Before You List: Questions to Ask Prospective Real Estate Agents

Get to know your agent

It’s always a good idea to ensure you’re getting someone that’s going to go the extra mile to sell your home or help you find a new one. After all, that’s what you’re paying them to do.

When it comes time to select an agent, most people don’t have a clue where to start, and often it comes down to referrals or word-of-mouth from folks you know. In essence, when you initially meet with agents, they’re interviewing for the job of selling your house. And, just like a job interview, you should have a list of questions to ask every agent you meet with, regardless of how you heard about them.

If you need a little help with what kinds of questions to ask, here are a few that will get you started.

  1. How long have you been in residential real estate in our area, and how many transactions to you average per year? First, this question qualifies the agent as a residential real estate professional, and helps to establish how well they know the area and market they serve. Don’t knock newbies though – they may not have the years behind them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing. Newer agents will bring a fresh approach to the process (including using new technology), and still have a great enthusiasm for the job, whereas some of the more seasoned agents may have become somewhat complacent and resistant to the changing industry. The agent’s yearly transactions will give you a very good picture of whether they’re a go-getter, or prefer to let the business come to them.
  2. What’s your procedure for assisting your clients from beginning to closing? The agent should have a detailed presentation to show you that clearly explains how they work, their marketing and advertising activities, and how they’ll best represent you and your interests.
  3. What experience do you have with financing alternatives, and what might be good for my situation? While real estate agents aren’t mortgage specialists, they can usually make some good recommendations when it comes to financing. Because laws pertaining to what agents can and cannot do or say with regards to financing differ in each province or state, the agent may need to refer you to a mortgage specialist or lender they have a relationship with.
  4. How do you determine my financing qualifications and when? Again, mortgage pre-approvals aren’t handled by all agents, so find out what they can do for you in your area. In any case, it’s a good idea to get pre-approved by a lender prior to making an offer on any property. This will ensure you know what price range you can afford, and give you the chance to make a strong offer at a moment’s notice on your dream home.
  5. How will you update me on new homes for sale? The agent should have some kind of system that will automatically send you new listings that meet your criteria.
  6. What’s your negotiating philosophy, and how will you apply it to me? If you’ve paid attention to how many transactions the agent averages per year (a higher number is better), you’ll have a good idea how experienced a negotiator they are.
  7. How will you find the best value for me? Agents should be able to answer how they’ll do this for you clearly and concisely, explaining the systems they have in place that will make sure you’re getting a good value.
  8. Do you have relationships with industry professionals that will help me save on some of the costs involved with buying a home? Everyone involved with a real estate transaction gets a piece of the proverbial pie, and the list of fees ranges includes lenders, lawyers, home inspectors, and others. While these are all normal fees, the agent should have an idea of these closing costs, and may have a relationship with some of these folks to offer you some kind of discount.
  9. Are you able to sell us a new, resale or foreclosed home? Again, because laws governing real estate and the professionals in the industry differ from region to region, it’s a good idea to find out if there are any restrictions on the types of property that the agent can sell you.

This is just a sampling of questions you can ask real estate professionals during the screening process. You may have others you’d like to add to the list, which you can ask us now. We welcome your questions and feedback!