I'm at a very exciting crossroads. We might be moving in the next few months. My husband is interviewing for a job in another state, and so far, we feel good about the whole situation.
For us, this means that we might have to sell our home. Yes, we could sell it ourselves without the help of a real estate professional to take a cut, but we also know that we don't want to deal with the hassles associated with the whole process. Unfortunately real estate agent commissions are one of the hidden costs of owning a home.
And if we have to move before the home sells, I'd rather have a knowledgeable and trustworthy real estate agent available to take care of everything while we're trying to learn the ropes in a new city.
An alternative would be to rent out the house, but there are a lot of things to consider before becoming a landlord.
In order to make this work (if it really does come to it), I'll need to “interview” potential agents. Here are 7 questions I plan to ask the real estate agents I consider during the vetting process:
1. How Long Have You Been in Real Estate?
Find out how long the agent has been working in residential real estate, and whether or not he or she holds any special designations. More experience can mean a faster-selling home — especially if the agent understands that market. Make sure you find out how long the agent has been operating in your market, as well as the number of years he or she has been in real estate total.
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2. How Long are Homes Similar to Mine on the Market?
If you tell the agent where your home is located, and offer the basic specs, he or she should be able to tell you how long simliar homes are usually on the market. A good agent will be able to tell you whether his or her numbers are in line with local statistics, and you can use that information to gauge whether or not it will be a good fit.
3. How Close Were the Final Prices to the Initial Listing Prices?
In a tough market, like the current market, you might have to come down. But if you have a real estate agent that habitually has to drop prices significantly to move the house, that could be an issue. The more homes that sell for close to the initial asking price, the better indication that the agent really does understand pricing and the local market.
4. What is Your Plan for Marketing My Home?
A “for sale” sign and inclusion on the MLS, and maybe a mention in the brokerage magazine, just aren't going to cut it. You want a real estate agent that's going to make a true effort. One of the most important things to do is find someone who will get your listing on the Internet, and who really understands how to put together a dynamite listing, including a virtual tour, good images, and information that helps potential buyers make a decision. Make sure your agent has a solid plan, and is backed up with resources from his or her company/brokerage.
5. How Often Will You Brief Me on Our Progress?
Find out how often you can expect updates. Decide what you expect, and how you want to be contacted. Whether you want a one-weekly email detailing interest and activities, or whether you want a phone call as soon as a hot prospect shows interest, convey your expectations — and find out if the real estate agent is willing to meet them.
6. What Other Services Can You Help Me With?
In many cases, as a seller, you might not need to worry overly much about preparing the paperwork for the transaction. However, it helps to ask anyway. Find out what services the real estate agent can help with, whether it's recommending an appraiser to finding someone to help with the title transfer and other paperwork.
7. Do You Represent the Buyer as Well?
In some cases, it's actually possible for a real estate agent to represent both the buyer and the seller. Find out if your agent will be bringing his or her own buying clients to look at the home, and find out how the relationship works, and whose interests are going to be uppermost. I'm not sure how I feel about someone representing both, so I might decide to go with someone who primarily sells, rather than represents a buyer.
Also, don't forget to check licenses and professional memberships, and ask for references. You want to check out the real estate agent's credentials as well as interview him or her.