For people who want to buy or sell a property, there are many options available. At one end of the spectrum, sellers can privately list, advertise, market, and sell their own properties; conversely buyers can conduct their own research, arrange for various inspections, and negotiate on their own behalf with a seller, or with the assistance of a third party to attempt to buy a property.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, either buyer or seller can enlist the help of a full-service agent. Additional options lie between these two ends of the spectrum. Before hiring an agent, there are several questions you should ask. Do not hesitate to ask friends, family members, and your lawyer for recommendations.
Factors that should go into your decision include the agent’s: experience and knowledge; fee structure and commission rate, and specialized expertise, if any.
The other important factor is whether the agent’s personality is compatible with your own.
Here are some of the questions you should raise and consider when interviewing agents:
1. How long have they been in the business? You want to work with an experienced agent who knows his or her way around the block. Look for an agent who has the time to personally devote to you, a solid track record, and experience in negotiating deals.
2. What type of training, education, and qualifications do they have in real estate? The most successful real estate agents keep up with the latest trends and developments in their industry. Commitment to ongoing education also shows a greater level of professionalism. Be sure to find out what industry qualifications they have. Do they participate in more than the minimum mandated educational requirements?
3. What is their average list-price-to-sales-price ratio? Whether you are buying or selling, a good agent should be able to get you a favourable price. Ask them about their track record.
4. What are their qualifications to represent you as a Buyer? As a buyer, it is helpful to know how your agent expects to help you find a home. Being a good agent means more than just access to multiple listing services. Will they take the time to determine your needs and wants based on your budget? Find out if they plan to research homes in your price range and in your preferred area. Have they worked in the area long enough to understand the home values and sales trends? Are they on top of what’s happening in the area you are interested in?
5. What are their qualifications to represent you as a Seller? Is the agent experienced? Are they familiar with the geographic area where your property is located? What research do they undertake in order to recommend a suggested listing price? Some agents concentrate only on listing properties; they do not actually market the property. What marketing plan do they propose to sell your home?
6. Can they provide you with references? References are a great way to find out the strengths and weaknesses of your agent. Always ask for the names of at least three references from clients the agent has represented recently (i.e. within the past several months). An agent should encourage you to call the references with additional questions.
7. What percentage of their business comes from referrals? Referrals are the main source of business for real estate agents. If an agent is competent and has a good history of providing quality service, then a large portion of their business will come from satisfied clients who spread the word.
8. How will they communicate with you, and how often? If you are expecting to speak with your agent directly regularly during the selling and/or buying process, be sure to discuss this at the beginning of your relationship. Some real estate agents prefer to let their assistant(s) communicate with you. That may be acceptable to you or the agent, if it is not, it is important for you to know up front.
9. What distinguishes the agent from other agents? There are literally thousands of real estate agents available to help you sell and/or purchase a home.
10. Can they refer you to other experienced professionals? Quality agents usually have a strong network of people to whom they can refer clients such as a real estate lawyer, interior designers, home inspectors, trades people, mortgage brokers, and lenders. Find out if your agent can save you the time and worry in locating the services and people you need, by suggesting people who they know and trust.
11. Will they personally handle the negotiations of the transaction? Above all, you want to work with an agent who is committed to you and who will be the one who personally handles your negotiations. Some agents let their assistants handle submitting purchase offers, but that is not what you are paying significant commissions for. You want your agent to spend time representing you – not spend time on the golf course, skiing, or at the cottage. Ask the question!