Choosing the right real estate agent can make a huge difference to the deal you get when buying or selling a property. Your agent will be out there negotiating on your behalf and making recommendations that could seriously affect your finances, so you need to be able to trust the person you will be working with. Don’t just hire the first person you meet, or a firm that you see advertised around town. Try to interview at least three separate agents before making your decision and choose the one that you are most comfortable with, and who you think will do the best job representing you.
Find out as much as you can about an agent before hiring them. To help you get started, here are some questions you should always ask when choosing a real estate agent:
Do you have a license?
You may think this goes without saying, but it’s always a good idea to double-check that any professionals you hire are properly licensed by the relevant authority, as well as having any other education and certifications. It’s also possible to check with your state’s public registrar to verify license details for individual agents.
Do you specialise in a particular type of property?
Properties come in a huge range of shapes and sizes, from commercial warehouses to apartments to family houses. An agent who specialises in student accommodation probably isn’t the right person to represent someone who is buying or selling a suburban family home, so try to find someone with experience in a property type relevant to you.
How long have been working as a real estate agent, and how many clients have you had?
Get a clear idea of the amount of experience an agent has, before you hire them. While experienced agents should be more familiar with possible issues and their solutions, a newer agent may work with fewer clients at a time and thus be able to give your case more attention.
How many clients do you represent at a time?
The number of clients an agent takes affects how much time and energy they have for each case. If your agent is juggling too many clients, they may not have the resources necessary to give outstanding service to each and every case.
Do you work as a real estate agent full-time or part-time?
Your real estate agent’s work schedule will determine how much time they devote to their clients, and how regularly they will be available to you.
Will you be working by yourself or with a team?
Some agents will work solo on your case, while others may have many team members collaborating on the same client. Having a single agent dedicated to your case can make communication much easier and means that the agent will be extremely familiar with your situation. On the other hand, a group of minds can be better than one, and team members can come up with solutions and strategies based on their different experiences and professional outlooks. This is really a matter of personal preference, but it should be clear from the start exactly who will be working on your case and in what capacity, as well as how to keep communication efficient.
How many buyers and sellers do you represent?
An agent may have more experience dealing with either property sales or purchases, or even rentals. This can lead to a one-sided point of view, while an agent with a good mix of client types may have a more well-rounded approach and an understanding of both sides of the transaction.
Do you attend home inspections?
For both a buyer and a seller, having your agent present during an inspection can be extremely helpful. A knowledgeable agent may come up with important questions and answers that you hadn’t thought of, and can facilitate effective communication.
What are your negotiating strategies?
Whether you are buying or selling, you need to know that your agent is on the front lines, fighting for you. In the real estate market, negotiating skills can mean a difference of tens of thousands of dollars when a deal is made. The other party will also be trying to make or save as much money as possible, so negotiation is an important part of your real estate agent’s job. Having an agent who knows what they are doing and has a set of solid negotiating strategies can make a huge financial difference to the client, so check whether an agent is confident and open when discussing this matter before hiring one.
This is by no means a complete list of questions you may wish to ask a real estate agent; you may even ask for the contact details of previous clients who can act as referees. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with the agent. Always look out for signs pertaining to the honesty, ethics and integrity of the agents you interview, and don’t hire anybody who fails to display these qualities. Effective communication is an essential skill, so this needs to be a person who is able to openly discuss your needs and give you realistic expectations for your property.