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Questions for Your Real Estate Agent

Whether you are buying a new home or selling your current home, you will likely need the help of a real estate agent. These professionals serve home sellers and homebuyers throughout the process. Since you will probably work closely with your agent, it is imperative to choose the right person. When selecting a listing agent or a buyer's agent, it is wise to ask a few questions first. You want to choose the right agent for you and your goals.

Your choice of real estate agent will impact every aspect of your experience, from the types of homes you tour to the final sale price. Asking questions upfront can help you have a great experience throughout the homebuying process.

This article explores questions you can ask potential real estate agents.

Can you describe your availability?

Some real estate professionals are part of a real estate brokerage with many other real estate agents or real estate brokers. If exclusive, hands-on attention is important to you, you should confirm that you will only work with the agent of your choice. Your agent's availability may depend on whether they are a part-time or full-time agent.

You may need to see a house when your agent is busy or out of the office. If so, are there other agents who can help you? Understanding how prospective agents work will help you find your dream home.

Whose interests do you represent?

This question is an important one because a real estate agent can represent the following parties:

  • The buyer only
  • The seller only
  • Both buyer and seller as a "dual agent"

Sellers may need to realize that the agent with whom they are dealing represents a specific buyer. Similarly, buyers may think they have found a buyer's agent when, in fact, the agent's loyalty may already lie with a seller.

Agents are in the business to make money. You will want to ensure that your agent is putting your best interests first. If you are a buyer, ask the agent if they also list houses for sale. If so, how will this impact your search? Ask about any fee-sharing or referral agreements they may have with other agents or brokers.

Disclosure requirements vary across jurisdictions, so check your state laws, or consult a real estate attorney.

How long have you had a real estate license?

Buying or selling a house is a significant real estate transaction, so you should ensure your real estate professional has the appropriate license. You can ask to see their license or check with your state real estate licensing board. You can also check with the National Association of Realtors to ensure your Realtor, if you have one, is a member. Not all real estate agents can be called Realtors.

Despite a real estate agent's years of experience, they generally do not have the requisite knowledge to advise clients on the legal ramifications of a real estate purchase or sale transaction. For legal advice, you will need to consult a real estate attorney.

How do you earn your commissions?

Most real estate professionals work on commission. Commissions are usually a percentage of the home's selling price and are included in the closing costs. Agents usually get 2%-3% of the sales price. Typically, the seller pays the commission, which is often split between the buyer's and seller's agents.

Do you have any client references?

Before you sign a contract with a real estate agent or Realtor, ask for client referrals. Client referrals can give insight into their track record and how they have worked with previous clients. References can also help you determine if they are a good real estate agent for you. And they can help you determine the top agents in competitive markets.

You should also check an agent's social media and LinkedIn accounts as part of the vetting process. Their social media accounts can show how they work with clients.

How will you market my home?

If you are a homeowner working with a seller's agent to sell your house, your real estate agent should have a marketing plan for your home. An experienced agent should have a plan to confirm your home's value and do a comparative market analysis (CMA) based on similar homes in the local real estate market. This information can help you determine your asking price.

The marketing plan can include strategic open houses and advertising to generate foot traffic and serious leads.

How would you describe your recent home sales?

Carefully consider the answers to this question. If your agent hasn't sold many homes lately, ask why. Is it because they work part time? If so, will they have enough time to work for you? Are their low sales a result of a slump in the local market?

By contrast, if the agent has sold many homes lately, will they have enough time to represent you and your interests during the buying or selling process for your home?

Your agent will guide you through a complex process. You want to ensure they have the ability and time to help you throughout the process.

What can you tell me about current market conditions?

The best agents have their pulse on the current conditions of the real estate market. They can tell you whether you are in a buyer's market (when home sales favor buyers) or a seller's market (when home sales favor sellers). They should understand current home prices and the types of homes that fit within your price range. If your agent can't provide this level of information, consider talking to other agents.

Do you have access to a wide variety of properties?

When buying a home, it's good to know what pool of homes the agent will be accessing to show you. For example, foreclosed properties are often appealing to a first-time homebuyer looking for a deal. If your prospective agent does not have access to the types of properties that interest you, you should consider other options.

Get Help

Finding a great agent is one key to a successful real estate transaction. A qualified local real estate attorney with experience in the local market can offer solid advice. They can also vet potential agents and contracts. Speak to a real estate attorney today.

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