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10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling your home is one of the most important investment decisions of your life. When beginning this journey, it is imperative that you do your research before choosing a real estate agent. You want to be confident the person negotiating for you has adequate experience and the ability to find you the perfect home or to position your current house for success on the market. 

The truth is, real estate is a relationship-based business. The key to a successful real estate transaction is knowing, liking, and trusting your real estate agent. They are your ticket to a smooth, enjoyable, and minimally stressful buying or selling experience. Ideally, you want to choose an agent who will guide you through the process, is well-connected to reputable lenders and inspectors, and has an in-depth understanding of the current real estate market. 

The best thing you can do when trying to find the right real estate agent for you is to do your research and interview at least two different agents. Here are 10 questions to ask before choosing a real estate agent.  

1. How Many Houses Have You Sold? 

Asking a potential agent how many houses they have sold, or how long they have been in the business will give you an idea of their level of expertise. There isn’t necessarily a magic number. However, you want to make sure they have been in the real estate business long enough to have a thorough understanding of the process.  

For example, if they just sold six homes in a matter of 2 months, you can rest assured they have a good grasp of the process. If they have only sold six houses in an entire year, you may have a reason to be concerned. 

How can this affect your experience:

Real estate agents who have been in the business for several years and have sold hundreds of houses, inherently understand the process better. They are more equipped to educate you and walk you through each step. As a base, we suggest working with an agent that has at least 3-5 years of experience and sells 50+ houses a year. 

Follow-up questions to ask:

  • How long did the houses you sold stay on the market? 
  • How did the list price and sale price compare? 
  • How often do you have to reduce the prices of your homes? 
  • How is the current real estate market?

2. Do You Primarily Work with Buyers or Sellers? 

This may seem like a trick question because the best agents have experience working on both sides of the process. When you hire a real estate agent who has experience working with buyers and sellers, you can rest assured that they are equipped to handle the myriad of situations that could arise. 

Challenges arise when agents only work with one side of the transaction. If they are only working with sellers, they won’t see all of the inventory on the market and will lack understanding of how things are priced and how fast they are moving. If they are only dealing with buyers, they will lose touch with how to set prices and how to adequately prepare a house for the market. 

How can this affect your experience:

If a real estate agent works with buyers 80% of the time, they likely will be swamped with their workload. Buyers typically require more time from an agent, so it is important to find out if they are confident they will have time to work with you if you are selling your home. Be sure to ask when the last time they helped someone buy/sell a home – that way you can make sure their experience is still relevant and they are up to date on the latest standards and market trends. 

3. Are You a Part of a Real Estate Team? 

You may think you only need to find a single agent to represent you, however, finding a real estate team is even better. Scheduling conflicts are bound to come up during the buying/selling process. If you hire one agent and they either are too busy, are sick, or even go on vacation, your agent won’t be available to help you. Individual agents are less able to cater to your schedule and more coordination is required. 

How can this affect your experience:

If you work with a real estate team, you will have one primary real estate agent, but if scheduling conflicts come up, someone else on the team can help you out. That means your questions will get answered, you will be able to look at houses, or if you’re selling, your house will be able to be shown to potential buyers – no matter if your agent is available or not. Not to mention, a team may consist of a marketing and administration professional. Your life will be made much easier when it comes to paperwork, advertising your home, or getting the best picture of current inventory available.

4. What is the Market Share of Your Brand & Are You Nationally Branded? 

The agency’s market share will indicate how many houses they buy/sell in the area on a yearly basis. While this is important to know, there is more information to consider. 

Remember that all agents are brokers and we can all sell each other’s houses. That means we are not limited to only selling the homes that have been listed with our agency. Basically, if you’re selling or buying, the market share of the agency you select does not necessarily affect how well your experience will go. More importantly, you should ask if the agency you are interviewing is nationally branded. 

How can this affect your experience:

Working with a nationally branded real estate agency means your home will be marketed further and exposed to a larger audience. If the agency is just a local, independently-owned company, they are less likely to have the budget to position your house in a way that it will sell more quickly. A nationally branded agency can put your house in front of out of state buyers who are relocating to Michigan. This greatly increases the pool of potential buyers.

Our suggestion is to find an agency that has a decent market share and is nationally branded. 

5. Are You a Full-Time Realtor?

This may seem like a simple question, but it is important. Whether or not the agent is a full-time realtor will directly affect their availability. Of course, be sure to find out what “part-time” means to them. Maybe they are doing real estate during the day and work a night shift somewhere else. Or maybe they are currently transitioning from a previous job into real estate full time. Understand the context of their situation before you make your decision.

How can this affect your experience:

If an agent is part-time, they are most likely going to be part-time involved in the process. Details could be missed, and they will not always be available when you need them. If their attention is not 100% on the real estate market, they may not be as equipped to help you navigate the process. When considering that buying/selling a home is one of your biggest investment decisions, you don’t want someone who is not focused on making it a success. 

6. Have You Worked with First-Time Home Buyers Before?

Whether or not you are a first-time home buyer, agents who have experience in this area are more likely to be willing to educate you and walk you through every step of the process. Ideally, you want an agent who is educated enough that they can easily explain the intricacies of buying and selling a home. This is especially important if you are in fact buying your first home or if you have had a bad experience before. 

How can this affect your experience:

Agents who have worked with first-time home buyers are used to sitting down and going through the process as a consultant. They will serve as your advocate, represent you in negotiations well, and help you understand what to expect. They will also help you get in touch with a lender right way, offer tips on inspectors, and answer your long list of questions. 

7. What is Your Average Dollar Sale?

The average dollar sale is key from a seller’s standpoint because you want to know the agent is selling homes similar to yours. Not to mention, if you ask this question and the agent doesn’t know the answer, it shows possible lack of experience or that they are not prepared. You also want to follow up with a question regarding how many houses they have sold at this price point to gain insight on their experience. 

How can this affect your experience:

As we have already mentioned, the level of expertise your agent has can directly affect their ability to help you have a successful experience. If your agent primarily deals with houses that sell for $1Million, and you are selling a house for $250,000, they may not understand your market and not be focused on your ideal buyer. This will affect the way they guide you through the process, their connections in the real estate market, and their approach to marketing. 

8. How Familiar Are You With This Area? 

Choosing a real estate agent who is familiar with the local area – and even specific neighborhoods can significantly simplify your buying/selling process. The truth is, there are hundreds of neighborhoods in the Greater Lansing area alone, an agent can’t be in all of the areas, all of the time. But you want to find someone who is experienced in selling homes similar in style, location, and price as your house. 

How can this affect your experience:

As we just touched on, the more familiar your agent is with your home’s specific price point and the geographic location, the better. They will have a deeper understanding of what buyers are looking for, a clear picture of what is on the market, and a good grasp on pricing strategies. Ideally, you want to find an agent who is an expert in your specific market. A knowledgeable agent will serve as a helpful resource on how to find information on the local school districts, crime rates, and neighborhood personalities. 

Follow-up questions to ask:

  • How many homes have sold in this area in the last year? 
  • How long are houses staying on the market? 
  • What kind of activities go on in this neighborhood? 
  • Will it be easy to resell in this area? 

9. How Many Clients Do You Work With? 

The answer to this question will give you an idea of the real estate agent’s level of experience, their availability, and the likelihood that they will get back to you in a timely manner. Keep in mind that there is no magic number – however, you want to make sure that if they are a single agent they aren’t overbooked, and if they are an agency that they have enough work to signify their success. 

How can this affect your experience:

Your main concern when asking this question is how available the agent will be to help you. If they are a buyers agent and are working with 5-10 buyers, how are they going to fit in selling your house? Be sure to find out how often you can expect to hear from them and how much time they plan to spend on your project. Keep in mind, if you don’t want to buy or sell for at least six-months, your agent won’t need to dedicate a significant amount of time to your project upfront. However, if you are looking to find a house within 8 weeks, you will need more of their time and attention. 

10. What Separates You From Other Agents? 

While this may seem like a generic question, it is a great way to asses how the agent responds off the cuff. Pay attention to what their answer is and how they talk about their experience. This will give you an indication of their personality and may trigger you to think of other important questions. There are hundreds of real estate agents in the Greater Lansing area, this is their opportunity to share why they are special! 

How can this affect your experience:

Personality matters. You want to choose a real estate agent that you get along with and enjoy communicating with! If they can’t tell you how they are different or how they will make your experience special, it may be a bad sign. The hope is that they will also share insight on how they will serve you to the best of their ability and how they will uniquely make your experience a positive one. Not to mention, it will give you a good idea of how they handle direct questions! 

This list of questions may seem like a lot, but we assure you – if you ask a potential agent these questions, you will have a much better picture of how your buying/selling experience will go! Take your time and be sure to talk to at least two agents before making your selection. 

Still searching for a real estate group to be your advocate? Contact the Home Seekers Group today! 

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