Working with a professional real estate agent can make buying or selling a home easier. After all, they are likely to be well versed in the ins and outs of your area, how to best negotiate in the current market, and how to access any other resources (say, a home inspector) that you may need.
While there may be some agents you hit it off with personally, this isn’t a friendship you’re pursuing but an important business relationship. It’s a collaboration that could impact both your finances as well as your stress level.
No matter which side of a real estate transaction you’re on (buying or selling), it can be wise to have the right professional in your corner. Ninety-two percent of homes sold in the U.S.in 2021 involved an agent’s or a broker’s services.
If you’re in the hunt for an agent, it’s important to know what to ask to identify the right match. Read on to learn questions to ask, whether you’re buying or selling a property — or doing both at once. (This is a lengthy list of interview questions for real estate, so pick and choose the questions that resonate the most.)
How to Interview a Realtor
First, a bit about terminology: A Realtor® belongs to the National Association of Realtors® (or NAR), composed of nearly 1.6 million members. Not all real estate agents are Realtors, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll sometimes use the two terms interchangeably.
First, know that there are different options for interviewing Realtors. You could schedule an interview:
• Over the phone
• In person
• Virtually via Zoom or Skype.
You might aim to interview at least three agents for comparison’s sake, though you may choose to interview more or fewer.
Create a list of interview questions beforehand to help you stay on track. And it may help to group your questions together so that by the time the interview is over, you understand:
• What the agent’s personality and character are like: Is this person supportive and positive? Do they sound rushed and distracted?
• What kind of services they offer and what experience they bring to the table.
• How much you’ll pay for their help.
You’ll learn about how to do this in more depth as you read on.
Recommended: Tips When Shopping for a Mortgage
What to Ask About a Realtor’s Background
Any real estate agent you choose to work with should have the professional qualifications you’re looking for. But it’s also important to get a sense of who they are as an individual to avoid personality clashes. Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate an agent who might help you buy or sell a home.
1. How Long Have You Been a Realtor?
It helps to understand how long an agent you’re considering working with has been buying or selling homes. The median real estate experience of all Realtors is eight years, according to NAR.
Working with an agent who’s newer to the profession isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But one who’s more experienced may be more adept at handling any challenges that arise when buying or selling a home.
2. How Well Do You Know the Local Market?
A Realtor who knows a particular area or market well can offer an advantage when buying or selling. Ideally, you should work with an agent who understands the local market and what trends drive it.
The more informed they are, the better equipped they are to do things like comparative market analysis, which can give you a sense of how home prices in the area are trending. They will also likely know details like, say, which parts of town are more prone to flooding than others.
3. How Many Clients Do You Work With at One Time?
The answer can give you an idea of how much time an agent will be able to dedicate to working with you. Especially if you ask the follow-up question, “And how many clients do you currently have?”
4. Do You Work Alone or as Part of a Team?
Keep in mind that you may not be working with your Realtor alone to finalize the purchase or sale of a home. Agents may have a team of individuals they work with, including office managers, personal assistants, or marketing directors, who may reach out to you during the process.
Asking who else you may be connected with can help you avoid surprises if you decide to enter into a working relationship with a particular agent.
5. How Will We Communicate and How Often?
Being able to communicate with an agent is important to keep the process moving.
As with many realms in our digital era, plenty of Realtors email and text to keep in touch with clients. If you’re the kind of person who prefers phone calls or in-person meetings, it’s good to identify communication styles up front and make sure they are in sync.
6. Do You Specialize in Buying or Selling?
Some Realtors may choose to work exclusively with buyers, while others work only with sellers. And some can act as dual agents, representing both the buyer and seller in the same transaction. Dual agency is rare, and it’s illegal in several states. A dual agent can’t take sides or give advice.
The answer to this question will help you get a better idea of whether the agent is attuned to your side of a real estate transaction. Ideally, you want someone who is passionate about your deal, whether that’s finding the perfect house with a picket fence or selling the condo you’ve outgrown.
Recommended: Preparing to Buy a House in 8 Simple Steps
7. How Many Transactions Did You Close Last Year?
Asking this question can give you an idea of an agent’s overall success rate and the volume of transactions they handle.
The median number of residential transactions Realtors took part in per year is 12. If you’re interviewing agents with closings well below that number, it could be a sign that they aren’t always successful in closing deals. If their number is much higher, it could mean they are super busy and you might not get as much attention as with another agent.
8. How Long Does It Normally Take You to Close a Deal?
Once the seller and the buyer of a property have signed their purchase agreement, closing on a home can take anywhere from a week (for an all-cash offer) to a couple of months (for those involving a mortgage) to close. The average time to close on a purchase when a home loan is needed is 50 days, according to the loan software firm ICE Mortgage Technology.
Asking a Realtor what their average closing time is can give you an idea of how efficiently and diligently they work to satisfy their clients.
If their average closing time is closer to four or six months, for example, that could be a red flag, though some deals do wind up being more complicated than others.
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
9. What Are the Terms of Your Contract?
Working with a Realtor means entering into a contract, and it’s important to know what that contract says. These documents may be more common when you work with a broker to sell a home, but there are also buyer’s agreements.
These ensure that if they invest the time scanning the market for you, scheduling walk-throughs, and negotiating on your behalf, you won’t then complete the deal with, say, a relative of yours who just got their real-estate license.
When you are selling a house, you’ll sign a document agreeing that the agent will handle the sale. Once you sign a contract you’re typically locked in to working with them unless they agree to release you.
The listing agreement will last for a set period, such as three or six months. From your perspective, shorter may be better so that you’re not trapped if you don’t like the agent’s services.
10. What Fees Do You Charge?
Closely connected to contracts is the topic of money. How does it change hands? What are you liable for? Real estate agents typically work on commission, meaning they only get paid when they close a deal. What you’ll pay and when depends on whether you’re buying or selling a home.
If you’re the buyer in a transaction, the seller is usually responsible for paying commission fees to both their agent and yours. If you’re selling a home, you’d cover the agent’s fees, which would be deducted from the proceeds of the home sale.
The typical commission is 5% to 6% of the home’s sale price, split evenly between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. So a $250,000 home, for example, would yield $12,500 to $15,000 in commissions.
Questions to Ask a Realtor When You Are Selling
If you’re selling your home, here are some questions to ask to help ensure that you partner with the right agent.
11. What’s Your Typical Marketing Strategy?
A Realtor should have a clear plan for listing and marketing your home in a way that produces the greatest odds of success in selling it quickly and at your desired price point. Let the agent you are interviewing tell you about their strategy and the results it yields.
For instance, does the Realtor believe in listing at a low price in the hopes of starting a bidding war? If so, what kinds of prices has this achieved? Where will your listing be posted? Will videos be created? Will there be an open house?
These kinds of questions can help you see if you are impressed by and aligned with how a Realtor likes to market homes.
12. Will You Handle Staging and Prep Work?
If you’re selling a home, staging it could help influence buyers’ perceptions of the property and potentially net you a higher sale price.
Staging is something you can do yourself, but your Realtor may have a staging company they work with to get the job done.
Asking about staging or small cosmetic updates, such as painting, can help you figure out what you’ll be responsible for to get your home ready for the market. There’s a price tag attached to all improvements, so you’ll want to know the numbers to be better prepared.
13. How Do You Handle Viewings?
The use of digital tools such as virtual tours have made properties more accessible to more buyers. One recent Zillow survey found that almost 40% of Millenials would be comfortable buying a home online vs. in person.
See if your agent plans to create a virtual tour, but you also want to be prepared for the majority of buyers who want to visit in person. Ask Realtors how many viewings they typically schedule in a day or a week, how often open houses will be scheduled, and how they’ll be marketed.
Questions to Ask a Realtor When You Are Buying
Now you’ve learned the questions to ask a Realtor when selling. How about the other side of the deal? Whether you’re shopping for a starter home or trading up, here are a couple of important questions to ask a potential real estate agent when buying a house.
14. What Happens When I’m Ready to Make an Offer?
If you’re a buyer, agents should be able to walk you through how this process works, what to do if the seller makes a counteroffer, and what you’ll need to do next if your offer is accepted. You also want to check if they have experience with successfully navigating bidding wars, which can happen in hot markets and with well-priced properties.
Also check that they can advise you on how much earnest money you might need to pay and how to find a good, affordable home inspector, as these are important aspects of the deal.
Recommended: How to Buy a House in 7 Steps
15. Will You Help Me With Getting a Mortgage?
This question will shed more light on a prospective agent’s network and experience. Agents may be able to offer recommendations for mortgage lenders. They may also be willing to communicate with your lender if there are questions about the property or the offer during underwriting.
You’re not obligated to use your Realtor’s recommended lender. In fact, it’s helpful to compare mortgage loan terms and interest rates from multiple lenders to find the option that best fits your needs.
Due diligence in the search for the right real estate agent may mean interviewing a few of them and not automatically going with your mom’s or co-worker’s agent friend. It’s important to know how to interview a Realtor and which questions to ask, so you can pair up with the best possible professional as you navigate this major transaction.
If you’re a buyer, once you’ve found an agent, you can turn your attention to getting prequalified for a home loan, finding a property, and then obtaining the mortgage. At that stage, check out what SoFi’slow rate mortgage loans offer. They have competitive fixed-interest rates and are available to qualifying first-time homebuyers with as little as 3% down. And SoFi now offers loans on investment properties.
Find out your best rate with SoFi.
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.