The red-hot housing market is starting to cool, with sales volume — and list prices — following suit. Still, with the help of an experienced Realtor, there may be time to cash in to your home. But with so many real estate agents to choose from, finding the right one to guide you through the home-selling process can be overwhelming. Here’s what to ask to make sure you hire the best Realtor for the job.
Finding a real estate agent to sell your home
Start by reaching out to friends and family for referrals. If someone you know and trust has worked with a Realtor they would recommend, you’re already ahead of the game. Also, do some research in your area: Jot down the names on “for sale” signs nearby and look online to identify recent sales in your neighborhood, especially of homes similar to yours.
Once you’ve compiled a shortlist, schedule a call or meeting with each Realtor to get a feel for whether they’d be a good fit for you. You want someone you feel comfortable with, who knows your area well, and who can help you navigate the journey and sell for the best price possible. How to find all that out? By asking the right questions.
Questions to ask when selling your home
1. How many homes have you sold?
Is this the agent’s first rodeo, or do they have extensive selling experience and a proven track record? You want someone with the knowledge and tools to effectively get the job done. And don’t just take their word for it — peek at their online listings, too.
2. Have you sold homes in my neighborhood?
It’s not enough for a Realtor to simply have experience — ideally, you want someone who has experience in your specific area. Real estate is very local, and selling trends can differ from one neighborhood to another, so it’s important to have a handle on the details, like school districts and traffic patterns.
3. Can I cancel our agreement?
No one wants to find themselves stuck with a Realtor they don’t like, or who isn’t getting the job done. With that in mind, it can’t hurt to ask how long of a contract they require, whether a short-term agreement is an option and whether the contract can be broken in case the arrangement just doesn’t work out.
4. How will you determine the list price?
Some Realtors might set unrealistic expectations regarding how much a home is worth to win over clients, promising a higher sale price than you’re actually likely to get. Overpricing your listing can lead to a need for steep price reductions later, so it’s important to ask the agent’s strategy for setting a list price. If it’s vague and doesn’t include comps or a written comparative market analysis, you can be setting yourself up for disappointment. You can also look online to determine the average sale-to-list ratio, or the difference between the original asking price and purchase price, of the agent’s previous sales.
5. How much will my home cost sell?
The seller pays the real estate commission for both parties involved in any real estate transaction — usually between 5 and 6 percent of the home’s sale price, split evenly between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. This fee is often negotiable, and it’s worth a try if it can save you money. But don’t choose a Realtor simply because they charge the lowest commission. Professional agents have the knowledge and experience that most consumers don’t, and their guidance is usually worth the cost.
6. What is your sales plan — how will you market my home?
Ask each Realtor to communicate their marketing plan for your home. Make sure the listing will be included in your area’s MLS (multiple listing service), where it will be seen by other agents, as well as online platforms browsed by the general public, like Zillow. What information will they include in the listing? Will it have a floor plan and a virtual tour? And will they host open houses and leverage social media to get more exposure? These are just a few of the details a sales plan should address.
7. How long should I expect the home-selling process to take?
The length of time it takes to sell a home varies depending on a number of factors — each property and local market is different. But a knowledgeable Realtor will know their area’s average days on the market and how long other homes similar to yours have taken to sell. If time is of the essence and you need to sell as fast as possible, make sure to communicate that upfront.
8. Will I work with anyone else besides you?
Is the Realtor a one-person show, or do they work with a team? The latter can sometimes be better, especially with a high-volume agent who has lots of other clients vying for their time and attention. On the other hand, some people prefer the more personal touch of dealing with the same person every time.
9. How should we communicate with each other?
Does the Realtor prefer to communicate by text? If you’d rather chat on the phone, they may not be the best fit for you. Inquire about their availability and frequency of communication as well: Are they reachable on weekends? How often should you expect updates, and how detailed will they be?
10. What should I do to prepare my home for sale?
Any Realtor will tell you to make sure the home is clean, tidy and uncluttered before allowing buyers to see it. Beyond that, the Realtor will have to see the property for themselves to determine what work is necessary, if any, to bring in the best price. Depending on a home’s condition, they may recommend paint touch-ups, quick curb-appeal boosts or even professional staging to prepare your home for the market.
11. Can I speak with your former clients?
Finally, references are always a plus. Most agents will be happy to refer you to past clients — and if they’re not, that’s usually a red flag. Searching for independent reviews online is worthwhile as well. A lot of negative feedback could indicate that the Realtor won’t be the right fit for you.