12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Realtor
You’ve decided to sell your home or buy a new home. Do you:
a) Call the nearest local real estate agency and hire the first person who answers the phone?
b) Hire your relative or friend who dabbles in real estate part time?
c) Approach the process like a job interview and prepare some questions to assess if the agent is qualified and whether he/she will be a good fit for you?
There is no correct answer, but I hope you thought c) was the best choice.
Selling a home can be a very stressful experience. Wondering whether you should upgrade, remodel or stage, consistently keeping your home ready for showings, especially if you have children and pets, and questioning if your priced the home correctly, are just a few examples of the nerve-racking things that you might experience as a seller.
Selling your home is also an extremely personal and emotional experience. You’ll want to work with someone with whom you feel comfortable in order to have a positive experience.
Selecting the right real estate agent who will be selling your home can ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
You would be surprised, but many people don’t ask many questions before hiring an agent to handle the sale or purchase of their most important financial asset. When deciding who is going to help you with such a crucial transaction, it’s important to assess the skills and experience of the individual that’s going to guide you through the process to make sure you sell your home for the highest possible.
In most communities across the United States there are several hundred or even thousands of real estate agents to choose from! Here in Marin County, there are about 1,400 Realtors. Each one has different personal traits, different ways to market homes, different skill levels and a different business philosophy, just to name a few differences. How can you make sure you hire the Realtor who has the skills required to ensure your success?
Here are 12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Realtor:
1. Is real estate your full-time job? How much experience do you have?
If your Realtor has another job, will you and the sale of your home be their priority? Will he/she be available when needed? Having an experienced Realtor on your team is very important as well. However, don’t let the number of years the agent has been in the business be the only criterion you use to hire him/her. Some agents who have been in the business for 20 plus years have not adopted today’s cutting edge technology and tools and may not serve your best interest. Also, find out how busy the agent is. Some top producing agents may be juggling too many clients to give your property the attention it deserves.
2. Will you represent me exclusively, or will you represent both the buyer and the seller in the transaction?
While it is legal in California for agents to represent both parties in a transaction, it’s important to understand that there is a built in conflict of interest when your agent is representing both sides and that he/she cannot provide advice to either party about price and terms. Your REALTOR® should explain his or her agency relationship to you and describe the rights of each party.
3. What type of support and supervision does your brokerage office provide to you? What type of support do you have personally?
Having resources such as in-house support staff, a transaction coordinator or an assistant to handle the administration of the files, access to a real estate attorney and experienced managers, and assistance with technology can help an agent make the process smoother and safer for you. I also have the support of an excellent assistant who handles the administration of my files.
I have partnered with Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty (the number one broker in Marin County) and am fully leveraging the SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY extraordinary brand that traces its history back to 1744 to provide your property with unmatched exposure and extraordinary marketing. When you have the Sotheby’s International Realty blue “For Sale” Sign in front of your home, you benefit from 270 years of Sotheby’s brand recognition and sophistication.
4. Which technology and online tools are you using to best serve your clients and market their properties?
Whether your agent is a beginner or a veteran real estate agent, it’s crucial that he/she knows his/her way around technologies and online tools that allow him/her to best meet your needs and serve your interests. Find out if the agent leverages tools such as Dropbox for Cloud storage; DocuSign for digital signatures and a CRM to manage their business effectively.
Many agents are reluctant to dive into technology and are still calendaring their appointments with pen and an appointment book. I am not advocating adopting each new tool that gets pushed out, it can actually be time wasting and counter productive. But it is important for Realtors today to adopt the worthwhile tools that can make them more effective and enrich your experience.
Agents should be tech and media savvy enough to build a strong online presence. If they cannot market themselves to stand out from the crowd of other Realtors, how will they make your house stand out from other competing properties on the market?
Ask the following questions as well:
a. Will you be marketing and advertising my property online?
More than 90% of all buyers start their search online, and leveraging the power of the Internet is critical to maximize your property’s exposure online. When marketing your home in search of buyers, my mantra is “Fish where the Fish Are.” Find out how the agent will market your property on the Internet, beyond entering it in the local MLS.
This is probably one of the most necessary interview questions you ask the Realtor! You want to align yourself with a Realtor that has a strong understanding of both online and social media marketing. The Realtor you choose should have his own personal mobile friendly website (not his/her Broker’s) and that site should be well ranked when you conduct real estate searches in your area.
This is a very important consideration when hiring a Realtor. A top Real Estate agent will invest in having a website that not only looks fantastic and professional, but also has outstanding content and a good IDX search tool to attract buyers for local Real Estate searches. Most buyers will type the city, county; state, and the words Real Estate or homes for sale when conducting a search. As an example; type in Marin County Real Estate: You want your home in the spotlight: this can be achieved when the agent you select understands search engine optimization (SEO) and achieves the 1st page of Google rankings for keyword searches buyers most often use.
I am very tech savvy and able to utilize all the tools available to real estate practitioners and fully leverage them for your benefit. I have taught classes for other Realtors about the use of technology and social media. I was recently recognized as a Social Media All Star by Inman News, the premier national Real Estate News network.
b. Do you have a Real Estate blog to market your clients‘ properties?
A blog is another great tool that can be used to create pre market excitement and drive traffic to your home or condo: you can write entire blog articles about a single home that promotes its best features using multiple photos and descriptions.
c. Do you use social media marketing in your business such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+ to reach other Realtors and potential clients?
Social media sites allow Realtors to cast a wider net to reach potential buyers and sellers. With Facebook you can have your own Business Page to promote your business including properties you may be marketing, community news or helpful Real Estate articles.
d. Will you hire a professional photographer to take photos of my home?
Not only is having lots of photos important but the quality of the photography can not be overlooked. You should ask the agent to show you photos of their previous listings. Do they use a professional photographer or take the photos themselves? Does the photographer use a drone when appropriate to best present your home? Do they make sure to schedule the photo shoot at the time when the light will be best? I use an excellent photographer who will capture the best features of your home.
e. Will you be using video and virtual tours to market my home?
This is a real estate interview question you want to ask the Realtor because it shows that they are willing to diversify their real estate marketing and invest in their business to ensure your success. Video is another important medium that has really caught over the last few years and continues to grow! Buyers love to see a video tour of a property they may be interested in viewing. A video tour can be especially helpful to a relocation or foreign buyer. Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty syndicates all our videos on Vimeo and Youtube to maximize traffic. Watch the video above and view some of my other listing videos by clicking on this link.
5. Can you show me how to make my home more marketable?
A Realtor should be able to give you some simple advice on how to make your home as appealing as possible to your target audience of buyers and to ensure you get the highest possible price. The agent should be able to advise on things like whether or not it would be worthwhile to make an improvement or stage your home.
The general rule on improvements is to make them only when they are really going to enhance the sale-ability or provide a significant return on the money spent.
Staging in Marin County has become more prevalent and a very important aspect of selling a home today. The homes that are staged to allow buyers to imagine themselves living their dream lifestyle touch an emotional nerve, typically leaving a lasting, positive impression on buyers and end up selling faster and for a higher price! Curb appeal is also key in ensuring the first impression is very positive. I have studied to obtain the Accredited Staging Professional designation.
6. What’s your business philosophy?
While there’s no right answer to these questions, the response will help you assess what’s important to the agent and determine how closely the agent’s priority values and business emphasis are aligned with your own. Do you feel they conduct their business ethically and that you can trust them? Do you like the way they present themselves? Do they look professional? Do they act professionally? Do they appear to have the core strengths that are important to you? How do they compare to their competition?
7. How will you keep me informed about the progress of my transaction? What do your clients say about working with you?
The key to any good relationship is great communication. Poor communication or lack thereof seems to be the main recurring complaint buyers and sellers have when rating their Realtor. According to a recent Home Buyer Survey published by the California Association of REALTORS®, buyers said they want agents to: 1. Respond faster (54 percent) 2. Communicate according to client preference (48 percent) and 3. Communicate better (32 percent). Ask agents how they will communicate with you? Do they have systems in place? How frequently will you hear from them? Even better, they should ask how you would like them to communicate with you. Check their testimonials and see what their clients say their experience was working with them.
Buying or selling a house can be very stressful, and I work hard at ensuring my clients not only have great results but also at making the process as smooth and enjoyable as possible, letting them know what to expect every step of the way. Here are a few examples of what my clients say:
“Sylvie is highly profession
“Sylvie is a very intelligent, hardworking person, a pleasure to work with. Thanks Sylvie “
“Your competence, keen intelligence and devoted attention to the purchase of our new home have been gifts Kris and I will not soon forget…Oh, and mon dieu, did I mention how much fun it has been to hang out with you?”
“With her warmth, honesty and intelligence in the numerator, her strength and energy in the denominator, Sylvie is an amazing number. I am indebted to her for her services above and beyond what I expected from a great realtor. I can recommend her without a reservation as a fantastic asset to any potential client.”
8. Tell me about the market?
Your agent should know about days on market, absorption rates, average sold price in your market and be able to discuss with you how relevant they are to your transaction. A competent Realtor should come to the first meeting with you well prepared with data about your market, a good list of comparable properties that are both active and recently sold. I keep a close eye on the market and prepare a detailed Marin County Real Estate Market Update every month and publish other relevant market reports and industry articles regularly in my blog.
9. Can you show me comparable sales to validate the price you are suggesting for my home?
Is the agent overpricing your home so that you will like what they say and hire them? Please ask yourself: should you hire your agent based on price or based on the services they can offer to get the best possible price for your home. Along the same lines, should you hire an agent based on the commission they charge or based on how much they will help you net at closing? How well they negotiate for themselves will show you how well you can expect them to negotiate on your behalf.
10. What designations do you hold?
Designations such as GRI, CRS, SRES and ePRO which require that agents take additional, specialized real estate training, are held only by a small fraction of real estate practitioners who care enough to further their education to do a better job for their clients. Agents who make the effort to increase their familiarity with all the very complex aspects of a real estate transaction beyond the basics of the real license course are more knowledgeable and hence better qualified to successfully represent your interests. I hold the e-PRO Internet Certification, GRI Certification (considered the nation’s number one real estate designation), Accredited Staging Professional, and SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) designations.
11. How Do You Keep Up With Industry Best Practices and New Developments?
The real estate industry has changed a lot, and continues to change. Ask the agents you interview how they keep up with new industry developments, changes in the law and risk management. Do they attend industry seminars and conferences to learn about industry’s best practices and, most importantly, do they adopt them to best serve your interests? Ask them about the tools/technologies/platforms they will use to market your property beyond those available to all agents. Do they network and are they well connected in the Marin real estate community? I have been a member of the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR) Marin Network since 2008 and am the 2016 President Elect. WCR presents excellent educational and networking opportunities to the Marin Realtor community.
12. Can you recommend service providers who can help me obtain a mortgage, make home repairs, and help with other things I need done?
Because REALTORS® are immersed in the industry, they’re wonderful resources as you seek lenders, home improvement professionals, and other home service providers. Practitioners should generally recommend more than one provider and let you know if they have any special relationship with or receive compensation from any of the providers. I have a team of wonderful, high caliber professionals I trust and would be happy to refer to you.
Additional Helpful Articles from some of the top Real Estate Bloggers in the Country on the Importance of Selecting the Right Realtor:
- Things Real Estate Agents Should Be Doing for Home Sellers via Maximum Real Estate Exposure
- 41 Home Selling Mistakes That Are Stopping you from Selling Your Home via Imagine Your Home
- Ten Things to Expect From Your Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home via the Rochester Real Estate Blog
- How to Interview a Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home via NorthCliffRealEstate.com.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when hiring your Realtor, and you can avoid having a poor experience when asking the above questions. When you obtain the right answers to these questions when interviewing an agent, hire him/her!
If you are looking for a Realtor in Marin County, go ahead and contact me to pose these Twelve Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Realtor to me. I trust you will like the answers you receive! Before you contact me, check my Client Testimonials (Names and Phone Numbers Available Upon Request) to find out if I have the skills required to ensure your success. Ask recent clients if they would work with me again. Find out whether they were pleased with my marketing, negotiating, communication style, follow-up, and work ethic. You can also check endorsements and reviews on Facebook.
My vision is to build a network of strong, lifelong relationships with my clients, starting with you… Now let’s get your home sold!