Interviewing an Agent to List Your Property

23 Feb Interviewing an Agent to List Your Property

What are the most important skills and resources you offer your clients?

Selling real estate is an incredibly complicated financial transaction with large sums of money at stake, including the brokerage commissions you will pay an agent to represent you. Your agent should be able to clearly explain what it is they bring to the table on your behalf and what they specifically do in return for their commission. First and foremost, should be the commitment and ability to protect and represent your interests above all others—to sell your property at the best possible price and terms. Are their other qualifications focused on helping you? Do you get the sense they are consummate professionals in the business? Do they listen carefully to your wants, needs and circumstances? Are they thoughtful and straightforward in their explanations? And, since you’ll be working together for some time on this project: Do they seem to be a good personality match for you?

How exactly will you prepare and market my home? How much money will you be spending in doing so?

To reach every prospective buyer and every agent who might have a buyer, your listing agent should offer a comprehensive marketing plan far beyond putting the listing in MLS, sticking a sign in the front lawn and holding an open house. You deserve to hear the details of his or her marketing plan across all media–online, broker to broker, neighborhood marketing, print media, promotional materials, showings and so on–and furnish you with a clear budget he or she will commit to spending. How will the property be photographed? (This issue is so vitally important to marketing nowadays, that you should only hire an agent who will pay for a professional real estate photographer.) Who is the target market? How will the target market be reached? And how will the right impression be made on those buyers to create a sense of urgency to come and see your home right away?

Tell me your strategy behind pricing my home.

Correct pricing is an imperative, and it is based on a thorough understanding of current market conditions and trends, supply and demand, and values of homes in your area. A prospective listing agent should be able to clearly explain the reasoning behind their pricing conclusions. Are they straightforward? Do they know what they’re talking about? Do NOT automatically choose the agent who simply tells you the highest price, since bad agents often base their entire pitch on this ploy–and overpricing can have very negative ramifications for selling your property at the highest price. It is far more important to have a knowledgeable, skillful and honest agent, with a great marketing plan, than an agent who simply tells you what you want to hear about price.

What is your area of expertise?

When selling in San Francisco, you want a Realtor® who works San Francisco. Out-of-town agents are bad representa­tives. No exceptions. Everything about real estate is specific to location: values, community, legal issues, the different options in property type and neighborhood within a given county, the other agents they will deal with. No agent can be an expert everywhere. You deserve an area expert to represent you.

Tell me about the last deal or two you closed?

This is an excellent open-ended question to help you determine how the agent works, their enthusiasm for the business, what they focus on as important, the skills they bring to bear for their clients, and how they interact with clients and other parties during the transaction. Do they completely and calmly own and manage the process? Do they negotiate effectively? Work hard and make special efforts? Good at explaining options and strategies? Motivated by doing a great job for their clients?

Why are you with the brokerage you’re with?

Brokerage firms come in many qualities and it can be insightful to know why your agent chose theirs. Did they pick it because it allows them to provide a higher level of service and resources to you? Are they focused on reputation, exper­tise, ongoing training and skill improvement, liability management and integrity?

Is this your only career?

Many real estate agents are also mortgage brokers or have other second careers. Some are part-timers. This is a very bad sign for a transaction where so much money is at stake. Real estate is a business which takes all of a good agent’s professional time, energy and resources to do the job right. You don’t want, and don’t deserve, an amateur or part-timer. Pick your real estate agent like you would your financial manager or attorney—hold them to that standard. What would you think if your attorney also sold cars? Would you want your sister-in-law—who went to law school 10 years ago, but never practiced law—to defend you in a big, complicated lawsuit?

References, References, References!

The best indication of the job an agent will do for you is the job they did for past clients. Feel free to ask to speak to some of their recent clients. According to the bestselling book, House Selling for Dummies, good agents: educate you; don’t make decisions for you; tell you when you need to consult other experts; restrict themselves geographically; are full-time professionals; have contacts for skilled, high integrity resources; and have the time to serve you properly.

Do they love what they do?

People who love what they do are not only much more enjoyable to work with, but that love shows up in the time, positive energy and attention they invest in the practice of selling your home. If you have the choice, pick an agent who loves the business of helping people fulfill their goals in real estate.

Selling a home is typically one of the largest, most complicated—and often,
most emotional—financial transactions of one’s life. You deserve a qualified agent.