Buying or selling a home can be a long, complicated process and a good Realtor can make all the difference. As with any service providers, there are the good Realtors and the bad Realtors – so how do you tell the difference? Unfortunately, they don’t wear a sign indicating their skill level, so it is up to you to thoroughly investigate and interview the candidates.
Here are the questions you need to ask to ensure you hire a great REALTOR®:
Tell me about yourself…
Find out how long the REALTOR® has been in the business, what credentials he holds, and whether or not they have a specialty.
More experienced REALTORS® may be more comforting if it is your first time buying or selling. Newer REALTORS® have their perks, too – they have plenty of training to off-set experience and are more likely to understand the importance of technology in the buying/selling process.
A real estate agent is not a REALTOR®, but a REALTOR® is a real estate agent. To be a REALTOR® means you are a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Members are held to higher standards of ethics, training, etc.
If the REALTOR® has specialized in selling condos, then he might not be a good choice for selling your large house.
What are your list-price-to-selling-price ratio and your list-to-sold ratio?
The list-to-sold ratio is exactly what it sounds like – what percentage of the homes they have listed were bought? There is no magic percentage that indicates a great REALTOR®, but a high percentage coupled with a high number of listings is a good sign.
The list-price-to-selling-price ratio is the comparison of the original list price of the property to the price at which it eventually sold – the higher the percentage the better.
What services will you provide that set you apart from other REALTORS®?
It is easy for people to talk big when being interviewed, so make sure you get their promises in writing. Have your REALTOR® attach an addendum to your contract listing all of the services she said she would offer.
Can you give me the CMA report on the area?
The comparative market analysis (CMA) is a study done by real estate agents to establish a home’s market value. The amount of detail the REALTOR® can give you will show you how knowledgeable he is about the market. The same rule applies when asking about the neighborhood. The REALTOR® should be able to tell you all about the local schools, parks, and lifestyle.
What kind of communication will we have?
The ideal answer to this question would be for the REALTOR® to ask what you want in terms of communication. Know ahead of time how much or how little you want to know. Also, by what means do you want to communicate – text, phone, email, etc?
The other important communication question is when and how is the REALTOR® available? Are you given a direct phone number, or do you have to go through other team members? Other team members may mean a faster answer, but a direct call means a more personalized experience because you will be working with the same person all the way through.
There is no right or wrong answer in terms of the communication process. It all depends on how involved you want to be and how much you value personalization of the process.
What does it cost?
Most REALTORS® are paid a certain percentage of your home’s selling price. If you think the percentage is too high, negotiate. Ask what you can do to help lower the price. Maybe you can cook for open houses, agree to reduce the amount of services, or agree to use the same realtor for buying your new home and selling your old one.
Cancellation fees are important to consider, too. If you happen to find a buyer on your own, or end up disliking your REALTOR®, what will that cost you?
How will you market my home?
A good REALTOR® will use advertisement in all forms – newspapers, internet, brochures, etc. Today, most people search the Internet when looking to buy, so the REALTOR® should be listing your home on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
Also, talk about open houses. Open houses are an important part of marketing and the REALTOR® should be able to offer you a specific plan. Too many open houses tend to attract low-ball bids, and too few can turn-off buyers who are looking to purchase ASAP.
What do you expect from me as a client?
In addition to knowing what the REALTOR® will do for you, you need to know what is expected of you. You don’t want to find out after signing a contract that the REALTOR® expects you to take on more responsibility than you had wanted or are able.
Can I have the contact information for your last three clients?
It can be very enlightening to hear about the REALTOR® from a client’s perspective. It will also help you judge if the REALTOR® is a good fit for you.
Last, but not least – What do I need to know that we haven’t talked about?
This question will separate the good REALTOR® from the best. There is always something else they can share with you and a great REALTOR® will respect you enough to take the time and talk with you about it.
It is important to ask all of these questions, and more. A good REALTOR® will give you all the information you need to know and put it in terms you can understand; in contrast, a bad REALTOR® may throw a lot of technical terms at you without explaining. Commit the time to finding a good REALTOR® because it will lead to a less stressful buying or selling process.