By Richard Montgomery
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Reader question: We are going to sell our home. We know a number of real estate agents. Twenty years ago we sold a home, and it was not a good experience. Do you have any tips about how to pick a good agent? Roger and Mary Ann D.
Monty’s answer: The right real estate agent can make a difference in the quality of the experience, because buying or selling a home may be the largest and most complex financial decision you make. Consider interviewing three pre-screened agents in the process of making your decision.
Identifying the candidates
Attending open houses in your neighborhood to interact with agents to pre-screen candidates and at the same time, see property on the market first hand. How well is the property presented? How well do the agents present themselves? You will eliminate agents simply observing them work at open houses.
Call the agents you know. Tell them you are selling your home and ask if they will answer a few questions you will email to them. Most of them will agree. Send the questions listed below and see how many returns you receive. Some agents will eliminate themselves when you employ this tactic, which is a positive development. If they are reluctant to answer questions interviewing for a job, what can you expect later?
An important decision
Interviewing multiple agents before choosing one also applies to buyers and sellers with “a friend in the business.” Because of the key role your agent will play, focus on the qualifications and services the agent can offer over and above the fact that they are a friend or a nice person. Select an agent and the company that has the knowledge, skill and services to assist you in saving time and money. Select the person who best provides their time, quality answers and data you need to make informed decisions with confidence.
What to look for in the interview
Invite the agents to meet where you are most comfortable, or sometimes, you can ask questions at a “slow” open house. Asking follow-up questions to their email answers offer you a chance to observe them in action. It also inspires meaningful dialogue.
When asking questions, focus on how well the agent listens, how willingly they answer and the quality of their responses. While personality is a factor, quality advice and quality time are of utmost importance. You will be surprised by the differences in the answers you receive.
Some questions to ask
Look for clear, logical answers to each question you ask. A quality answer that conveys sincerity, trust and honesty is a definite plus.
1. What sets you apart from other agents?
2. What type of ongoing training do you receive?
3. How does company support benefit your customers?
4. What is your position on home inspections?
5. What happens to us when you are on vacation?
6. Can you provide three recent references?
7. What is your company’s record for market time and rate of listings expiring unsold?
8. What service does your company offer that is not offered by other companies?
9. How do you establish your opinion of value for a home?
10. How do you find your customers?
11. Does your company have a satisfaction guarantee?
12. How quickly and often can you furnish market data updates on new listing, sales and more?
13. Why should we choose you to represent us?
14. Do you prefer returning customers telephone calls in person or by email?
15. If a homebuyer asks what a home they are interested in is worth, how do you answer?
16. Do you have an assistant or assistants? If so, what is their role in the service you provide to us?
17. Do you have other information you want to add you feel would help assure your selection?
18. How proficient are you at gathering information from the MLS system?
19. Do you have a favorite customer service experience that you can share?
20. What is your real estate credential number?
One last tip
It should take a true willingness to serve, a high level of competency and good company support to become your agent. The answers should be right for your situation and “tested” early. Trust, but verify. A promise made during a conversation requiring agent follow-up should be noted, reminding you to verify the follow-up occurred. No follow-up is a harbinger of things to come. Your efforts here will help you select with confidence.
Richard Montgomery gives no-nonsense real estate advice to readers’ most pressing questions. He is a real estate industry veteran who has championed industry reform for over a quarter century. You can ask him questions at DearMonty.com.
Dear Monty: How to pick a real estate agent
By Richard Montgomery