What Questions Should You Ask Your Real Estate Agent?

“In a calm sea, every man is a pilot”.

If ever there was a time when experience in real estate matters, it is now. That adage  is a great analogy as success during the Atlanta real estate boom required only that an agent simply fog a mirror to sell a house. Not so in this market. Home buyers or home sellers that fail to aggressively qualify their agent will have issues and those issues are likely to be costly and complicated. Things have become exceptionally convoluted and having a “friend in the business” shouldn’t be a qualifying factor when selecting your representation. So what questions should you ask your real estate agent?

I listed a home for sale in Alpharetta, GA a few years ago and competed with four other agents. I didn’t get the listing; the client selected a discount firm that hired rookie agents. These agents wrapped themselves in the company “banner” as their experience, classic agent tactic. After six months in a robust market, the home in Alpharetta hadn’t sold and I was called to take the listing. We sold that Alpharetta home, helped them purchase a home in Roswell and have subsequently helped them move into a great home in Sandy Springs. That last move was completed in this lousy market. Those folks made a simple mistake – they didn’t properly research their agent.

As I always have, I suggest any client ask direct questions to agents and demand direct answers. Note – I’m suggesting that BOTH buyers and sellers do this. Screening prospective agents is fairly easy, and it should be conducted with a business mentality – in short; “what can you do for me and why should I hire you”? A five minute conversation is ample time with these questions in the mix:

1. Are you a full time real estate agent?
The correct answer is yes. If they’re not, will they be available when you need them? The idea that some agents return calls after 6 the next day is ludicrous; the responsibility of handling the client’s needs mandates availability.

2. How long have you been actively selling real estate and for whom?
Anyone with less than 2 full time years should be eliminated, that is just not enough time to fully grasp a market like this. A recognized firm is desired as they will typically have a full complement of resources available.

3. What are your personal production levels over the last three years?
To be considered a “successful” real estate agent, your choice should have at least $2 million of annual sales volume. That is about 8-10 transactions per year.

4. Verify the figure you are provided and request a copy of their Personal Production Sheet report.
Many real estate agents will give company stats, not personal stats. This is especially true on listing appointments. Request a copy of their production; it’s available off the MLS website in seconds.

5. Is your managing real estate broker on site at your office and responsible for it?
Many discount firms have “broker pools” – not specific managing brokers that guide agents. Brokers that are responsible for agents and production tend to have more interest in their agent’s success.

6. Please provide five references over the last year that I can call.
This will verify things with past clients and by keeping the date within a year; it will demonstrate experience in the current market.

7. Please provide a copy of your resume.
Every real estate agent will claim to be #1 at something, and that’s great; it’s also the reason to zero in only on the agent’s personal production as there’s no debating that. Every agent likely has an alphabet of nonsensical designations; most are obtained by writing a check. Note as well the hype surrounding “green” and “short sale” designations; more meaningless alphabet soup.

These are reasonable, direct questions; others can be added as needed. This type of prescreening should be completed ahead of any listing appointments or before meaningful meetings begin, buyers should also run this same direct line of questioning. Obviously there are a plethora of additional, more specific questions depending on the circumstances, but a few minutes spent ahead of time will save time and money down the road.

Hey, buying or selling a home in this market can be very difficult, might as well have a little fun! See more about real estate agent nonsense here