Choosing a Real Estate Agent or Realtor®

Key questions to ask a listing agent

Nearly 9 out of 10 homes are sold with the help of a real estate agent or Realtor®. If you're ready to sell your home and you've decided the do-it-yourself route isn't for you, you'll want to find a real estate agent who can meet your needs. Whether you have an agent in mind or want to interview a few different real estate agents, these questions can be helpful in making sure it's the right fit.

  1. What credentials do you have?
    Some real estate agents earn CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) credential, which means they've completed extra training on residential real estate deals. Others earn a SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) designation, giving them additional knowledge on how to help buyers and sellers who are 50+. If a real estate agent is a member of the National Association of Realtors, they are called a Realtor, and they have agreed to adhere to a code of ethics that is meant to protect clients, the public and other real estate agents.
  2. How would you price this house?
    This can be a very telling response. Beware of an extreme number, especially if it is a high estimate. The real estate agent may be trying to gain your business with an attractive estimate, but the market just doesn't support it. Pricing should align with the prices of other similar properties in the area.
  3. Will you provide a list of the last six months of your listings and sales?
    Compare the listing prices with the final sales prices to determine what percentage of homes sold at the original listing price and what percentage of the homes were discounted. Look at the discounts that were given to determine accuracy of the real estate agent's pricing.
  4. What other houses are for sale nearby and how does my house compare?
    This will give you an indication of how well they know your neighborhood. Ideally, you'll want to find a real estate agent who knows the neighborhood well and can share its high points with prospective buyers.
  5. How will you promote this house?
    If a Realtor talks about selling a house using only newspaper ads or open houses, you may want to interview other listing agents. The majority of real estate agents today will use a mix of marketing tools, including web listings, social media, direct communication with buyers who fit the profile of your home and more. While no one tool can guarantee a sale, a well-defined approach and mix of tools can increase the likelihood a variety of buyers will see the listing. Finally, ask whether the agent funds promotion from his or her own budget or has company funds to match.
  6. How accessible are you right now?
    A real estate agent who is juggling many listings but has an effective assistant will provide some sellers with a great customer experience. However, if you're looking for someone who can provide direct counsel on a day-to-day basis, you may want to find a real estate agent who is focused more exclusively on your listing.
  7. May I talk with your 10 most recent customers? What would you expect them to say about their work with you?
    A real estate agent should be able to provide you with a list of recent customers and give you an honest evaluation of their experience. If he or she describes a dissatisfied client's experience openly and honestly, ask follow-up questions to assess what the agent has learned from the experience and how he or she would handle a similar situation differently.
  8. Will you require me to stay with you if I am dissatisfied?
    Ask the agent about terms of the contract. Some agents may be willing to negotiate an 'out' if you are dissatisfied with their performance. At a minimum, if something goes wrong, you will be prepared.

Beyond asking these questions, you can do some additional homework to confirm what the Realtor has told you. Check your state real estate licensing agency to verify the credentials and licensing the agent has provided. Some states also include disciplinary actions against agents on their websites.

Negotiate the listing agent's commission after you've found an agent who will be a good fit. An extra 1-2% in listing fees may be well worth it if the agent can sell your house without deeply discounting it.

With your homework complete, you can turn your attention to the final touches needed to get your home ready to sell. Your real estate agent will take it from there. Happy listing!