disadvantages) of your home’s location.

Related: 12 Secrets Every Savvy Home Seller Needs to Know

How has the market changed in the last five years?

Sure, you can ask how many years he’s been in the business, but this question will actually tell you much more. His answers should reveal that he’s kept up with local trends, technological developments, and selling strategies that work in fast-changing markets. He should be fully immersed in the job, too—avoid half-hearted part-timers.

Related: 9 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Fixer-Upper

What’s your most effective marketing tool?

This query will help you determine how creative a selling agent will be when it comes to creating buzz. She should be a master of the obvious sites and outlets, but also understand which tactics work best in your town—whether it’s a local publication that hits the perfect demographic or a photographer who knows how to make it shine in online listings.

Related: 11 Home Staging Tricks That Don’t Cost a Penny

How did your last three sales go?

Hearing an agent’s stories will reveal much about his working relationships with clients. Does he complain about them, or make excuses for sales that didn’t go so well? Did his most recent sale happen two years ago? You might want to steer clear. On the other hand, don’t buy into exaggerated tales of glory, either. Check references to confirm the facts.

Related: Brokers Reveal 7 “Works Every Time” Ways to Boost Home Resale Value

Who is the target market?

Not only will a skillful agent be able to paint a fully realized picture of your home’s next owner—whether it’s a family with young children or a downsizing baby boomer—she’ll be able to tell you exactly how she’ll reach those folks, and how you can present your home in a way that addresses their needs and desires.

Related: 9 Little Things You Can Do to Help Sell Your House

How would you price my home?

Here’s the heart of the matter. Of course you’ll ask the potential agent to estimate your home’s price, but also ask him exactly how he arrived at this number. He should supply solid comparables and other data on the local market. Beware an agent who gives you a number that’s much higher than the norm—he may be trying to land your business by giving you false hope of riches that won’t materialize.

Related: 9 Ways to Get the Best Price on Your Dream Home

How would you advise me to get my home ready?

Of course, you think your home is perfect, but a good selling agent will spot potential problems that you might overlook. She should be able to point out repairs or upgrades that could lead to a higher sales price, and also refer you to reliable handymen or staging companies that can help you get the place into the best shape possible.

Related: 10 Signs That Fixer-Upper Might Be a Money Pit

What does your contract entail?

Quiz the listing agent on the ins and outs of the contract you’d be asked to sign. He should tell you precisely how long would it last (three to six months is typical in hot markets), what the listing fee will be, and what other clauses can you expect to see.

Related: 10 Things to Know About Being Your Own Real Estate Agent

How often can I expect to hear from you?

Steer clear of an agent, no matter how reputable, who seems to be handling too many clients at once. Find out how much interaction you can expect, what kind of back-up the agent has if she isn’t available, and also discuss how you’ll be kept informed of showings and offers. Look for an agent who’s going to lavish you with attention—you deserve it!

Related: The Best (and Worst) Things You Can Do Before an Open House

Can you provide references?

It’s fine to ask a realtor for the names of recent clients. Ask to talk to the seller in recent deals. Then be sure to contact them! First-hand reports from folks who’ve been in the trenches should go a long way toward helping you choose the best partner for a successful sale.

Related: Ready to Sell? 17 Things to Do First