Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Luke Feldbrugge
The difference between the right questions to ask a real estate agent and the wrong questions, can make all the difference in your outcome – whether buying or selling a home. Ideally you are going to be working very closely with this individual throughout the buying or selling process, so good communication will be one of the primary characteristics you will want to foster early in the relationship. One of the best ways to open up the communication channels is to ask them questions, answer their questions and keep everything as clear as possible. Read on for tips about things to discuss with your agent.
As you might guess, there are a lot of questions to ask real estate agents, and many questions you really should ask. We are going to divide them into three sections:
- GENERAL questions to ask real estate agents
- BUYING questions to ask a REALTOR® when buying a house
- SELLING questions to ask a REALTOR® when selling your house
There’s probably a fourth category of questions you should ask a REALTOR® who is helping you on both the buying and selling side, but we think our lists cover that too.
General Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent
Will I be Working with you Directly?
This might not be your first question, but it’s a great question. You will probably spend a lot of time with your REALTOR®, so it’s a good idea to get clear on what circumstances you will be communicating with a potential agent. For example, if you are in a competitive market and you find a home you want to see right away, you want your agent to return your call quickly. That works both ways.
In some cases, you might be working with a team of agents (especially if they are part of a brokerage). Are you comfortable working with a team or would you prefer working one-to-one? Are there cases where you really want your agent to call or email back, but other circumstances where an answer from a team member is sufficient?
Talk these preferences out. At the risk of sounding like a marriage counselor, being clear about the communication patterns and styles in this relationship will be vitally important.
The advantage of a team approach is the same as having a zone defense in football: any agent at the brokerage could show you houses, answer calls or emails, or work on your paperwork. This can greatly accelerate the response you get during your house hunt.
The one-to-one approach also has its advantages. In this case, you will have someone who knows you, your situation, and exactly where you are in the process. There is no right or wrong approach, but it is good for both of you to know up front if you have a strong preference.
Even if you strongly prefer the one-to-one, it’s good to be open to a hand-off in case:
- Your agent is on vacation and you need to see a home.
- Your agent has scheduled an appointment with another client at the same time you need to see a home.
Fast-paced competitive housing markets make demands on all of us. Knowing questions to ask real estate agents and being flexible can give you an advantage in hot markets.
How Does Your Commission Work?
Real estate agents get a commission when they help you buy or sell a house – it consists of a percentage of the purchase or selling price of your home. The typical range of commission is 5-6% of the sale price. Usually, the buyer pays for the commission, unless you negotiate with the sellers on who will pay.
Factors that affect their commission include:
- Referral fees kick in if another full-time agent refers you to them.
- The commission is split between the selling agent and the buyer’s agent at their rates.
- If the agent is part of a group of real estate agents, called a brokerage, there is usually a fee or percentage of their commission that they need to pay them as well.
Remember that agents don’t get paid until you close on your home; the agent’s work isn’t over until the home is officially sold. Keep this in mind when you’re estimating closing costs.
What is the Current Market Like?
Some good questions to ask real estate agents should reference the current market conditions. Real estate agents should be able to specify some of the challenges you could be up against, and then they should have strategies that will help you succeed despite the market environment.
For example, if the area you plan to be house hunting in mainly has two-story split level homes, and you’re looking for a single-story ranch, they can tell you inventory available home inventory will likely be low. If you’re set on a ranch style, a good agent will say you might have to sacrifice other must-have requirements or pay a little more to get it.
Can You Refer Me to Other Services?
The real estate agent is the primary professional to have working on your behalf, but not the only one. They should also be able to connect you to the other people and organizations you will need along the journey. Some good questions to ask real estate agents include finding out who the agent recommends for the following services:
- Title company
- Mortgage lender
- Home inspector
- Home stager (if you are selling)
- Repair person
And that’s only a preliminary list. If you want to find all these services on your own, you can. It will, however, take a lot of time and work. Having a real estate agent who can refer you to their network can get things moving quickly. And the trust you have in your agent will give you the confidence you need to bring these other services into the process.
Do You have Referrals from Past Clients?
A good question to ask real estate agents is whether they have any referrals from past clients. Your real estate agent should be able to provide referrals from previous clients (unless they are just beginning in the field). Getting in touch with one or more of these referrals can help you better understand the agent’s strengths, their communication styles and how they like to work with clients. They should also be able to verify some of the questions you asked your agent at the beginning of the process.
Online reviews of the agent or their brokerage can also be helpful.
How Long Have You Been an Agent?
If having an experienced professional is important to you, find out how long your prospective agent has been in the business. New agents just starting out bring their own strengths to the process – energy, enthusiasm, motivation to go the extra mile. An experienced long time real estate expert, however, can help you during negotiations, evaluating properties, and seeing warning signs along the way.
What are Hero Rewards®?
This is sort of a loaded question, because it’s where we get to tell you about Homes for Heroes – is the largest, nation-wide program of its kind. We say thank you to heroes for their service to their communities by saving them money when buying, selling, or refinancing a home.
Our heroes include:
- Military personnel, active duty, reserves and veterans
- EMS professionals
- Law enforcement
- Teachers (educators and administration)
- Healthcare workers
When you sign up we connect you with a Homes for Heroes real estate or mortgage specialist. They are experts in your local market’s conditions. There are no extra fees or paperwork to qualify for Homes for Heroes and the Hero Rewards savings we give back to heroes. On average, a hero can save $3,000 when they buy, sell or refinance a home or mortgage with Homes for Heroes specialists. It’s our way to say thank you for your service to the community and our nation.
Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent When Buying a House
Am I Being Realistic?
This is where you establish your budget, your must-haves and your nice-to-haves.
Let your agent know what you’re looking for: bedrooms, bathrooms, neighborhood, amenities, schools, everything that’s important to you. Now sit back and ask them if you’re being realistic.
If you can be upfront with your agent, they can let you know if your expectations are realistic or if they need to be adjusted. During this conversation, there may be some changes in your expectations. You and your agent will be juggling what you can afford, your absolute must-haves and your flexible optional features. The results may look a bit different at the end of the conversation.
This will be a good point to talk about being pre-approved for a loan. If you’ve already done the work and received pre-approval, that’s good news when house hunting. It also tells your agent that you are ready and serious about going forward. If you don’t have pre-approval yet, they should explain why this is important.
Due to their experience in the real estate market, realtors probably have their own list of red flags–things that clients want but can rarely afford, especially if it’s the buyer’s first home.
Some items on your list can also go on the “for further development” list because they are things you can work on in the future. For example, you may absolutely need 3 bedrooms, but the fenced-in backyard might be an easy addition in the first couple of years.
What’s Your Availability?
Two key components in the buyer/agent relationship are communication and availability. If you are working during the week and can only see properties on weeknights and weekends, you will want an agent who works those hours too. On the communication front, you should set expectations about how often you will need followup calls from your agent. Maybe you are just starting out and getting an email or text only when they find something is how you want to work. However, if you are in the thick of it, more communication is almost always better than not enough. Once offers and counter-offers start flying back and forth, you will want to know your agent can stay on top of it. Questions to ask real estate agents about setting communication expectations may include some of the following examples:
- What device does the agent use most to communicate (text, email, calls)
- How much time does the agent need to reply to a text
- How much time does the agent need to reply to a phone call
- How much time does the agent need to reply to an email
This list, too, works both ways. Your real estate agent will want to know that you will respond to texts, phone calls and email in a timely manner.
How Well Do You Know the Neighborhood or Area?
Since location, location, location is the mantra of the real estate industry, you will want a real estate agent who knows the location that you are targeting. Specific details about previous home sales in neighborhoods you’re interested in are good questions to ask real estate agents. For example, in a large metropolitan area with sprawling suburbs, the difference between a north suburb and a south suburb could be substantial. Being familiar with the area is good, but examples of houses they have worked with in that area is even better. There is no substitute for years of experience with a specific area when it comes to an important decision such as buying a home. That’s even more true if you are selling your home.
Your agent should also be able to tell you if the area you are looking at is growing or declining.
The style of house you’re looking at may be as important as the neighborhood. For example, if the agent has a track record selling condos in the city but you’re looking to purchase a hobby farm, it may not be a good fit. Good real estate agents will be honest with you about the fit, and they won’t leave you hanging. They are part of a network of agents, so they should be able to find someone that will match with your housing interests if necessary.
Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent When Selling a House
What’s Your Marketing Plan for My House?
Getting your house “out there” in the market and showing its best features is key to selling your house. And frankly, that’s the real estate agent’s job. Nevertheless, it’s good to go over the different ways they typically list a house and promote it to potential buyers. The list of ways they could, or will, market your home include:
- Direct mail
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Listing it in real estate networks
- Open houses
This could be a conversation about how you too can help get the word out about your house. Your real estate agent will appreciate ideas you can bring to the table, because we all know the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
Can I Do Anything to Increase the Value of My Property?
Getting the advice of your real estate broker on how to make your home or property more saleable just makes sense. After all, they look at homes all the time. They compare homes. They watch how buyers react to features of homes. They watch the trends. They are certifiable experts on what makes a house marketable and attractive to a home buyer. It’s wise to consider their insight.
If they tell you to make a huge investment in renovating your home, you can take that with a grain of salt (and a little research). Overall, however, a lot of small and inexpensive changes can make a big difference in the eyes of the buyers who come to your open house.
This might also be a time to talk to them about staging your house.
How Do You Calculate the Listing Price for My House?
In your own mind, you probably have an idea how much you can sell your home for. The listing price, however, might be very different from what you imagined – either a higher or lower asking price.
It will help you to know how your listing agent came up with the number. A lot of factors were used to calculate the value, and most of those factors were not emotional. That’s where the disconnect is: you will probably have emotional reasons to value your home that may not translate into a list price. Calculating the price is an exercise in reason over emotion, and that’s where your agent becomes a valuable resource and a trusted counselor for the selling process.
Going over the numbers will remind you that pricing a home is a step-by-step process primarily driven by the economics of the marketplace. This is often the time when your realtor brings out the comparative market analysis (comps) book to show you what other similar properties are selling for in your neighborhood.
Who are the Likely Buyers for My Home?
Your real estate agent should have a sense of who are eligible buyers for your home just by looking at it. Is it a starter home for a young family? Is it an established home in an older community? Is it a large home in a now-prestigious area of the city?
Knowing the buyers will help you and the REALTOR® target your market better, and that can get the most likely buyers through your door for the open house. Online marketing can do targeting exceptionally well, so this is an important question to answer.
What are My Home’s Drawbacks?
Going over the flaws in your house is another exercise in being realistic about the selling process. Discussing these drawbacks is the best way to:
- Fix those that are fixable
- Have a more realistic view of your home as it exists in the market
This might also be a more difficult discussion, but it will clear the air and develop a relationship with your real estate agent rooted in honesty and trust.
Homes for Heroes Agents Help Save You $3,000 on Average
When you embark on the journey that involves buying a new house, or selling your current house, your real estate agent is an important partner, guide, counselor, friend, negotiator…you name it. Asking good questions builds trust and enables honest communication. The questions will go both ways, and that’s as it should be. That’s how our local specialists will serve you best.
If you are a firefighter, EMS, law enforcement, military member (active, reserve or veteran), healthcare professional or teacher; and are interested in finding a new home, or selling your existing home (or both); sign up today to learn about how our local specialists can help get it done and save you good money in the process. Hopefully we’ve armed you with many questions to ask real estate agents so you’re prepared to begin the process of buying or selling a home.