Whether you are selling your house or buying a new one, you are probably working with a real estate agent. If you did not know your agent before starting this process you might be wondering how you can be sure that the agent will do a good job for you.
You may try researching the agent or the agency he/she comes from, looking for references, and scanning the local news but how can you ever really be sure you are getting the best home at the best price? You have to be an informed buyer yourself. Here are seven questions you should ask your real estate agent before making any financial commitments.
1. "What are the current owners’ biggest complaints?" Your agent will probably try to talk his way out of this question, but you should be persistent. If you are moving into a building with a board that has meetings, find the minutes. Are there problems you should know about and how were those problems solved? How complaints were handled is just as important as the complaints themselves.
2."How long did it take you to get here?" The closer your agent lives to the house you are trying to either buy or sell the better. The more local the agent, the more he knows about the local market. If the agent has not sold anything nearby in the recent past, consider finding a new one. Past performance doesn't guarantee future success, but it can be a very informative indicator.
3."What is your website?" If your agent does not have his own website he is most likely an amateur and it is bad for business, which is bad for you. Almost all buyers look online for homes, so your agent should be Internet savvy. Check out the site and see what is on it. How is the photo quality? How much did the last home get sold for? There should be a lot of information available on a real estate agent's website, so dig through it.
4. "Am I asking for too much money?" Or "Am I planning on spending too much or too little money?" The sad truth is that you may not like what you hear but this is also a test of your agent's honesty. These are important questions and you deserve the honest answers.
5. "Do you have anything unlisted?" A lot of agents have secret treasures that they only show to the people who know to ask for them. Many of these homes aren't even officially on the market yet but well-connected agents can sell these homes without that ever needing to happen. This question can be your ticket into some of the best properties in the neighborhood of your dreams.
6."Can I see your references?" A real estate agent should have references that she is willing to pass along. Anyone who can't provide these sends up an automatic red flag. Once you have the references, use them and find out how the last clients feel about her. Were they happy with results? Do they wish they had used a different agent?
7."Is this area improving or declining?" Your real estate agent should be able to recognize growth trends and other market changes. So, he should also be able to respond to this kind of question quickly and accurately. Of course you want an area that is improving and not declining, but this might not be obvious to you on first glance. Your real estate agent, on the other hand, should know this off the top of his head.
About the Author: Jennifer D’Angelo has been writing about the real estate industry for companies like Right Residential for nearly 10 years. When she’s not writing, you can find Jenn volunteering for her local ASPCA.