When you’re buying or selling a home, the working relationship you have with a real estate agent can make all the difference in the buying or selling experience. Depending on the information that your agent gives you, it can make either process much smoother.
So choosing the best agent for your situation is crucial to finding success, which is why you should interview and ask potential agents your own set of questions before hiring them. According to the National Association of Realtors, 73% of homebuyers interviewed only one agent to work with in their home search — you'll want to interview at least two to ensure a good fit.
Whether you’re buying or selling, finding an agent that can meet your specific needs, can align with your schedule and who you generally vibe with is essential. Interviewing will give you a much better picture of the different strategies they can implement and which one is the perfect fit for you. Here, we’ll go through the best questions to ask before you hire a real estate agent to help you find your ideal home or sell your property.
Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Realtor
When buying or selling a house, there are essential questions you should ask your real estate agent to find out if they are an excellent fit for your needs. Your agent should be a wealth of knowledge for your home buying or selling goals, and asking them about their processes and experience can help you determine if they're a fit. So, let’s explore these questions for buying or selling below.
1. How long have you worked as a real estate agent?
You’ll want a real estate agent that’s been in the business for a considerable amount of time. Typically, at least three years of experience is a good indicator that an agent can successfully navigate whatever you throw at them.
In Texas, 180 classroom hours in a pre-licensing education class is the required amount of time to begin the process to earn a license. However, the entire process, from the required class time, applying for your real estate license, passing the Texas real estate licensing exam, and finding a sponsoring broker, can take several months. Then, time in the field is important too.
So look for an agent with a few years of experience to ensure ample time to get to know the business inside and out.
2. Do you work with buyers and sellers?
There are a lot of agents who work as specialists for either buyers or sellers. Knowing which side of the process your agent is more familiar with can be helpful to find an agent that has a lot of experience with your specific requirement.
A buyer's agent is typically responsible for ensuring that the buyer gets the best deal possible. Some of their main objectives include making appointments to tour homes with the buyer, advising the buyer on the resale potential of the home, assisting buyers in analyzing the price and value of a home before making an offer, explaining the standard offer form, and recommending trusted home inspectors.
A seller’s agent gives the seller a home consultation, does a full walk-through of the property, and provides suggestions on cleaning, decluttering, staging, and updating to increase the home’s value.
Other responsibilities include providing the seller with referrals for contractors for suggested upgrades, helping the seller stage the home, hiring a photographer to take professional photos for marketing purposes, and helping the seller price the home correctly to sell at the highest value. They also market the property using the internet, their connections in the industry, and other methods to ensure your house gets seen by the right buyers.
3. May I see your real estate license?
When you ask to see someone’s real estate license, you’re checking if you’re speaking to a licensed agent.
To make sure that your agent is the real deal, you can do a license holder search through the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC). You can search for an agent by name or license number, license type, license status, city, county, zip code, and email. Through your search, you can better find a reliable agent who upholds TREC’s code of conduct.
4. Do you have references that I can contact?
As with any professional you are looking to work with, you should ask for references to vet your potential agent. Asking for references can also prevent you from working with an agent who hasn’t served their clients well. So if they seem hesitant about giving you references, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Even if you know the real estate agent, it’s still crucial to ask for their references to know how well they work with clients.
Checking out an agent’s online reviews from previous clients can also give you a better idea of how well they’ve worked with others. Even better, check out the social media that they strictly use for real estate to see how they interact with people directly online.
5. When is your best availability during the week?
It may seem obvious, but make sure your agent can view houses during times that fit your availability. In a 2021 study of home buyers and sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the typical home was on the market for one week, and in hot markets, homes can go fast. So make sure your agent is available to help you get the home you want before it’s gone!
If you're selling, having a successful sale can also depend on the day of the week. According to a study by Redfin, Thursday is the best day to put your home on the market, with homes listed on that day finding buyers five days faster compared to other days of the week.
So if you’re wanting to sell at a faster rate, you’ll want to make sure that your agent is available on that day to list your home.
6. How many homes have you closed on this past year?
When working with a professional, you’ll want to know their success rate to ensure they will come through for your needs. On average, agents sell about seven homes per year in the United States.
So, if the agent you’re speaking with has closed on several homes in the past year, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to navigate you through the process smoothly. This also indicates whether they are still practicing real estate actively, even if they have a track record of success for many years. After all, you want to make sure they aren’t rusty if they haven’t closed a sale in a while.
7. How will you be paid?
It may seem like a strange question to ask, but it is good to know how you will pay your agent. Usually, a buyer doesn’t pay their agent because the agent’s fee is combined with the closing costs paid for by the seller. Then, the seller pays their broker, who splits the commission with the buyer’s agent.
If you’re a seller, you are typically expected to pay 5-6% of the home’s sale price. This covers the cost of commission to both your listing agent and the buyer’s agent when your home sale closes.
While this is standard, it can't hurt to verify. Knowing how you will pay your agent will save you from surprises later on!
8. Have you completed foreclosure or short-sale transactions?
You may not be looking at distressed properties, but this question is worth asking your agent to assess their level of experience. Because the process behind foreclosures and short sales is complicated, successful navigation through a foreclosure or short-sale transaction can be an indicator they do well under pressure.
In addition, these transactions can be challenging to navigate, so agents who have the experience of closing complex deals show strong negotiation skills to help you in your homebuying journey.
9. How quickly can you start showing me homes?
Homes can go under contract very fast in a popular market, so if you see a new listing that you want to check out, you will want to know how quickly can your agent set up a viewing. According to Realtor.com, a home remains on the market for about 53.5 days on average in the United States. However, this is much quicker in most markets, where homes can be sold in less than a couple of days' time.
Oftentimes, you need to make an offer on the same day as the viewing or else you could miss out on the home. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure your agent can start right away if you’re determined to get a particular house.
On the flip side, if you need to wait for any reason, make sure they are available when you’re going to be ready to browse homes. Also, consider how much time they'll need to accommodate your request, how your schedules match up, and how many other buyers or sellers they are currently representing.
10. How will we keep in contact during the process?
Your agent should never be out of touch since in hot markets losing an available home can happen within an hour. So make sure you know how to best contact your agent by asking them about their preferred method of communication.
You don’t want to email them and wait around, while your agent prefers phone calls as a primary means of communication. Set up the best form of contact with your agent so you can feel confident that you’ll get a response quickly and within a reasonable amount of time.
11. How many buyer clients do you currently have?
When an agent has too many clients at one time, it means that you could be competing for their time and they may not be available when you need them. It could also mean that they have another client with the same requirements as you, potentially competing on the same properties as you.
So, ask your agent what their current client load looks like and if they honestly feel like they can take on another. Then decide if you’re comfortable signing on with them.
12. How many of your clients are sellers?
It’s fine if your agent has a balanced list of buyers and sellers as clients. But if you’re looking for an agent who specializes in working with sellers, ask them how many sellers they have worked with recently.
A seller’s agent helps list the property for sale and represents the person who is selling the property. These jobs include getting the best price, negotiating terms, selling the property quickly, and managing the legal transaction. They are also in charge of marketing the property and getting the word out about it, so it’s handy if they have a lot of experience in that area.
13. Will I be working with you individually, or with your team?
When entering an agent-buyer relationship, you may assume that you’ll only be working with the agent directly. However, some agents have assistants or a team involved in some or most processes. So, if you like your agent and want to move forward working with them, ask them if you’ll be in direct contact with them or if their team will be assisting you most of the time so that everyone’s expectations are in line.
14. Are you a part-time or full-time agent?
Knowing whether your potential agent works part-time or full-time can make a big difference when it comes to how experienced and qualified they are to help you.
According to the Life as a Real Estate Agent Survey conducted by Placester, nearly 49% of agents work more than 40 hours or more per week. Meanwhile, according to the same survey, only 22% work fewer than 30 hours per week. So, although more agents work full-time hours, there is still a good chunk of agents who are part-timers.
Hiring a full-time agent means that their entire focus is on real estate. You won’t need to work around 9 to 5 hours or worry about the agent’s level of experience. Most times, a full-time agent is one you’ll want to work with, as it shows they are dedicated to this profession.
15. Do you have any questions for me?
It may seem strange to ask the agent if they have questions for you, but it’s a good idea to check if they have a genuine interest in your plans. For example, a few questions they should be asking you when selling your home include:
“What’s your biggest reason for this sale?”
“What initially attracted you to this home when you bought it?”
“What do you think buyers will love the most about your home?”
“How would you like to see your sale proceed?”
When you’re looking to buy a home, some great questions from an agent could include:
"What are your top 3 'must-haves' in a home?"
"What are your biggest 'deal breakers' on a home?"
"What is your budget max and what range would you like to try to keep it in?"
"What areas of town are you looking in?"
"Why are you moving from your current house?"
These questions open up a discussion about your goals of buying or selling a home and show that they are interested in working with you throughout the process.
There are a variety of other questions they could ask you, so be ready to reply about your reasons behind the sale and your real estate goals.
Questions to Ask a Realtor When Buying a House
A buyer’s agent can provide valuable knowledge about the area you would like to find a home in, as well as crucial information about property taxes or zoning laws. To help make sure you choose the right one, check out these home buying questions to ask them.
16. How do you help buyers stand out?
If you’re looking to buy in a hot market, you need to stand out from the competition. That’s why you must ask the agent how they can help buyers like you become more noticeable as one of many offers in the crowd.
According to the 2021 Home Buyer Report from NerdWallet, 43% of prospective home buyers said they would most likely consider purchasing a house that year, depending on the current economy. 2022 is shaping up to be a big year as well, so it’s best to be prepared with everything you have!
17. How do you help buyers in multiple-offer situations?
Ask the agent what strategies they apply to help their clients win multiple-offer situations. Breaking through the competition is crucial if you want to buy, but implementing a successful strategy is a large part of that eventual home purchase. So ask the agent about specific ways they can help you get your ideal house.
18. How long do you typically work with buyers?
Typically, you won’t find your ideal home when you first begin the homebuying process. However, your agent’s level of skill and connections can have a massive impact on how long it takes to find the home of your dreams. Although many other factors apply to the length of time it can take to find a house, you should ask the agent how long they typically work with buyers to get an indicator of what to expect.
Depending on the market and your location, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to close on a home. For the average buyer, it usually takes four and a half months. But this doesn’t mean that every buyer will be waiting that long because 51% typically buy a home in less than three months.
19. Can you explain the homebuying process?
Even if you have a good idea of how the home buying process works, it’s still important to ask the agent to explain the process to you from start to finish. Be sure to take notes and ask for any clarifications you may need. You never know if there’s a factor you’re not considering or if the agent has more accurate information for you.
A few great things to ask about are how home showings operate, how offers work, what happens during a home inspection, what happens after the offer is accepted, and how the closing process goes.
20. Do you have any concerns about the property?
Before moving forward with a home you’re interested in, you should ask the agent if they have any concerns with the property. An agent could see issues with a home that you may not catch right away, so take advantage of their expertise and hear what they have to say. Plus, the agent may also be able to see any red flags about the home, saving you from investing your time and money into the property.
21. How should unexpected circumstances from an inspection be handled?
It can be a letdown to find problems with the home after the inspection. Whether it’s termites, mold, or other damage, ask the agent how they would resolve these issues. Usually, the buyer and seller can work out an agreement to pay for damages found during the inspection in repairs or concessions.
22. What should I expect buying a home within an HOA?
If you plan to buy a home within a Home Owners Association (HOA), you will likely receive financial documents and disclosures outlining their terms and details. It’s easy to get overwhelmed because these documents can be hundreds of pages, so ask the agent about what to expect from the paperwork.
An HOA special assessment is a development or privately planned community managed by a volunteer HOA which is overseen by a board and bound by a set of bylaws. Unlike typical HOA communities, these special assessments impact not only owners’ rights but also their money.
Another factor regarding HOAs that you should ask the agent about is periodic payments made to the HOA to cover repairs. These fees will affect your housing expenses, so the agent can help you understand the documents and answer your questions.
23. Can you recommend any real estate attorneys, inspectors, mortgage brokers, or escrow agents?
The agent you’re inquiring about should know other professionals in the area involved in real estate transactions. Because you’ve done the work to find a reputable agent, they can likely recommend other professionals in their wide and trusted network to support you throughout the homebuying process.
Questions to Ask a Realtor When Selling a House
Selling a house can be overwhelming, so having an expert guiding you through the sales process is necessary. Having an experienced seller on your team can mean you market your property in the right way, to the widest network, and ultimately earn the highest price for your home. Here are some questions you can ask them before you get started!
24. How can I prepare to sell my home?
When selling a home, your work doesn’t stop when you hire a real estate agent. After all, part of their job is to tell you how to make your home more attractive to potential buyers.
That can include renovating, replacing older appliances, and cleaning up the interior for showings. So if an agent doesn’t have a solid plan for what you should do, you can’t be confident that they can guide you through the process.
25. What is your average list-to-sale ratio?
The list-to-sale ratio is the final sales price that the buyer pays divided by the last list price. According to a study by Redfin News, the average list-to-sale ratio in the United States is 99.6%.
The listing price on a home will often differ from its final sales price due to expert negotiating, especially in hot markets where multiple-offer situations and bidding wars can mean sellers get a much higher offer. So ask the agent about their list-to-sale ratio, and success in this area, to get a good idea of how they can negotiate the sales price of your home.
26. How do you come up with your listing price?
A house that is listed for too high a price could ward off potential buyers, but price it too low and you’re missing out on profit, so ask the agent how they plan to calculate the listing price of your home. They should be able to tell you exactly how they came up with their suggested asking price, whether through a comparative market analysis (CMA) or by looking at comparable sales in your area.
27. What is your marketing plan when selling a home?
An experienced agent will know that different houses may require different strategies during the selling process. They should have these strategies ready to implement, so ask them for plenty of details. For example, you can ask about the photographer they work with to get the best photos of your home for the listing and if and when they post on social media about the listing.
Ask them how tech-savvy they are with organizing virtual tours to get as many people viewing the home as possible. Make sure they have a plan going forward to get the word out about the listing to find potential buyers.
28. Is there anything to avoid doing while selling my home?
When selling, your agent should offer honesty and exhibit expert knowledge on the home selling process. This open communication could be about staging your home in the best way, discussing worrisome findings after the inspection, and other matters where expertise is needed.
That said, you should ask the agent about anything that should be avoided during the selling process and be open-minded to their suggestions. For example, should you avoid making certain repairs? What about replacing the appliances? Are these wastes of money? They should have a strong grasp of what to do and what not to do when selling your home.
29. Do you have a list of vendors that you recommend?
One of the more challenging part of buying, selling, or owning a home is knowing the professionals you can trust to call on when you need help. An experienced agent should have a strong network, so ask them about who they recommend for further assistance. These professionals include lenders, inspectors, and contractors that you can hire for the job.
Remember that these are recommendations and not requirements, as stated in the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). This act grants homebuyers and sellers the right to choose who they would like to work with, so you, as the buyer or seller, have all the power to carefully select who you want to work with within this process.
30. Will you also represent the buyer?
In most states, a real estate agent can also represent the buyer. However, the agent probably shouldn’t represent both buyer and seller. Negotiating is a large part of the process, and it’s best to have an agent fighting hard for your case.
The right agent can net you thousands more through negotiations, and in most cases, they cannot reasonably negotiate for you when they also represent the buyer.
Before finding an agent you can entirely rely on during the home buying or selling process, you should ask the questions relevant to your situation to find the best agent. Your selected agent should be able to answer your inquiries confidently with plenty of knowledge to share.
Finding the right one is up to you, but this list of questions can help you navigate the interviewing journey to connect with a real estate agent that is the best fit.
If you're ready to speak to an agent, reach out to us today!