How to Vet a Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling a home is a huge financial transaction — one of the biggest you’ll make in your lifetime. It can also be one of the most complicated transactions you tackle. That’s why it can be so beneficial to work with a professional real estate agent. But not all agents are created equal. That’s why, like any large or important purchase you make, you should shop around. These are the questions you should ask when interviewing agents to find the one that’s right for you.

How long have you been an agent?

Agents that have experience are going to be better at anticipating potential problems and will have tried-and-true negotiating skills. But don’t just ask how long they’ve been an agent. Ask them how long they have been working as a full-time agent in your market. Working with someone who has established relationships and expert knowledge of your community will set you up for success.

How many homes do you close a year?

You want to choose an agent who has a proven track record of closing on homes. Look for someone who has closed more homes than the majority of agents in your area. In most places, that’s about 35 closings a year (representing both buyers and sellers).

What sets you apart from other agents?

Agents who stay current on the market will be dedicated to their ongoing education. That means they’ll likely have certifications and credentials. Ones to look for include being a REALTOR, a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR), an Accredited Seller Representative (SRS), or a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES).

What’s your commission fee?

Sellers usually foot the bill for commissions, so this is an important question to ask if you’re going to list. The typical commission rate for agents is about six percent of the purchase price, which is split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.

How will we communicate?

Real estate transactions can happen quickly, and in some markets you need an agent who is very responsive. Find out how they prefer to communicate and whether or not they’ll be your primary point of contact. Many agents work with a support staff, so find out who you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

Can you provide me with a reference?

Any good agent will have many happy past clients who are willing to speak on their behalf. A good agent will have several people you can contact to get the scoop on what it’s like to work with them. Contact a few of these references before making your final decision.

Will we sign a contract?

Most agents will have you sign an exclusive contract that is good for a specified amount of time. Ask if you’re able to cancel the contract if you aren’t happy with the service you’re getting. And be cautious of an agent who makes it hard for you to get out of the contract, but easy for them. Be aware that some contracts may include a termination fee should you cancel before closing.

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