We real estate agents LOVE referrals, and a lot of my business comes from referrals from past clients, and friends who know how I do business. Usually, by the time those people come to me, there is already a trust bond, and they are ready to get to work. But about this time every year I start getting calls from people thinking about buying or selling a home who want to put me through some kind of vetting process.
I can understand how they find my name and contact information, and could probably find out anything else they wanted to know had they taken some time online; but they always have to get through that list of questions they found in a blog post, magazine article, or on television – the questions to ask prospective real estate agent.
So, what do you ask an agent you are considering? I found this article (actually a compilation of articles on the topic) ranked high in the Google search for “how to find a real estate agent” – How to Find, Interview, and Hire a Real Estate Agent on About.com. My favorite of this compilation is Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent – How to Interview an Agent. Every real estate professional has probably been asked these questions, or some close equivalent, so if you are on the phone checking out an agent, don’t be surprised if you hear a muffled sigh as you start going down the list. Various “experts” will advise you on the correct answers to these classic agent vetting questions like these:
- How Long Have You Been in the Business?
- What is Your Average List-Price-to-Sales-Price Ratio?
- What is Your Best Marketing Plan or Strategy for My Needs?
- Will You Please Provide References?
- What Are the Top Three Things That Separate You From Your Competition?
- May I Review Documents Beforehand That I Will Be Asked to Sign?
- How Will You Help Me Find Other Professionals?
- How Much Do You Charge?
- What Kind of Guarantee Do You Offer?
- What Haven’t I Asked You That I Need to Know?
Experienced agents have these answers nailed down and scripted. In their sleep, they can probably give you their personally tailored answers to these questions and a number of others about sales figures, average days on market, success ratios, and references.
If you feel like you have to vet an agent with a questionaire, I suggest you ask some more relevant, and perhaps, harder questions:
- Do you consider real estate your career? Is it your primary source of income If you have other jobs, what are they?
- Are you a generalist, working the greater geographical area, or do you concentrate on certain neighborhoods, like mine?
- What are your top 3 sources of business leads?
- How will you position my property on the internet?
- How will you guard my online and offline privacy?
- If the seller pays your commission, how can you fully represent me as a Buyer Agent?
- Can you sell any type of property – homes, commercial, apartment buildings, churches?
- How do you stay up to date on real estate trends nationally and locally?
- Outside of real estate, how are you involved in the community?
- How will you communicate with me throughout the process?
Answers to these and other questions you might create, can be quite telling. What is your prospect’s level of professionalism? Is she a neighborhood specialist? Does he try to sell houses as well as doing commercial leasing and church sales? Is she web savvy? Is she on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the industry? Are your communication methods compatible? This is by no means a comprehensive, just a few questions that may give you more insight into how your prospect works.
Most agents and prospective clients view that first meeting as a job interview, and that is exactly what it is. Chances are there is going to be a very large financial transaction done, and a healthy commission paid. As a home seller or buyer, your objective should be to find someone who knows his stuff – the local market, cutting edge industry knowledge,contracts and negotiations, and resources, all wrapped up in excellent communications skills.