Key takeaways

  • It’s important to interview multiple real estate agents before making a decision on who to work with.
  • Topics to ask about during the interview include the agent’s experience, communication style and availability.
  • Both buyers and sellers should ask specific questions related to their needs, such as marketing strategies for sellers and bidding war strategies for buyers.

Buying or selling a home is one of the most financially significant transactions of most people’s lives. And taking this step amid today’s complex, evolving real estate market is no small matter.

A great real estate agent can make the process less daunting. But selecting an agent to work with can be challenging — after all, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has more than 1.5 million members. With so many professionals vying for your business, how do you figure out which agent will be the best fit for you?

It’s a good idea to interview multiple candidates — three at a minimum — before making a decision about which real estate agent you’ll work with. Here are 10 questions to ask a real estate agent in an interview, to help you find the perfect match for your needs.

How to interview a Realtor in 10 questions

Whether you’re buying a home or selling one, there is some general information that you’ll want to know about each candidate you’re considering.

Both buyers and sellers

These three questions will help you decide whether an agent has the professional expertise, local market knowledge and communication skills you’ll need in a partner on your real estate journey.

1. How long have you been in business?

“When you’re placing what is most likely your largest investment in the hands of a professional, it’s important to understand their level of experience in the industry,” says Jen Horner, an agent with Masters Utah Real Estate in Salt Lake City and Park City. “You’re looking for signs that the Realtor knows the market well and will protect you and your money throughout the transaction.”

As part of this question, ask for sales data to back up the candidate’s recent transactions, and ask them to explain the trends they’re seeing in the market. These might include such details as supply and demand, the number of days properties are staying on market and what contractual terms are winning deals from both a buyer and seller perspective, says Horner.

2. How will you communicate with me, and how often?

It’s important for you and your agent to be on the same page from the start regarding the type and frequency of their updates. For example, if you prefer speaking on the phone, you probably won’t be happy with someone who communicates exclusively via text.

“Whether buying or selling, you want to feel their level of respect and commitment to you as a client from the moment you sign with them,” Horner says. “You want them to understand your expectations and the mode of communication you prefer, so that this is not being determined on the fly.”

3. Are you a full-time agent?

As with many types of jobs, some agents work in real estate as their full-time career, while some are part-timers. “I would always recommend working with a full-time agent whose sole focus and attention is on real estate, market conditions and trends — all of which are fluid dynamics that can shift weekly,” says Katie Severance, a Realtor with Douglas Elliman in Palm Beach, Florida, and the author of “The Brilliant Home Buyer.” A pro who thinks about real estate 100 percent of the time can better help you understand things like whether it’s the right time to buy and how much house you can afford in your area.

Sellers

Most home sellers want an agent who will be able to get them the best price for their property. Here are three questions for smart sellers to ask as they interview.

4. What price would you recommend if I were in a rush to sell, and also if timing were not an issue?

It’s crucial to understand how much your house is worth before entering into the market. “Asking this question shows you what an ambitious pricing strategy might be versus a tighter, more efficient strategy,” says Steven Gottlieb, an agent at Coldwell Banker Warburg in New York City. “It will also show you if the agent is capable of critical thinking and navigating a complicated market.”

Some agents quote potential sellers unrealistic asking prices in order to win the listing, Gottlieb says. Requesting more than one asking price makes it harder to fudge the numbers. You should also ask agents to show you the real estate comps and explain how they arrived at the proposed selling prices for each scenario, he says.

5. What is your marketing strategy?

“A thoughtful marketing game plan that’s documented for review is ideal,” says Horner. “Agents should provide a timeline for your sale based on the current market and a detailed outline of the marketing campaign crafted for your home.”

That plan should spell out whether the agent will offer services like professional photography and staging. “Discuss open houses and private showings — will feedback be shared?” says Horner. She also recommends asking specifically about digital strategy: “What online presence are they offering? Website, online syndication, social media exposure?”

6. How will my home be introduced to other Realtors?

Agents don’t just market their listings to buyers — they also market them to each other. “This is critical,” says Severance. “Not only do agents need advance warning that your home will be coming on the market, but they also need to see it in person — typically in a private, Realtors-only open house — so that they can properly convey enthusiasm for it to their buyers. If they like the home and the price, they will bring buyers in.”

Buyers

Homebuyers have it particularly tough in today’s high-priced, high-interest-rate environment. These four questions buyers should ask will help you hire someone who can find you the right home at the right price.

7. How will you present my offers to sellers?

“Ask to see an example of their offer packet or format,” says Severance. “This is hugely important: You’re not likely to meet the seller in person, so all they will know of you is what is on paper when your offer is presented.”

The agent should put a professional cover letter on your offer package that introduces you and provides a compelling summary of the deal points that make you a desirable buyer, she says.

8. How would you help me navigate a potential bidding war?

Bidding wars are not as common as they once were, but they do still happen, especially in very popular markets. “Discuss with the agent how they will advise you and manage the process if you get involved in a bidding war,” says Severance. “How aggressive should you be in your price and terms? What does a highly competitive offer look like, without going too far?”

9. What is your availability for getting out to showings quickly?

With demand high and inventory low, it’s important to work with a Realtor who is able to move fast. In a competitive market, waiting on an agent whose schedule is too tightly packed can mean losing out to another buyer. “Part of the battle is getting into homes that hit the market quickly, so that you can vie for an offer,” says Horner. “You’re looking for a Realtor who can prioritize your showings.”

10. How many properties should I see before I make an offer on one?

“This will tell you a lot about the agent’s process,” says Severance. Moving quickly is important, but “buying a home should never be rushed,” she says. “It is imperative to see at least several homes before making your first offer. Sometimes a buyer sees the perfect house on the first day, but that’s the exception — and how would you even know it’s perfect if you haven’t seen several homes in the area?”

Next steps

When you’re ready to begin your search for an agent, start by asking friends and family for recommendations. You’ll also want to check out the online presence of Realtors you’re considering, and track down online reviews from previous clients. You can also ask for references. Having a professional at your side who you can easily work with, and who has a proven track record, makes your life easier and your real estate journey more successful.

FAQs

  • It’s a good idea to interview a minimum of three candidates, ideally from different brokerages. Think of it like interviewing a job candidate — you’re looking for the person who’s best suited for the job, and the job is guiding you to a successful real estate transaction.

  • That depends. In most cases, you will be required to sign an exclusivity deal specifying that you will work with only them for a designated period of time and in a specific geographic area. That works to your benefit as well as to theirs — the more they get to know what you want, the better their chances of finding it. But if you are shopping in two different geographic areas, or buying in one area and selling in another, hiring more than one agent may be a necessity.

  • All real estate agents are licensed professionals, but yes, some specialize in helping either buyers or sellers. A buyer’s agent represents a homebuyer in a real estate transaction, helping clients search for and acquire a property that meets their needs and fits their budget. A seller’s agent or listing agent focuses on helping a homeowner to list a property for sale and close a profitable deal.

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