Interviewing A Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home - What You Didn't Think To Ask!

Real Estate Agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY

How To Interview A Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home - What You Didn't Think To Ask!

As a Realtor®, I meet a lot of homeowners during the course of my day.

I am always amazed at how they do not know to ask certain questions or have knowledge about marketing, market value, commission, and even the laws and Code of Ethics. And after I'm done explaining it to them, they walk away more knowledgeable for the future.

I just love educating people about the real estate and the real estate profession!

Below is an extensive list of what takes place during a listing presentation.

Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) - When the agent you are interviewing meets with you, they will go over the Comparative Market Analysis to show you what comparable homes to yours have recently closed, are under contract and homes that expired. Homes that expired are due to being above market value and those homes couldn't sell. Our job is to show you what market value is. Take note of the dates on each of these homes to make sure they are recent. And also see if any are from 6 months ago and 3 months ago to recent. You want to see where the market was in addition to where it is now. This helps you, the homeowner, to understand market value. In the event you do not agree with market value and want to list your home 50K overpriced, a good agent will turn you down. It's good for us agents to get name exposure when we list a home but in the long run when your home doesn't sell, you are not going to be happy. I'd rather turn down that listing now, instead of letting you down 3 months from now. This is the perfect time to figure out if the agent truly knows the local market.

Internet Marketing Plan - This is important! Depending upon what brokerage the agent is from, the more extensive the marketing plan. They will explain that 85% of buyers use the Internet to do their home searching. You need to know where you home will be placed on the Internet. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has over 12 websites besides our local MLS just to give you an example. The agent should also have their own website. Some may even have their real estate blog like I do on ActiveRain. When it comes to the selling and marketing of your home, more is better! Make sure to ask what websites your home will be on and ask to see a list before you sign anything. Also ask for links via email to these websites once your home is on those sites to ensure your home is there.

Open House Marketing Plan - Find out how many open houses you will have and when. The first 2 weeks a home is new to the market generates more excitement to the buyer pool that is out there house hunting. This period is crucial. Your agent should at least give you 2 open houses during this period. A Broker's Open House is important as well. This is where the Brokers and Agents view your home to give their opinions to your agent and also to see if your home currently fits their buyers needs. Your agent should report back to you on the feedback they received. You are going to hear different opinions, good and bad so be open to them. Also ask to see the agents Open House marketing materials. Most use flyers but check to see if they showcase your home properly. A nice description about the features of your home should be there as well as some pictures. If you own a luxury home, paper flyers will not cut it. Agents should be using glossy, heavier stock photo cards. A luxury home deserves luxury marketing materials. It's more expensive for the agent but it's necessary. Make sure those will be available. If not, then ask for them.

Home Staging Advice - The agent should give you home staging advice by you giving them a tour of your home first before anything else. Do not take this advice personally. It's our job to point out any flaws that could give buyers a negative feeling. Clutter pictures all over your walls, for example, can make a room look smaller. The agent will ask you to remove some or organize it better. Even rearranging furniture can make a huge difference! If your home is cluttered with boxes and clothes, etc., do not be surprised if the agent asks you to declutter. Even if it means renting a PODS container or going to a storage facility for the time being if you do not have a basement or a large enough attic. It's in your best interest to do this if you want your home to sell.

Commission - Keep in mind that agents have expenses. We are independent contractors. We do not work for the brokerage, we are affiliated with them. We split our commissions with our Brokers. I know this is not your problem, but keep in mind we do not work for nearly free. A lot of time is spent in trying to market and sell your home so it's good to be fair when negotiating the commission. Some agents are tough when it comes to negotiating their commission. This is a good sign because they will be a tough negotiator when dealing with offers on your home. This is what you want! If the commission is too low, then be sure you are still getting the marketing services stated above. A lot of times the marketing plan will not be there if the commission is too good to be true. I see this on a regular basis.

Track Record - Most agents have home selling track records. Newer agents may not. I will talk about not discounting a new agent later. Seeing the track record of an agent is important. Some homes can almost sell themselves depending upon location and condition. Some homes have challenges. This is what is important. Ask the agent what challenges did they overcome in order to get a home sold? The agent needs to be able to explain to buyers the upside to these challenges. Here is a perfect example: I did an open house with an agent and the home only had 1 bathroom. Most people want 2. The bathroom was located on the main floor. It was a split-level home and downstairs was an open area that could be ued for many things. She would tell buyers that they could put another bathroom in that area because the existing plumbing for the bathroom above was already there and it could be tyed-in easily which is true. I previously worked for a commercial plumber and I was able to see what she was saying was true. Being able to overcome these challenges is key.

New Agents vs. Experienced Agents - Depending upon what brokerages agents are affiliated with is important. Coldwell Banker has an extensive training and education classes. We are armed with the knowledge on how to get a home sold, extensive law knowledge, marketing tools, etc. The best advice I can give is when you interview agents and one of them is a new agent, interview that new agent last if you can. This is because you can compare them to the other experienced agents before them. See what they said or didn't say compared to the other agents. I'm a semi-new agent. I was licensed on 9/13/2009 and was able to get listing appointments in less than a month of being licensed. Unfortunately, those homeowners had mortgages that were more than market value and I will not take an overpriced listing. I could have taken an overpriced listing for name exposure but I just do not feel right in doing that. So with that said, never discount a new agent. We want your business and have the training behind us as well as a Managing Broker just in case we need them.

Availability - How available is the agent? Ask for the hours and days you will be able to speak with them. My hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. because I am up late anyway and I have to be available evenings and weekends for listing appointments since most people work during the day. A full time agent is best. Some can do it part time but be sure your needs will be met in this case. The agents have to be able to do open houses on the weekends and make sure they will be available to do them. When you call your agent, give at least one hour for them to return your call. If you have to wait all day for a return phone call, then that is not good. I check my voice-mail at my office every hour when I'm not there. As a Realtor, returning phone calls promptly is very important to me.

Coaching - A real estate agent has to coach their clients. They should discuss with you on what not to do like never show if you are desperate to sell your home. This will give an advantage to the Buyer's Agent and they could come in with a low-ball offer. Never show your excitement. Also, they need to educate you on Fair Housing Laws. Let's say you are home and an agent is showing your home to their buyer. The buyer turns around and asks you about if there are "certain types" of neighbors like skin color or religion. You are to never answer those questions because you can get fined for it. The best way to approach those questions is to tell that buyer that by law, you can't answer. Hopefully if the Buyer's Agent did their job, they will coach them about to never ask those questions to begin with. Just be prepared.

Real Estate Agent or Realtor®? - They are not the same even though most consumers think they are. They are both licensed to conduct real estate transactions. A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and a Realtor® must subscribe to the Realtor® Code of Ethics by clicking on that link, it will explain the ethics we have to abide by. While there is no evidence or guarantee that all REALTORS® are morally and ethically better than unaffiliated real estate agents, it is an attempt by the industry to regulate and, as such, deserves recognition. Now you are more educated than before. Are we having fun yet? :)

Listing Agreements - Never sign one until you have enough information about them. Your agent should be able to explain the ins and outs of them. On that form you are agreeing to the commission and the commission rate has to be on that form and make sure it's the rate you agreed to. It also has the term of the agreement. Some can be 3, 6, 9 months or more. This can also be negotiated. By signing the listing agreement, you are agreeing to if you decide mid-stream to take your home off the market and then list with another brokerage and the home sells, you may have to pay compensation to the other broker that originally listed your home. There are different reasons as to why a homeowner may cancel an agreement and I will discuss that below.

Canceling Your Listing Agreement - Let's say you aren't happy with the agent you hired. You can't get them to return a phone call or emails. You feel you are hunting them down. At that point, you have to call their Managing Broker and explain to them what is going on. If that Managing Broker is good, they will talk to that agent and get them back on track. They are going to hear both sides and will then decide what to do. Some will fire an agent from a listing and take it over themselves. I've seen this happen and all ends up being good. But, if you decide to not have this done, you can cancel the agreement and you can be released from the responsibility of having to pay a commission. You have to state to the Managing Broker that you want to be fully released from the Listing Agreement. If you were treated poorly, why should anyone be compensated for it? Just remember to try and resolve any and all issues with everyone. If you do not get cooperation, then you can file a complaint with New York State. Just below that is a PDF file for explaining the complaint process. Read that first. New York State takes these complaints very seriously so make sure you are certain before filing one.

Seller Services Guarantee Form - Coldwell Banker requires us Realtors® to give you this form to sign. It's a description of what services we guarantee to you, our clients. There is a section about Marketing and what we will do for you concerning this like I mentioned earlier. A section about Customer Service which outlines that I will return your phone calls and email in 24 hours or less, review and present all offers from buyers and I will negotiate at your direction, I will monitor and keep you informed about the progress of the transaction before going to closing and explaining what will take place at the closing table. This form holds me to promises I make to you and if I don't abide by them, you will not be happy and I do not want that to happen :)

Pictures of Your Home - Have you ever searched the MLS only to see 1 picture? Blurry pictures? Don't ya hate that? I can't stand it. Our local MLS gives us 12 pictures to use. It's beneficial to the marketing of your home for an agent to use 12 pictures. Only a few pictures will not entice a buyer to want to see your home especially if it's a picture of the front and the back of your home. The nicer and clearer the pictures, the more those buyers will want to see your home in person!

If you are interested in a real estate career, you can get started here

I hope I didn't make your head spin too much. Read this at your leisure and I truly hoped I helped you!

Make It A Great Day!


Comments (4)

Toula Rosebrock
Diane Turton, Realtors, Forked River, NJ - Lacey Township, NJ
Broker/Sales Associate, Realtor, Lacey Township,


Hi Jackie:

A good list for sellers to keep in mind when interviewing agents.

Best wishes for a successful 2010

Jan 26, 2010 12:41 AM
Jackie Connelly-Fornuff
Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY - Babylon, NY
"Moving at The Speed of YOU!"

Hi Toula, thank you and best wishes to you for an awesome 2010!

Jan 26, 2010 12:44 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Jackie:  This is a really thorough explanation of what sellers should be getting from their listing agent interviews.  No wonder your Broker is so pleased with your listing presentations!

Jan 26, 2010 03:28 AM
Jackie Connelly-Fornuff
Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY - Babylon, NY
"Moving at The Speed of YOU!"

Hi Chris Ann, Thank you and I hope it helps :)

Jan 26, 2010 05:57 AM