Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Agent

Down the years, I've all too often come across homeowners who haven't sold their home yet, primarily due to a lack of effort by their previous agent.

Although all of us in the real estate industry do our best to educate sellers, it's still fair to say that many people don't make wise and informed decisions when appointing an agent.

When you think about it, the whole business of hiring the right agent is pretty crucial. For many people, their house is their most valuable asset and the consequences of getting it wrong when selecting an agent can literally costs tens of thousands of dollars in the worst cases.

Sellers will often appoint a relative or close friend, or even a friend of a friend, or simply get in touch with the first agent with a board outside a nearby home that's also for sale.

I really cannot emphasize enough that this kind of casual and highly unscientific approach is basically the equivalent of playing darts by looking in the opposite direction to the board.

Appointing an agent requires a pretty similar skill set to conducting a job interview. It's up to the agent to impress you, of course, but if you aren't asking the right kind of questions, it's far more likely you that you'll be linking up with the wrong candidate for the vitally important job of selling your property.

I've therefore come up with the following set of basic questions that will enable you to properly establish not only the achievements of the agent to date, but also his/her entire modus operandi to get your home sold in the quickest time for the very best price.

OK, here goes:

Do you work full-time selling real estate?
As I've said many times before in this blog, selling your home is a full time, highly skilled and professional occupation. And yet so many agents "dabble" in real estate and hold down a variety of other jobs. No wonder so many aren’t successful.

Do you operate on your own or have a support team backing you up?
Busy agents simply cannot do everything by themselves and it's very important to know what their administrative arrangements are, not least how your home will be handled when it is under contract. Expect to see plenty of evidence of a coherent staff structure.

Can I see your track record of homes sold in the past three, six and 12 months?
Speaking frankly, if you don't see plenty of evidence of success after asking this question then your meeting should draw to a close very quickly. Although the average agent in this country sells less than a handful of homes each year, who wants an agent make nothing more, or perhaps even less than, an average effort to sell your property. While other aspects of agent assessment may be slightly more qualitative, the "scores on the doors" are arguably the most revealing aspect of any agent interview.

Can I see some testimonials from your happy clients?
Again, the answer to this question will, to a large extent, be self-evident. Plenty of happy customers will invariably point to an agent who knows his/her business and how to deliver for clients. 

Can I see your current listings?
What you need to see here is a good selection of local homes that the agent is currently representing. This again points to activity levels and the reputation of the agent of in question, in terms of other people entrusting him/her with their home sale, often based on firm recommendation.

Can I see your formal marketing plan proposals to maximize the sale of my property?
At The Nicoli Group, we have a multi-faceted and individually tailored marketing success plan which encompasses every aspect of the sale, from correct pricing, to every element of property presentation, a widespread publicity program including online and social networking activities, as well as a comprehensive system to prospect for buyers. What you're looking for here is an all-encompassing, and above all convincing, set of tactics to deliver the best results for you. Any agent showing a lack of structure here should be treated with the utmost suspicion.

Explain how you prospect for potential buyers every day of the week
At The Nicoli Group, for example, we are somewhat unique in the way in which we have a team of people prospecting for buyers each and every day. Sadly, there are too many agents who will put the home up on the local multiple listing service (MLS) then sit back and wait for others to generate interest in the property. Ask for, and expect to see, plenty of evidence of daily activity on behalf of clients.

Explain how you have arrived at a selling price for my property
This is a vitally important question. The agent should be able to justify the rationale behind what he/she reckons your property is worth. This should be based on intimate knowledge of the current market conditions, as well as being able to present clear recent evidence of similar sales in your area. And don't be put off if the agent's assessment of your home's value is less than your own. The right agent will be able to explain exactly why the price level is what it is. Don't fall for the agent who blindly agrees with your price without any scientific back up of his/her own. Some unscrupulous agents will list at an unrealistic price, in the hope of persuading you to drop your price when the property doesn't sell. This is the reverse of the logic we use, which is to pitch the home at a price to get maximum interest and hopefully attract multiple offers through our extensive prospecting and marketing initiatives. Back tracking on price is far more likely to yield a poorer end result for you.

How often will you be informing me of the progress with my property sale?
It still amazes me how often clients complain that previous agents took their listing and rarely, if ever, kept in touch with them on the progress of the sale. Communication is a critical aspect of selling. It's not only right that you know what's going on with your sale on a regular basis, but it also provides an opportunity to discuss viewings to date and any tweaks that may be required to the selling approach.

While there are obviously loads more questions you may think of asking, the above questions will give you a great set of criteria by which to judge the presentation of each agent you interview.

We'd be delighted to answer these and any other questions you may have in relation to your own home sale, so why not get in touch with us today to arrange an appointment.

Wishing everyone a great Thanksgiving!

Dominic Nicoli