I’ve put together a personal list of questions to ask a realtor, to best evaluate potential real estate agents when selling your home.

10 Questions to ask your realtor

Selling your home shouldn’t be taken lightly. Of course, you want the best and most qualified realtor for the job. Most diligent home sellers do their research and interview multiple Realtors when searching for an agent to hire.

This list comes from my perspective as an experienced Vancouver residential realtor. These are questions which will decisively reveal essential qualities your realtor should have. Only an experienced, well-prepared agent with local marketing knowledge, will be able to answer these questions.

WHY HAVE AN ORGANIZED LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR REALTOR WHEN SELLING YOUR HOME?

Having a list of questions will help you control the interview process, keep you organized and the meeting on task. Your approach to hiring the best real estate agent should be methodical and consistent. By asking the same questions to each agent will set the stage for a balanced evaluation. These questions to ask your realtor when selling your home, will help you efficiently weed out the agents not suitable to market your property.

OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHILE INTERVIEWING A REALTOR?

Not everything about your potential Realtor can be evaluated by listening to the answers to your questions. There are other factors which should be considered. First and most important, did the real estate agent request a tour of your home upon arriving? An experienced realtor will want to learn everything about your home. They will observe and ask a lot of questions. A good realtor wants to understand value and know more about the house they will be selling. Many of my suggested questions will test an agent’s ability to evaluate your home.

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The real estate agent you hire will be the face of your transaction, interacting with homebuyers and other realtors. Are they presentable? Are they calm, or do they get rattled by your questions. Are they likeable and bring good energy? Does the agent communicate clearly? Does the agent remove their shoes at the door? These are details you will want to observe.

Keep in mind, the realtor you hire will be your contact throughout your sale, which could be months. Do you find them to be friendly and easy to get-a-long with? These factors can make the process more enjoyable. It’s better to work with someone you like, right!

QUESTIONS FOR YOUR REALTOR

1) What are your credentials?

Ask the realtor to explain their credentials. I like this one because it’s an open-ended question. These types of questions will challenge the person to organize their thoughts and draw upon multiple sources for their credentials. Hopefully they will tell you about the number of years in the industry, volume of sales, past education, designations, and unique real estate experience.

I would consider a successful answer to include all of the above topics I’ve mentioned. The answer should not be one dimensional. Often real estate agents will provide the number of years selling real estate as experience. This does not tell the full story.

As an example, if you were to research how many homes the average realtor sells in a year, it’s a low number, 5 or less. You could be interviewing an agent who has been licensed for 6 years and sells 80 homes a year. This particular agent would have far more experience than an agent who sells 3 homes a year but has been licensed for 20 years. I’m sure you get my point.

2) If I hire you as my realtor, who will be hosting the open houses and showings? Will it be you or someone from your team? Also, who will I communicate with for updates?

You are really asking about their team structure. There are solo agents or teams. There are pros and cons to each. Let me detail a few concepts to observe. Keep in mind these are generalizations. Of the 10 questions to ask your realtor when selling your home, this one takes some explanation.

Before I get into the details, I’d like to explain our team structure, which has successfully worked for us as top East Vancouver realtors. Our structure is best for the client. We can consistently provide exceptional customer service, adapt to changing workloads, and always deliver the highest quality real estate marketing.

Over the years we’ve tried all kinds of team structures, including a larger team with dedicated buyer and property showing agents. Ultimately, our hybrid structure has worked best. Jacky and I are the team leaders who communicate directly with you the seller, potential buyers/realtors, and handle showings & open houses. We have office staff and licensed agents assisting, which allows us to focus on the core business. During busy times, they can help with open houses, or buyer tours. If you’re interested in learning more about us, feel free to reach out.

Teams

Pros – Larger teams can be more flexible in terms of schedules and booking showings. Teams are often more organized and procedural. Most often there’s a dedicated person for completing documentation, booking showings/providing updates, and members responsible for ensuring access to properties.

Cons – If you’re interviewing a real estate agent who is part of a larger team, you’re likely interviewing the more experienced team leader. It’s possible you may not speak to them again once the contract is signed.

Solo agent/smaller groups

Pros – When you’re dealing with a smaller real estate team or solo agent, you know exactly who you are doing business with. You also know who is handling all the aspects of your home sale. They answer the phone, show your property, communicate with buyers and oversee the marketing process. Solo agents learn the important features of your home. Potential buyers will recognize when they’re speaking with someone who has profound knowledge of your home & neighbourhood.

Cons – Solo agents are likely to become overwhelmed during busier periods, they are often less flexible. At the end of the day, they’re handling all aspects of their business and juggling different skillsets. You as a home seller are relying on one person. If they go on holidays or have a life event, this could compromise your sale. If you’re going to hire a solo agent, it’s important to ensure they have the time for you.

3) How often do you sell homes in my neighbourhood? can you tell me what elementary school is within our catchment and what’s a fantastic café in the area?

You would be surprised how often I notice an out-of-area real estate agent marketing a home in East Vancouver. It’s baffling when a realtor knows nothing about the neighbourhood, or even city. Buyer confidence is lost which leads to a host of issues.

Asking the agent this question will reveal if they truly know your community. An agent who sells in your area will quickly be able to rattle-off recent sales. If they spend time in your neighbourhood, at the very least, they will know the closest coffee shop, grocery store and local schools. You can expect potential buyers to ask these basic questions, right?

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4) What features of my home are most enticing to potential homebuyers? Who would be the target market for my home?

This is one of the most important questions within the list of questions to ask your realtor. Another open-ended question which will test many qualities your realtor should have. If a potential realtor is not capable of recognizing the best features of your home, it’s an instant failure.

Let me explain better why this is an important question to ask your realtor. This question will reveal if the agent has done their research, understands the local market and is familiar with your competition. While you were touring the agent around your home, they were already comparing your home to others in the area, and actively thinking how best to market your property. They were taking a mental note of specific features most appealing to the target market.

The real estate agent has an opportunity to quickly free-style a presentation of your homes’ standout features. As with the other open-ended questions, you can judge the agent’s communication skills too.

5) Are there foreseeable challenges or objections buyers may have about my home or location? How do you plan on handling these objections?

Another open-ended question, like the previous one will test your agent’s skill level. No home is perfect. First of all, an experienced realtor should be able to quickly identify a home’s shortcomings. The agent must understand the local market and objectively compare your home to the competition in the area.

Second, the agent should be able to clearly communicate what objections they will face while selling your home. There will be objections with every home and a good agent will know what they are. You want to work with someone who will tell you the truth and not sugar coat the message.

Lastly, every problem should come with a solution. Or at the very least, a pragmatic approach to the foreseeable objections. I can give you an example which will help explain this better.

Example: Let’s say we were about to list a home in a neighbourhood where most of the homes have garages for their cars, but the specific property only has a carport. It should be obvious to the agent this will come up as one of the major objections. It’s more about how you prepare for this objection. It would become more important to highlight other features or renovations which would communicate value. We would also prepare quotes from contractors to convert the garage into an enclosed garage. For potential buyers who really want a garage, their concerns would be alleviated.

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6) What is your suggested listing price for my home? Can you explain how you derive value?

This is an excellent question to ask your realtor when selling your home. After touring your home, an agent actively selling real estate in your community should be able to tell you what your home is worth. The research will confirm what the agent already knows. The data from their research is also used by the realtor to explain value, based on similar sales or active properties in your neighbourhood. These reports are often referred to as a ‘comparative market analysis’.

In most cases, there will be similar properties sold which the agent can use to compare to yours. What if there’s limited data to use? An experienced real estate agent can compare your home against other properties with less, or more features, or slightly different property types, but value adjustments need to be made. Or the agent may use a different analysis such as ‘replacement cost’.  In short, this is when the agent calculates the land value, and additionally determines the cost of replacing the home itself.

At the end of the day, it’s important the realtor tells you a listing price and presents their analysis. It’s not a good sign if the agent needs to go home and do more research before telling you a listing price. This would indicate they don’t know real estate values in your neighbourhood. A competent agent should also communicate value using some type of analysis approach.

A topic which should also come up is ‘pricing strategy’.  To quickly break it down, there are 3 ways to price, ‘above market’, is when the listing price is higher than actual value, leaving room for negotiation, often used when a property is difficult to value/or unique, the market is slower and there’s no rush to sell. You can price ‘at market’ which is the most common and offers a predictable outcome. The third, pricing ‘below market’ is used to generate more interest and often multiple offers. Below market pricing is used when the property appeals to a wide market, presents well, and the owner wants to sell quickly, often with specific terms, such as pre-determined closing dates.

Pricing strategy should match your real estate goals. Your marketing strategy will also need to be adjusted based on the pricing strategy you choose.

7) Can you quickly explain how you plan to market my home? What would be your marketing strategy?

It’s important to hear how your potential realtor will market your home. There should be a smart plan in place to market your property and bring buyers through the door. The agent should be able to explain how they plan to promote the best features of your home and connect with your target market.

How will the realtor ensure your home is ready for media? If needed, their marketing plan ought to include coordinating small fixes, decluttering, landscaping, cleaning and possibly home staging. Their strategy should also include a plan to promote your home online, including elements such as professional photography, videography, drone footage and floor plans.

You might want to inquire how the agent plans to manage the showings. In my opinion, this is where many real estate agents fall short when promoting their listings, not designing a schedule for access into their marketing, leading to last minute showings, overly busy open houses, or inquiries for access not receiving a response. Not a good impression for potential buyers. Take note of agents who talk about blocking times for showings and open houses.

8) How much is your commission? Can you explain your fees?

You have to know how much commission you’re paying and how the funds are distributed. We’ve created a more detailed article related to realtor commission in bc, if you’d like to read more.

There are different kinds of fee structures, including discount brokerages, flat fee, along with complete service structures. In BC there is no fixed commission, and each realtor may charge a different rate. It’s important to know the split, how much the buyer agent will receive, it’s fair to say buyer agent compensation should meet the level of what’s expected within the industry. If the agent you’re interviewing reduces their commission, or works for a discount brokerage, understand where the discount if coming from, the buyer agent, seller agent or both? These details can impact your marketing efforts.

Although there’s many different fee structures, in my opinion, you get what you pay for. Similar to purchasing any other service or product, you pay less and it’s likely you’re receiving a less featured service or product. Maybe this is what you want, but you need to understand what’s being offered.

Realtor commission interview question

9) What happens if I’m not satisfied with your services & marketing?

Keep in mind you will sign a contract with the realtor you choose, for a determined period (our real estate board will not accept a contract less than 60 days). What happens if you are not happy with your real estate agent’s performance, will they let you out of the contract?

If the agent states they’re willing to let you out of the contract if you’re not satisfied, there are more details to inquire about. There 2 ways to cancel an agreement, a ‘cancellation of a listing contract’ & ‘unconditional release’. If you receive a cancellation, you could be restricted from moving hiring another agent until the expiry of the original contract. Whereas an unconditional release is a full cancellation with no remaining conditions.

In my opinion, most professional agents who have experience marketing real estate will be willing to provide an unconditional release if you’re not happy with their services. They’re confident in the real estate services they offer.

10) How are you different from other real estate agents and why should we hire you?

Every successful realtor is exceptional at something. Just like many other industries, the 80/20 rule is true in real estate, 20% of the agents do 80% of the business. Hopefully you’re interviewing a realtor who makes up the 20%. This is their opportunity to tell you what they’re doing differently and what makes them special!

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