Homebuyers may spend as much money on their real estate agent as on their car, but many will choose their agent in less than an hour. According to a California Association of Realtors report, nearly half of all homebuyers hire the first agent they meet.
This is probably because most of us would rather reject a car than a person. And some people just don’t know what to ask when evaluating an agent. As agents ourselves, we know what we’d ask. Here are our top suggestions.
Our List of Top Questions to ask a Real Estate Agent
- Is this your full-time gig? How many clients have you served this year? You want a real estate agent who isn’t going to be distracted by other obligations, and an active agent is more likely to be up to date on the market and the law.
- How many sales have you handled in my target neighborhoods? You want someone who knows the local market, with a few recent deals in your target neighborhoods.
- When clients are unhappy with your service, what has gone wrong? Asking why a client has been a bad fit for an agent can help you figure out if you’re a good fit.
- Has a client ever filed a complaint against you? If you’re uncomfortable asking, just check with the state real estate agent licensing board.
- What’s your fee? The seller pays the buyer’s agent using the money you pay for the house, typically 3% of the sales price. Some buyer’s agents refund part of this fee.
- What services do you offer beyond negotiations and escrow? Make a list of what you’ll be paying for. Negotiations, paperwork and contingencies are the minimum.
- When am I committed to working with you? Many consumers start touring homes without realizing this can obligate them to work with the agent, contract or no contract.
- How many foreclosure or short-sale transactions have you handled? Distressed properties can be great deals, but the paperwork is complicated, and your liability is greater. The best agents have experience closing deals with banks.
- Who else will be working with me? An agent is often supported by a team. But the person you hire should do most of the work.
- Will you show me all the properties for sale? Good agents show all properties, even for-sale-by-owner properties that don’t pay a commission.
- How quickly can you get me into a home? Hot homes move fast. Ask how the agent handles tours on short notice.
- Do you represent buyers and sellers on the same house? No agent can fairly represent both. You need someone on your side.
- What sets you apart from other agents? Look for expertise, not just eagerness. You aren’t hiring the neighborhood kid to rake your leaves.
- What if I’m unhappy with your service? Agents get paid when you buy a house. But most customer complaints occur during the closing process. Ask for a guarantee.
- Can I get references for your last five deals? Most homebuyers are happy to share their experience with others.
Every agent has clients he served well. But the best agents serve nearly all of their clients well. Getting an agent’s last five clients will give you a more balanced picture of his service than letting him choose his most favorable references. Call at least two of the five, asking clients some of the same questions you asked him. Look closely at these last five deals to see how they compare to similar sales in the neighborhood. Did he negotiate a good price for each customer?