It’s been said that selecting a real estate agent is much like dating. During that first meeting, you’re asking them questions to determine if it’ll be a good fit. With an agent, you are trusting someone with what is most likely one of the largest and most important decisions a person can make. It’s more than business — to be successful, both sellers and buyers must feel a connection with the agent.
Like a relationship, you want to perceive genuine empathy from the agent, get a sense of trust from your interactions, and have a communication style that meshes. Choosing the wrong agent, or a bad agent, could be one of the most costly mistakes you’ll ever make.
No pressure, right? But it doesn’t have to be an arduous process. Here are 24 questions to ask to help you find the best Realtor®, and the most profitable deal possible.
Top questions to ask a real estate agent before you sign them up
To make this critical selection easier on you, we’ve broken down the top questions to ask depending on if you’re a buyer or seller and where you are in the process.
First questions to ask any agent during an interview
Can I see your real estate license?
This simple question ensures you’re working with a trained, accredited professional. No reputable agent will have an issue showing you proof of their license to sell in your area. If they can’t deliver, feel free to move on.
Do you have a list of referrals?
Every agent should arrive at a first meeting with referrals. If they don’t include them in their listing presentation, ask for them. Be wary if an agent can’t offer a handful of client names to call.
Nikki Lagouros is a top agent in Reston, Virginia, who sells houses 40% quicker than the average agent in her area. She thinks it’s important for sellers to ask for references because “An agent can say the right things at the listing appointment, but do you know what that person is like once you’re under contract?”
References can give you insight into the agent’s professionalism from start to finish.
How often and when are you available?
If a great house comes on the market, how soon can they show it to you? If your buyer’s agent only works weekends and you live in a seller’s market, the house could be gone before you can even walk inside.
Be cautious if an agent is part-time. Selling your home is a full-time job, and they should be focused. Dave Mattes is a top agent in Reading, Pennsylvania, selling houses 55% faster than other agents in his area. In his opinion, “A good real estate agent is somebody that dedicates enough time to treat their customers well.”
How many clients are you currently representing?
Ask about the number of clients the agent represents, and their mix. If you’re selling, you want an agent experienced in listing. If buying, you want someone that you know can represent you well. Many agents represent both buyers and sellers, but it’s helpful to know about their current mix.
Focus is a concern for agents who are juggling several listings since you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. But if they have some clients on the buy side, they could bring you the perfect buyer for your house.
How long have you been an agent?
If an agent has years of experience in your market, they can likely sell your home quickly. However, it’s not a deal breaker if they’re newer if they have stellar referrals.
How do your fees work?
Listing agents work under a split commission. When the seller pays a listing agent a 6% commission, that agent typically splits it with the agent who brought the buyer to the home. If you’re a buyer, you generally don’t have to worry about commissions.
While fees should always be negotiable, Bonnie Fleishman, a top-selling real estate agent in Glen Burnie, Maryland, warns sellers — “Don’t work with somebody because they say they’ll cut their commission. Use somebody you feel confident is going to give you the best advice.”
Do you have XYZ in your network?
One of the benefits to working with a real estate agent is access to their vast network, says Fleishman. If you need to make repairs but also need a quick close, a good agent can give you the names of handyworkers. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you could need to call quite a few professionals.
Experienced agents should, at a minimum, be able to recommend the following: a lawyer specializing in real estate, mortgage advisor, insurance agent, handyworker, home stager, house cleaners, and moving companies.
Mattes gives his clients a booklet with all the major service people his team has vetted over the years. “Sellers will do things to sell their house that they’ve been planning to do the last 15 years but never did,” he says, “it’s always nice to be able to call up one of our painters to just show up and knock it out.” With his list, his clients don’t have to interview people and then wait for ten people to call them back.
Has anything ever gone wrong in a deal, and how did you handle it?
There are a lot of moving pieces when buying or selling a home — and not just the stuff you pack into the moving van. You want to work with an agent who can think on their feet, and has experience of how to handle it when something goes wrong.
Lagouros thinks it’s a red flag if you ask an agent “when is a time that something has gone wrong in a real estate deal?” and they say — never. “Stuff goes wrong in every single deal,” she says “most of my job is problem solving.”
Questions to ask when selling a home
Have you sold homes in this area and my price range before?
Two neighboring communities can be vastly different — one could have lots of young families, with parks and great schools, the other could be a bedroom community for young professionals. Each will draw a different type of buyer. The right agent will know who’s buying homes in your area, and how to market to them.
Plus, to sell a home, agents are also selling the neighborhood and its perks. If an agent has experience in your specific neighborhood, it’s a major advantage.
How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood in the past year?
The number of homes the agent sold last year tells you how active they are in the market and how effective at their job. Compare their number to the average for your area, which can be found using this HomeLight tool that analyzes historical sales data in every city across the United States. To see how they stack up, select your city, then scroll down and look for the chart with the “Homes Sold / Yr” figures. A top agent will be above your city’s average.
You also want an agent who’s sold homes in your neighborhood. One city could have multiple neighborhoods with vastly different characteristics — from the quality of schools to access to public transportation. Working with an agent with experience in your area is a big advantage.
How will you help me prepare my home to sell?
A good agent will walk through your house and have a few suggestions to help you sell. A new coat of paint or replacing burnt out light bulbs could help you sell faster, but be wary of agents suggesting large remodeling projects. You’re unlikely to recoup that money if you sell right away.
Will I be working with you directly or a team?
There’s nothing more frustrating than getting comfortable with an agent and then seeing someone new at every meeting. A small team is OK — it means the agent has more resources and assistance — but ask for introductions to everyone.
What are the average days on market for your listings?
The average days on market is how long it takes for an agent’s listings to sell. Always ask to see this number, and compare it between the agents you interview. Ask for an explanation for any outliers — for example, high-end, million dollar homes take longer to sell. If they don’t have a good reason it takes them longer, find another agent.
Here again, the HomeLight historical data tool can help you see how the agent fares against top agents in the area. Select your city and scroll down to view the “Days on Market” figures in the charts. You’ll also find additional information about what a top local agent can offer, including the list-to-sales price ratio comparisons we’ll discuss in the next recommended question.
What is your average list-to-sales price ratio?
The list to price ratio is the sales price divided by the asking price. It tells you how close to the listing price the house sold for — and it could be a sign that an agent always gets their clients more. A good list-to-price ratio will depend on the market and location, but be wary of percentages too far below 90%.
Mattes thinks this ratio speaks to market expertise on pricing, pointing out that, “If you don’t have the right price, you’re going to sit there and have to massage it a little bit with price reductions.”
Also, if an agent’s ratio is over 100%, be careful. They could follow a strategy of underpricing homes to pad the ratio. Request specific details about how they determine list price.
How do you plan to market my home?
Every Realtor® should enter this partnership with a marketing plan — period. Do they target buyers in their social media listings, and how large is their following? Have they found that flyers work, or another form of advertising? Any listing agent that you meet with should have a plan, with concrete details, to sell your house.
Questions to ask when buying a home
How quickly can you arrange for me to view a home?
In a hot market, homes can sell quickly — sometimes even the same day that they are offered for sale. Buyers scour “pending” listings to hop on new houses the moment they become available. If you see a new listing that you love, how quickly can your agent take you on a tour?
If your agent can’t take you within one to two days of the home hitting the market, you could miss out.
How long do you usually work with buyers, from first viewing to closing?
It’s unlikely you’ll find what you’re looking for in a few days. If you have a long list of specifications, it could take even longer. The time from starting your home search to closing on a house could be several months. While there are no guidelines on how long it should take to buy a home, a good agent can move the process along faster.
They’ll know which neighborhoods have the features you want, and could guide you to areas you didn’t initially consider. Their negotiating skills will help you win out over other buyers, and close the deal faster. Unless you live in an extremely difficult market, be wary of agents who answer this question with — “six months or longer”.
What’s happening in this area, and how could that impact home prices?
Communities change over time as new businesses come in, schools are built, and demographics shift. A good agent keeps tabs on the local community, and will know if a neighborhood is skewing more family-friendly or would be better suited for a retired couple. Whether it’s a walkability score or good schools, they can point you to the neighborhood that suits your lifestyle.
Have you completed many foreclosure or short-sale transactions?
Buyers who are looking for deals often focus on short sales or foreclosures. But the process of buying a distressed property is much more complicated than buying a house from a traditional seller. And since they’re often sold “as is,” your risks are higher.
If you’re considering including bank-owned properties in your home search, look for an agent who has closed complex deals in the past.
How do you help buyers stand out?
In competitive markets, it’s not enough to just put in an offer. Buyers often write offer letters, introducing themselves and explaining why they love the seller’s home. They may offer to waive an inspection or other contingencies to sweeten the deal.
Ask your agent what they recommend, and how they’ve helped other buyers stand out from the crowd.
I remind sellers they have to get up early, they have to make their beds and put the dishes in the dishwasher. If they want to get top dollar for their house, they have to be in top condition.
- Bonnie Fleishman Real Estate AgentCloseBonnie Fleishman Real Estate Agent at Douglas Realty LLC Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 32
- Transactions 1151
- Average Price Point $329k
- Single Family Homes 910
Questions to ask after you’ve selected your agent
How did you arrive at this listing price?
Market data should underlie any listing price, not just an agent’s gut feeling. Good agents prepare a comparative market analysis, or CMA, to show their clients. A CMA takes the sales data for your neighborhood, analyzing list to price ratio, market trends, and comparable sales to arrive at a list price for your house.
If you’re curious what your home might be worth today, you can get a ballpark figure using HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator. The online tool uses information from multiple sources to create a real-time estimate based on current market trends. It’s not a CMA, but it can be a good starting point if you are considering finding a top agent to sell your house.
How can I increase the selling price? Do I need to make repairs or hire a stager?
Want to get top dollar for your house? A few small tweaks, and a few hundred dollars of repairs, could increase your list price. If your home has oddly-shaped rooms, a stager could highlight their uses and distract from any flaws. Ask your agent if there are any small things you could do to increase your selling price.
What can I do to get this house ready for showings?
Selling a home can sometimes be a full-time job for sellers, too, Fleishman says.
“I remind sellers they have to get up early, they have to make their beds and put the dishes in the dishwasher,” Fleishman says. “If they want to get top dollar for their house, they have to be in top condition.”
Start getting rid of clutter now. Ask what the agent believes should go — the pile of children’s toys, the wall full of family photographs, the bed from a room that will be staged as an office — and get a head start on packing for the move.
What pitfalls or mistakes should I avoid in this process?
With thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars on the line you want an agent who will be honest with you. Ask them to honestly point out any potential pitfalls with selling or buying. If you’re using FHA financing and sellers in your market prefer other financing options, you want to know.
Try to remove your emotions from the equation — yes, you love the space mural you painted on your kid’s bedroom wall, but if your agent suggests painting over it to widen your target market, listen to them.
Work with agents who sell homes fast and get you the best price
The wrong pricing or marketing strategy from an unqualified real estate agent can put thousands of dollars on the line. They could cost you sleepless nights worrying about a sale falling through, or add stressful days filled with concerns you won’t net a profit.
The right real estate agent won’t let your home sit on the market and lose value. HomeLight’s Agent Match tool analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs. Our data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents across the U.S. sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average real estate agent.
We’ll use average days on market data to compare real estate agents on how fast they’ve sold homes like yours and find a top real estate agent near you who can save you time and money. The Agent Finder service is 100% free. Agents don’t pay us to be listed, so you get the best match.
In closing – 2 minutes might make all the difference
It takes just two minutes to match you with the best real estate agents, who will contact you and guide you through the process all the way to closing the sale.
Header Image Source: (Mikes Photos/ Pexels)