Buying or selling a home is one of the most important decisions your clients will ever make in their lives and choosing an agent that will be a strong advocate and educator about the process is critical. All too often, buyers or sellers choose to work with an agent who is a friend, relative, or cousin of their ex-roommate because it is convenient or because there may be perceived loyalty. But all too often, I see these types of relationships implode because the people doing the buying or selling don’t do enough research up front to determine if that agent is a good match for their needs.
Agents should be selected based on what they can do for the client, not by degrees of separation. Agents worth their salt should be able to answer questions about their qualifications, how they work, and their systems for helping buyers and sellers buy and sell.
I encouraged each buyer and seller I worked with to ask any other agents they were considering these questions or questions they felt pertinent to their transaction or situation. It is interesting how many times the agent that was being considered would be disqualified by the buyer or seller based on their answers to those questions – questions that should be asked!
I encourage you to consider your answers to the below questions. If you don’t have a good answer, make sure you give it some thought to determine a good, thoughtful response. You may have to do some research. You might have to implement a system so you can have an honest answer that you want to give.
Below are those questions, information as to why that question is important for the buyer or seller. You can add your answers if you like, or use this as a guide for the buyer or seller presentation. Feel free to add these to your buyer or seller packages.
“How long have you been a real estate agent?”
You want somebody who has a track record of accomplishment. However not having a lengthy track record may not be cause for alarm as many successful agents have recently switched from lengthy careers in other fields which actually make them better real estate agents. But don’t assume – ask!
“How many homes have you helped your clients buy and sell?” or “How many homes do you help your clients buy and sell in a year?”
The goal of this question is to get a feel for their experience as an agent and their business flow. If you are meeting with an agent who is involved in 80 transactions per year, you may want to ask a few more questions about how they handle all that business, if they have an assistant or team, and how that will affect how your transaction will be handled. On the flip side, if the number is low, you may want to learn more about the support that agent will be receiving from mentors or their managing broker. Don’t be afraid to dig a bit deeper and get the full story so you can determine how comfortable you are.
“Are you a full time real estate agent?”
This is a critical question. You need someone out there representing you full-time. Full- time agents are more likely to be up-to-date on inventory and market trends. Would you trust a part-time brain surgeon who was a moonlighting cabinet maker on the side? I certainly wouldn’t.
“What is your average days-on-market number and how does it compare to the overall market?”
If you are a seller, what you are looking for here is an agent takes the time to track this. It is in your best interest to work with an agent who cares about how long it’s going to take to sell your home depending on the market and their track record. It also is an indication of how well they price homes and how well they understand the market.
“What specific marketing systems will you use to sell my home?”
You don’t want an agent who is just going to put up a “For Sale” sign in your yard, put the listing on the MLS and hope for a buyer. You need an agent with an aggressive approach to marketing which includes everything from the quality of photography to their print marketing campaign. You need to know how they let the neighbors know about your listing, open houses, and of course, a strategic online marketing plan. They should also provide information on how they utilize agent-to-agent marketing and networking. I encourage you to ask for examples of their past work and of their photography.
“What specific search systems do you have in place to help in my home search?”
Anyone can put their name into a search listing function and send you new listings. What you want is an agent who actively searches for what you want based on your specific requests. If a property that meets your needs is not available, a determined agent will scour expired or cancelled listings and even put out the call to homeowners in areas you are interested in. You need an agent who will preview the properties before sending them to you depending on how fast properties are selling and if time allows.
“How will you keep me informed?”
This is a great question. I like to ask my clients how they like to be kept informed. It isn’t about me and what I want. A great agent will communicate with you based on your preferences, not theirs.
“Will you share the names and phone numbers of your three most recent clients?”
By asking for reviews from the three most recent clients, you will be provided with a better picture of what it’s like to work with this agent. A raving testimonial from three years ago doesn’t reflect how this agent operates their business today.
“What designations or certifications do you hold?”
A designation or certification represents a commitment to ongoing education and improvement. If you are a particular niche of buyer or seller such as a senior, luxury property holder, international client, etc., finding an agent who is specially trained in providing expertise to you is important. If you have an agent who is only doing the bare minimum to stay licensed, you need to know that.
These are just a few of the types of questions you can encourage your potential buyers and sellers to ask other agents. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think of more questions that you have great solid answers to.
Now I have a challenge question for you: What is the one question you hope that you are not asked because you don’t have a great answer or system in place? How do you want to answer that question? If you have a question that you don’t want to be asked because you don’t have a good answer, that is the one question you need to address now. Send me an email: [email protected] and let me know what it is. I might even have a tool that might help you!