Questions to Ask a Realtor… & what you need to know when hiring one

Ok guys…. I’ve been talking about the changing market recently, but this is something that has come up quite a bit recently, so let’s talk about it.
 How do you find a Realtor?  Now, obviously I AM a Realtor, so locally… that is an easy answer!  I am a very good one one too.  However, one of my clients is selling their home in a different state, and I have a few clients moving out of the area, and I can’t be everywhere.  After this long in real estate I know a lot of people, so I refer out Realtors in other areas as often as I can because I know that my clients will be taken care of, but what if I don’t know someone there?  I am getting calls from my clients regarding their Realtors, and the issues they are having.  So, let’s start with the #1 thing about real estate…… What many people fail to realize is that, as a home buyer, or a home seller, YOU are the boss.  You are hiring someone to help you with one of the most important stages of your life.  YOU ARE HIRING SOMEONE…. this is an interview.  What questions should you be asking?  Why is this important?  Especially in this changing market…. who you hire with the most important financial decision you make… it is a different real estate world than it has been the past 5 or so years… 
When you are talking with a Realtor, you need to ask yourself these questions… 
What are you looking for in a Realtor?
What are your expectations in communication?  with your purchase?  sell? 
What questions (& answers) are important to you?
…and no matter what you ask, or what their resume says (or doesn’t say), sometimes you just have to go with your gut and hire the person who you connect with. 
Some questions you could (or should) be asking….. 

HOW long have you been in the real estate business?     Do they have experience, a network of people that they can contact to help?  Nothing wrong with a newbie, but do you know everything about a job when you first start out?  How do you learn?  In real estate, we are always learning, but do you want to be the transaction that an agent ‘cuts their teeth’ on?   Especially with the changing market, has this realtor been through any other market?  What is their ‘plan’?  Talk to them about this market and what they are seeing.  How are they going to use their experience, skills, etc to use their knowledge of this market, and what they are seeing, to help you?
HOW long have you been licensed?     This ties into the last question.  Sometimes an agent worked with another licensed agent as an unlicensed assistant so they could have a couple of years in the real estate industry, but very few (or none) as a licensed agent.  Again, nothing wrong with a ‘newbie’ agent….often times they have more time to help you vs an experienced agent who has other clients we are working with as well.  An experienced agent usually has a pipeline of clients and closings so we’re not as concerned with ‘pushing’ a sale because we don’t need to.  Newer agents usually don’t have that pipeline so may be more concerned about getting you into (or out of) a home as fast as possible.  For some Realtors, they have never seen other markets, and it is going to get harder for some of these Realtors who have been ‘floating’ through, and not having to really work.  
WHAT did you do prior to real estate?  What was your other careers?   Why is this important?  Buying, or selling a home is one of the largest financial decisions you will ever make.  You are hiring someone to assist you with this decision.  What qualifications does this person have to help you do so?  Did they working in marketing?  Office management?  Accounting?  Did they wait tables?  Work in a factory?  Were they a car salesperson?   How does this help you?
DO you have any college education or degrees?   Again, see above…this is your largest financial decision….how is this person qualified to help you with that?  What background do they have that will assist you?
WILL I be working with you, or an assistant?   Sometimes you hire an agent to help you, but then you never see them….you’ve been handed off to an assistant who may not have the qualifications you had asked about to that other agent that you ‘thought’ you had hired.  Sometimes you hired the assistant because they had the qualities and the qualifications you were looking for, and you are surprised that they are actually part of a team.  I know Realtors who are just the name, but don’t really have much to do with the real day-to-day, or the paperwork. WHAT days/times are you available?   This is pretty important as you need to know if the times you are available are going to work with the times that your agent is available.  Are they there for you when you need them?  Or can you never get a hold of him/her?HOW many homes to you sell (on average) per year?   Why does this matter?  Most people think that a ‘full time’ agent sells about 12 homes a year…but really that is a part time agent.  It’s a ‘gross’ check vs ‘net’ check kind of thing…and in real estate there are a lot of expenses, dues, fees, and taxes.  Being self employed has some great things, but they come with expensive costs and overheads, like marketing & health insurance (oh boy! Health Insurance…).  When you are self-employed, this IS my job.  This is ALL I do.  I don’t have a ‘side hustle’, or something I am peddling on the side.  All I do is help people with their home adventures.  I am the main source of income, and to ‘break even’ I have to sell, at least, 2 homes a month.  Of course, a lot of that depends on the types/values of the homes an agent sells.  I work a lot with first time and move up buyers/sellers vs some agent friends of mine who sell luxury homes.  They don’t help as many people as I do, but make more.  You know… like that supervisor at work who makes more than you, but does less work? 
WHAT is the average price of the homes you help people buy/sell?   This does tie into the last question….  If someone works mainly with luxury homes, do they understand the market for the type of home you are buying or selling?  Not too long ago, I had a call from someone who wanted to sell their 4000 sq ft home in a very swanky Portland neighborhood.  I actually referred them to a different agent for 2 reasons…one reason being that I don’t work in the Portland area and I believe that agents should stick to the areas they know.  Not all markets are the same, and I am not helping someone if I am taking on an unfamiliar market, am I?  …and that’s also kind of the second reason…they have a luxury home and that is a different selling, and buying market.  Honestly, they are better serviced by the agent I referred them to as that agent specializes in Portland, and in that high price range.  I’m always too busy wondering how long it would take to clean it!!  Another question would be what type of homes are you knowledgeable with?  I recently helped a client sell a home on a very large land parcel, but I do understand land as I grew up on acreage, and I have assisted other clients with their agriculture property adventures.  I mean… after 17 years in real estate, I feel like a real estate grandparent….sigh…  where is my walker???
DO you have another job besides real estate?     This kind of ties into the question about how many homes does an agent sell per year as many part time agents have other jobs to supplement their income.  This also ties into when that agent is going to be available to help you.  Real estate isn’t just about showing homes…there is SO much more to it.  Phone calls, marketing, searching for homes on the internet, calling about that home, calling other agents, other vendors, paperwork, more paperwork, talking, phone calls, texting, emails, title companies, inspections, appraisals, lenders, etc… it’s an 80 hour a week job some weeks.  There are no ‘real’ vacations as you are always ‘on duty’.  HOW do you feel about Dual Agency?  This is an interesting question as you don’t know what I’m talking about…so let me explain as quickly as I can…  When a seller hires an agent that ‘sellers agent’ should be working for THAT seller.  They will be marketing the home, and ‘selling’ that home to buyers, and buyer agents…in a nut shell the sellers agent is selling that home for the seller for the highest possible price and lowest amount of money out of the sellers pocket book (ie buyer closing costs and repairs).  A buyer hires an agent to help them find that ‘perfect’ home.  To work with them with the lender, to negotiate the offer trying to get that home for them in a multiple offer situation (and maybe for less?), to negotiate closing costs, repairs, to be with the buyers for the home inspection, to help understand appraisal, paperwork, the process…and to support the buyers from contract to keys…and beyond.  Real estate is a relationship business, and we LIVE for referrals.  You should always feel comfortable talking to, and contacting your agent ANYTIME with ANY questions…before, during, and even years after you get keys.  As you can see, the sellers agent and the buyers agent kind of have two different agendas.  So, if you call the sellers agent to help you buy the home, and that agent works for the sellers, and the buyers on the SAME home…that is a dual agent.  Who is that agent really representing?  Dual agency isn’t illegal in the state of Washington, it’s just my opinion that each side should always have their own representation.  
So, let’s play a game… I’ve been married for a long time… a very long time… if my husband and I were to divorce, I would hire a really good attorney (I have a client who is a really good attorney), would he hire the same attorney to represent him as well?  Well, most likely not (unless he was an idiot, and he’s not … which is why we have been married a long time), because that would be a pretty big conflict of interest…what do you think??  Real estate is about contracts, about legal contracts, so there is some similarity there.Builders agents are dual agents which is why you should always bring your buyers agent with you when looking at have a new home built.  Teams are dual agents.  Who is working for, and looking out for you?
For sellers:  Some further questions that are important for you to ask in this market… ask about marketing, you can’t just stick a sign in the yard now and expect multiple offers.  Ask the Realtors about their marketing.  Who do they think is your most likely buyer?  How are they going to reach them?  What is their pricing strategy?  Ask that the agent go over the comps with you so that you can ‘see’ how the agent came up with their suggested sales price range.  What about photos?  Flyers? Cleaning?  What is their commission rate?  What does that include? 
DO I have to sign a contract to work with you?   If you are selling a home, there is a sellers contract that you will need to sign.  This contract gives your agent the right to represent you for marketing, offers, and negotiations.  But what about if you are buying a home?  There is a form called a Buyers Agency Form, that is a contract between the buyer and the buyers agent.  As a buyer you do not have to sign this form.  As a buyer, I probably wouldn’t sign this paper, no matter how good an agent makes it sound.  Real estate and lending is all about verbiage and there are a ton of ‘scripts’ that can make any form sound reasonable….and good for you, when it may not actually be so.  In real estate, the buyers agency form is a pretty hotly contested piece of paper…there are agents who won’t work with you if you don’t sign it, and there are others (like me) who think it’s awful.  Customer loyalty is built with good customer service…not a piece of paper…but this is only MY opinion.  If you, as a buyer, choose to sign a buyers agency form, you are now legally in contract with that agent to buy a home with them.  Technically you always have the right to fire someone, but that is a legal contract for a period of time for a specific purpose.  The first question that, as an agent, I always ask a potential client is if they have signed a contract with a previous agent.  This protects everyone involved….it protects the other agent as I don’t want to step on another agents toes, it protects the potentials clients since if they are in a contract with a previous agent then they need to either let that contract expire, or deal with it in another way before hand, and it protects me because getting that call from another agent that they have a contract with one of your clients is not a good one.  So what happens if one of my clients then talks to another agent and signs a contract with that other agent?  Well, then they’re not my client anymore….they’re now they other agents client.  No matter what an agents says, or which ‘script’ they’re following…. you do NOT have to sign a Buyers Agency agreement to hire a Realtor to help you buy a home. 
I’m not going to lie to you…. I know that this blog is going to ruffle some feathers, and while I debated actually sending it out…  I decided to do it anyway.  I want to say that I am not knocking anyone in my industry here.  Everyone has to choose to work the way that their ethics and morals dictate.  As a buyer, or seller, YOU need to ask the questions that mean most to you when hiring an agent.  What questions, and qualifications mean most to you?  Are you looking for someone professional looking, or someone more laid back?  Someone with a warped sense of humor, or someone more ‘traditional’?  There are a LOT of great agents out there, and some…well…  like any industry we have our share of crappy.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut when talking with an agent, and hire the person that you are most comfortable with.  Always ask questions!  This is your adventure, and you are driving the bus…. we are just gps. Informationis power,  and as always…May the odds be ever in your favor out there….  If you are looking for a real estate agent, I would love to be able to help you.  If you have any questions, or comments please get a hold of me anytime.  You can call, text, email, or even facebook me.  Please remember that while I mean these emails/blogs to be helpful, and educational, I am still hoping that you will call, or email me as I would be honored to help you with your home buying, or home selling adventure!  🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *