25 Questions to Ask your Potential Listing Agent, or Finding "The One"
Selling your home is one of the biggest financial transactions you will experience in a lifetime. It is essential to interview SEVERAL potential listing agents before you decide. Here are my top 25 questions to ask any potential listing agent.
1. What is the market like? Is this a good time to sell? What timing would you suggest?
(Here you are seeing if this agent truly has their finger on the market pulse. After interviewing several potential agents, you’ll get a feel for true market conditions. Be cautious of one who promises extraordinary, too-good-to-be-true results compared to the other agents’ take on the market.)
2. What are my comparable listings (comps)?
(This is very revealing – if your agent is worth his/her salt, they’ll have a solid understanding of what other properties your potential buyers will be seeing when looking at your place. The best agents come prepared with not just the comps’ prices, but a detailed evaluation of what the comps have as compared to my property – amenities, improvements, finishes, view, how busy the street was, proximity to Whole Foods / Trader Joe’s / Starbucks, quality of public schools, etc. All those things factor into a buyers’ decision these days.)
3. How does my property compare to others on the market?
(Here again – you’ll find if your potential listing agent really knows the area, or is just trying to pick up another listing. Don’t be flattered if they say everything is perfect in your property. You want honesty, and a solid business partner in selling your property. The best agents will also suggest taking you to actually view your ‘competition’ on the market, as if you are a buyer. Yes, actually view the properties in your price range in person. This is a very valuable exercise for you in preparing your own property to stand out above the rest.)
4. When is the prime window of opportunity to sell my property?
(Answers vary, but typically the first 30-45 days is the prime time, the ‘sweet spot’ in selling. After that, the potential buyers wonder what’s wrong with the property, and wonder why it is still on the market. Buyers may assume the worst and never set foot in an older listing.)
5. Who is the prime buyer for my property?
(This is a clue as to your agent’s awareness of what type of buyers to target when marketing the house. This will also aid you in staging / preparing the property, placing it in the best possible light to potential buyers.)
6. How long have you been doing this? What led you to real estate?
(Longevity in the business is not necessarily an indication as to effectiveness. Some long-time agents are just tired. While s/he answers, listen carefully to your gut feeling. The smoothest talking, sweetest personalities are not necessarily the best agents. Listen for authenticity and sincerity.)
7. What is your track record? Average DOM (days on market)? How many closed listings have you had in the past 6 months? Do you specialize in a particular neighborhood?
(In other words is this person a mover & shaker, a real go-getter who will help you sell your home for top dollar in the timeliest fashion? Or will they put the sign up and just hope for the best? Will they list at a high, wished-for price, then chase the market down by dropping $10K every 30 days? This is YOUR money we’re talking about here.)
8. Do you believe in staging the house prior to listing?
(Be cautious of those who want to list the house first, then think about making it look its best later. Timing is everything! Here’s another way of putting it – do you wear your scruffy knock-around jeans on a first date? Or do dress your best to make that all-important first impression? Same principle applies.)
Alana’s Aside: When it comes to preparing your place to look its best, I do in-person as well as virtual staging consultations. I offer a ‘walk and talk’ session, as well as more detailed floor plans and to-do check lists. If you need a professional’s eye, email me at Alana@AlanaLight.com to set up an appointment. For before/ after photos of past staging projects see www.AlanaLight.com/staging. Be sure to sign up for the next staging your home for sale workshop at www.AlanaLight.com/events. Remember, the best time to prepare and stage the property is PRIOR to listing.
Now, back to the questions for your potential listing agent...
9. Do you take your own photos, or do you hire a professional photographer?
(Amateurish photographs simply will not do! 92% of buyers look online prior to viewing a property in person. These photographs absolutely must be the best quality possible.)
10. Do you create full color brochures / flyers?
(It’s nice to have something on the entry table or kitchen counter for buyers to take with them. Full color brochures are far more professional than just the single sheet copies on the for sale sign outside. Mostly curious neighbors typically take those anyway. You want buyers who’ve viewed the property in person to have something in their hands when they leave so they remember your listing.)
11. When doing the online video, do you do the fishbowl type video? Or something different?
(Successful, forward-thinking realtors have been incorporating a drone fly-over type video that is compelling. I’ve also seen exceptional videos done with edited stills, incorporating school / community photos, with appropriate music background. Here’s where you separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’ in your selection process. No video suggested? Next candidate, please.)
12. **In addition to listing on the MLS, what else will you do to market the property?**
(Here is where you ascertain how sharp your potential listing agent is or is not. Will they list across all online venues, not just their agency’s website but also Zillow, Trulia, Home Finder, Realtor.com, etc.? Do they have a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram following? Will your property be advertised in any trade magazines? Wall Street Journal? Family publications?
Does s/he suggest a theme? “Golf course living at its finest”, “A place to grow your family”, “Perfect move-up home for your family”, and so forth. What is their marketing idea for your property? Listen carefully to their answer. Some agents might suggest including something extra in a very slow market, such as a pair of airline tickets for the buyers, or professional house cleaning service upon close of sale, or including the golf cart in a gated community, or including a month of gardening services, and so on. It’s not essential, but it give you a clue as to their savvy. If they only suggest these sort of things long after the property has been listed, it’s too late. You want someone who has a solid marketing plan from day 1.)
13. Will I be working with you directly, or with a staff member?
(Do you sign the contract with the agent and then not hear from him/her again? How sharp is his/her staff? Does s/he have high turnover with staff? Or have they been a team for a long time? Do you feel comfortable with this arrangement?)
14. What is your typical response time when I have a question?
(San Diego County's #1 agent always, always called or emailed within 3 hours during normal business hours. And that was BEFORE cell phones! If your potential listing agent says they’ll get back to you in a day or two, that’s not a good sign.)
15. How important is the realtors’ caravan? What do you do to make my property stand out on that tour?
(When first listed, your property should be included on the very next realtors’ caravan. Here again, the best agents will have some sort of marketing strategy to help your property be memorable among buyers’ agents. One advertised to other agents by sending a video inviting them to the “Ooh, La La property”, and completed the experience with croissants & European coffee at the realtors’ caravan event. You are looking for that super realtor that will give your property the maximum exposure to buyers’ agents, in the timeliest manner.)
16. Do you put in automatic price reductions in the contract?
(If so, why??? Do they not believe you will sell at the listed price? Red flag. I walked away from an agent who suggested this, and the next agent sold the property in 14 days at full price, in a slow market!)
17. When showing my property to potential buyers, what do you recommend?
(Do they suggest you leave? Remove the pets for showings? Their attention to the little details tell you everything. For more help and suggestions when showing, please contact me at Santa.Fe.Alana@gmail.com and ask for “It’s Not Forever” checklist.)
18. How effective are open houses in your experience? Who staffs the open house? What kind of follow-up do you do?
(Granted, open houses are often for the benefit of the agent trolling for more business. But if your potential listing agent has had success with using open houses, ask questions. One agent sent her tee-shirt-clad 20-something year old son to staff her open houses! Another agent would sub-out more junior agents to do the open house duty. Those that do not follow up with open house attendees the next day or so, miss a valuable opportunity to unite you with a buyer. Time is of the essence.)
19. References: ask to speak to this agent’s past 3-4 sellers. Also, ask to speak to their preferred lenders, and title companies.
(Ask similar questions of the agent’s previous sellers, and see if there is consistency in their experiences. Would they use this agent again? How long was the property on the market before you accepted an offer? Also, talk to professionals (lenders / title company employees) who work with agents all the time. They know who the ‘top of the top’ is, and who does the minimum amount of work. I have been treated like absolute royalty when the lender and title company found out who my Realtor was. Very telling.)
20. Do you have any guarantee?
(i.e. the excellent Phoenix realtor’s 67 day guarantee. www.AndrewRobb.com.)
21. Do you specialize in being a sellers’ agent or buyers’ agent?
(Be very wary of those who claim to do both equally well! It’s very, very rare to find an exceptional agent who does both with equal professionalism. Some agents are much better at representing buyers than sellers, and vice versa. I know very personable Realtors who let their listings languish on the market for months, because they are better buyer's agents, than seller's agents. Also, just because this agent may have helped you buy the property does NOT mean s/he will be the right one to sell it for you! This is a business transaction first and foremost.)
22. How do you feel about double representation (dual agency)?
(In some states representing both buyer and seller in the same transaction is legal, but is a highly questionable practice in my own experience. S/he needs to have YOUR highest good in mind.)
23. How do you feel about seller’s disclosures?
(In some areas, sellers may wave any disclosures – a red flag for the potential buyers. This is another clue as to your agent’s integrity.)
24. How have you handled conflicts in the past?
(I know, I know. This all sounds like a job interview, and it *IS* a job interview! You’re hiring someone to handle a very large financial transaction for you.)
25. What kind of ‘out’ do I have as the seller, if this isn’t working?
(Consider having an 'escape clause' for yourself in the contract, if the agent isn’t meeting your expectations. I’ve learned from experience that the best agents are more than willing to make sure it’s a win-win for both seller AND agent.)
This is no longer your ‘home sweet home’. This is a business transaction that will enable you to move forward with your life’s goals. Be sure to put careful thought, consideration and prayer into this very important listing agent selection process.
Best of luck, and happy selling.