A real estate agent is a key ally in helping buyers find and purchase the right home, or helping sellers offload their property for as much as possible. That’s why it’s wise to interview different real estate agents to see which one is the best fit for your goals.
Here are some of the most important questions to ask a real estate agent when you’re looking to buy or sell a property.
- Start off by asking general questions, such as if the real estate agent can provide a list of referrals, and make sure to watch out for red flags.
- When you’re buying, your questions should help you find an agent who can expertly guide you through the homebuying process and make your offer stand out.
- When you’re selling, your questions should help you find an agent who can market the selling points of your home to buyers and maximize your profit.
Hiring a Real Estate Agent
To hire a real estate agent, you’ll need to find several candidates, create a list of questions, and interview each agent to find the right fit.
Online research is a great place to start. The National Association of Realtors and real estate platforms like Zillow both feature agent listings. Other platforms like Redfin or Clever Real Estate assign an agent based on your location and may charge lower commissions.
Asking local friends and family for referrals is also a great way to find a qualified real estate agent you’ll like.
Check each agent’s reviews to see how satisfied previous buyers or sellers were. Major sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook host local business reviews, which include reviews of real estate agents. If you can’t find any reviews or see mostly negative reviews, consider that a red flag.
How to choose the right agent for you
Once you’ve found several good candidates, it’s time to create a list of interview questions. We’ve included many questions below for both buyers and sellers.
Asking the right questions can help you weed out real estate agents who might not have relevant experience and qualifications. Plus, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your agent, so you should choose one you like. If an agent gives you a bad first impression, it’s OK to move on to the next.
Interviewing multiple agents also helps you avoid overpaying commissions. If you like multiple agents, you may be able to negotiate lower fees during a follow-up discussion as you zero in on your top choice.
11 General Questions To Ask Real Estate Agents
Here are some general questions to get you started.
1. How long have you been a licensed real estate agent?
The average Realtor has eight years of real estate experience. It’s important to understand how much experience this specific agent has, and how much time they’ve dedicated to the role. Experienced agents are usually more knowledgeable about the market and have more connections.
2. Do you work part time or full time? What is your availability?
Understanding whether the real estate agent works part time or full time will help establish availability and how quickly you can expect them to get back to you. Asking this question can also give you a better sense of how much experience they have.
3. How will we communicate?
Consumers tend to prefer text and email for communications, while most Realtors prefer a phone call if you’re just introducing yourself. Of the three options, consumers least prefer phone calls. If your communication style differs significantly from the real estate agent’s, then they might not be the right fit.
4. How many clients do you have?
The average real estate agent works around 35 hours per week. If an agent has too many clients, they might not have enough time to dedicate to you. Conversely, if an agent has a difficult time finding clients, it could be a red flag indicating they don’t have a good reputation or a well-established network.
While there’s no magic number of clients that a real estate agent should have, this question can help you understand how busy they are and if they’re in demand.
5. How do your commissions work, and how do I pay you?
The average real estate commission ranges from 4.45% to 6.34% of the home sales price. With the median sales price of a single-family home in March 2023 at $449,800, that means agent fees could total approximately $20,016 to $28,517. If you’re selling your home, you can expect to shoulder most — if not all — of this cost.
However, these agent fees are negotiable. If you ask for a lower rate, the worst that can happen is they say no — but in the best case, you could save thousands of dollars.
6. What neighborhoods and property types do you specialize in?
Whether you’re looking for single-family homes, condos, or townhouses, it’s important that the real estate agent has experience with buying or selling these types of homes. An agent who specializes in your desired area and property type can help you find the best options. A specialized agent may also be better equipped to find new listings first or quickly promote them to other agents, giving you a leg up.
7. What are some of your professional connections and resources in the industry?
This question may reveal that the agent is a member of the National Association of Realtors or another real estate organization. Membership and active participation in professional organizations show that the agent is highly engaged and up to speed with the latest industry developments.
8. Do you work with a team?
While 87% of Realtors are independent agents or independent contractors, that doesn’t mean they work alone. Real estate agents often work in teams, which help them process transactions efficiently and offer a wider range of services. Their colleagues may also offer an insider look at listings to help you find the right match.
9. Can you share a list of referrals I may speak with?
When interviewing real estate agents, it’s common practice to ask for referrals. You’ll want to know how their past experiences with clients went. If they resist sharing any referrals, it could be a red flag.
10. What sets you apart from other agents?
This question gives the real estate agent a chance to talk about why they’re good at what they do. Whether it’s finding the perfect property in a competitive market or having the fastest customer response times in town, you can infer what an agent’s strengths are.
11. Do you have more experience working with buyers or sellers?
Depending on your goals, it may be best to find a real estate agent who has more experience with buying or selling. While many agents handle both sides of the transaction, this question can give you insight into what they’re more experienced in.
13 Questions To Ask a Real Estate Agent When You’re Buying
Now that we’ve gone through general questions to ask a Realtor, here are questions specifically for buyer’s agents.
1. How long will it take for me to find and purchase a home?
This question will help you set expectations. If a real estate agent says you’ll find a home immediately or makes grand promises that sound too good to be true, you may have found a less trustworthy agent. Look for agents who set a realistic timeline and share possible outcomes.
2. How long do you usually work with homebuyers?
Keep in mind that most people take four weeks to six months to find a home. The agent’s answer shouldn’t vary too much from this timeline.
3. How many homes have you helped buyers successfully close on?
The average Realtor closes about 12 deals per year. However, busier agents can go far above this number. If you find a real estate agent who doesn’t close many deals, they might not be able to help you close on a home efficiently.
4. How will you determine which homes are right for me?
The real estate agent should make it clear that they’ll listen to your opinions and concerns. The agent isn’t looking for their own dream house — they’re looking for a home that meets your unique wants and needs. They also should respect your budget and any other priorities you set.
5. How can you help make my offer stand out?
In competitive markets, homes can go above the asking price. When you make an offer, you’ll want an agent who can help your bid stand out. Good agents know tactics that help put your best foot forward, like showing a mortgage preapproval letter, putting down earnest money, and writing an offer letter.
6. How can you help me avoid making common homebuying mistakes?
Homebuyers can make many common mistakes, such as paying too much, making a poor offer, and settling for a home that’s not the right fit. Experienced agents know how to guide you away from these mistakes so you can have a smoother homebuying experience.
7. How do you help people prepare for the homebuying process?
A good real estate agent should give you the latest updates on the industry and provide enough information so that you’re thoroughly prepared for all the steps to buy a home — from searching for homes to closing. An agent shouldn’t leave you to figure out things on your own.
8. How will you present my offer to sellers?
While agents may informally share information in other ways, a formal offer should be clearly printed, professional, and easy to understand. Many agents use tools like DocuSign for online signatures.
9. How many properties do I need to see before I make an offer?
You may walk through the front door of the first open house and know it’s home, but most homebuyers need more time. Asking about averages can give you a sense of how this agent typically works and what your time investment may be.
10. How will you help me reach my homebuying goals?
Every real estate agent has unique strengths and weaknesses. Asking directly about how they can help you gives them another chance to show off what they’re best at and be candid with you about your prospects with them.
11. What is your average list-to-sales price ratio?
The average list-to-sales price ratio measures how much a real estate agent’s clients pay on average in relation to the listing price. To calculate it, divide the average final sales price by the average final listing price, and convert the result to a percentage. If the answer is above 100%, buyers typically pay more than the listing price. If it’s less than 100%, buyers typically pay below asking and get a better deal.
12. Do you also represent the seller?
Known as dual agents, some agents may represent both the buyer and the seller in a real estate transaction. This scenario isn’t unheard of, but it’s also not common, as it puts the agent in a position where they must weigh your best interest against the seller’s and their own. Many buyers want a real estate agent who represents their interests only.
13. Have you ever had a client in a bidding war, and what was your strategy?
Some properties can wind up in a bidding war in competitive real estate markets. While it’s exciting for the seller to see the price climb, it can be expensive for buyers.
You can ask the agent for specific examples and outcomes in their experience. Did the buyers win or lose? And if they won, how did they do so without busting their budgets?
9 Questions To Ask a Real Estate Agent When You’re Selling
As a seller, you’re trying to limit your costs and get as much money for your property as possible. If you want to know what to ask a real estate agent, these questions can help you find someone with the right skill set.
1. How will you market my home?
At a minimum, your agent should post your property on the multiple listing service, which is a database of real estate listings that power sites such as Zillow. Good agents will go above and beyond with professional photos, staging assistance, and more to help you get top dollar for your home.
2. How many homes have you helped people sell?
Knowing how many homes a real estate agent has sold helps you gauge the average number of homes they sell annually, plus their overall experience. This is important because brand-new agents might not have the skills necessary to get you the price you want.
3. How do you help people prepare for the home selling process?
Unless you’ve been through the process multiple times, you may not know much about preparing your home for showings and what to expect during the offer and closing. Your agent should engage you throughout the process and walk you through everything.
4. What’s the best way to market my home?
Every real estate agent has their own style to attract homebuyers, but they generally need to go beyond just posting a sign. Since 51% of buyers find homes online, it’s important for your agent to be web savvy.
5. What do you believe are the top selling points of my home?
Once the agent walks through your property and reviews recent comparable sales — or comps — they can give you an honest and fair assessment of what buyers might find the most appealing about your home. Remember that your personal preferences might not match those of other people. Ask for advice on potential areas for improvement, and how to get more for your home.
6. What options do I have if I’m not satisfied with how you’re marketing my home?
If your real estate agent isn’t meeting expectations, would they be willing to adjust and work with you to accommodate your needs? In the worst case, how difficult would it be to fire them and find someone else? Asking this open-ended question should yield helpful answers.
7. Do you also represent the buyer?
A dual agent is better for the seller than the buyer, as the agent is incentivized to get the highest possible price to earn the biggest commission. However, representing both sides can still pose a conflict of interest in some ways, so tread carefully if the answer is yes.
8. Do you provide a staging consultation and photography?
Good photos can make all the difference. Some real estate agents’ strengths are staging and photography, while others recognize the value of bringing in professional staging and photography services where appropriate.
If you’re tight on your budget here, you could choose white boxing as a strategy to market your home.
9. Do you provide a comparative market analysis?
A good real estate agent will look at comps to find the ideal price for your property. Because they’re gathering this data anyway, they should be happy to share a comparative market analysis to give you confidence that you’re listing for a fair price.
Red Flags To Watch For
Red flags are signals that a real estate agent isn’t the right fit for you or might not be a good agent in general. An example of a red flag is if an agent uses high-pressure tactics to lock you into an exclusive agreement where you would have to pay to switch to a new agent.
Here are other real estate agent red flags to watch out for:
- Low client volume. Real estate agents with few clients may struggle due to poor performance or a tarnished reputation in the industry.
- Can’t provide referrals. If an agent can’t or won’t provide referrals, it may be because they don’t have satisfied clients willing to speak on their behalf.
- Bad negotiating skills. If a real estate agent can’t help you negotiate, you could lose money. Good agents have no problem pushing to get you the best possible deal.
- Bad communication. Agents with bad communication skills and slow response times can be frustrating to work with. Additionally, slow responses could lead to you missing out on a home you really want.
- They are the seller’s agent. As a buyer, using the seller’s agent can sometimes result in a win-win scenario. But conflicts of interest can lead the buyer to pay more. In an ideal situation, you would be represented by someone who is only focused on your best interest.
- They don’t ask you questions. An interview is a two-way street. The agent should ask questions to learn more about your expectations and what you’re looking for. They should be engaged and do their best to understand more than your planned budget or sales price.
Before interviewing real estate agents, take the time to consider your priorities and any personal deal breakers.
FAQ: Questions To Ask Real Estate Agents
Here the answers to frequently asked questions about working with real estate agents.
While you may be able to work with multiple agents at once, many prefer exclusive agreements. This ensures they are compensated for their time and efforts. If you plan to work with more than one agent, be upfront and make sure each agent agrees to the plan.
Like in a job interview, you should avoid asking details about their personal life. Some agents may share information about their hobbies, interests, or family, but your main focus should be the homebuying or selling process.
The Bottom Line on Questions To Ask Real Estate Agents Before Hiring One
When you’re hiring someone who can make a difference of up to tens of thousands of dollars in homebuying costs or real estate profit, it’s worth taking the time to screen many candidates, interview your top choices, and pick the right real estate agent. After all, you’ll need to be comfortable working with them for weeks or months, and confident that they can advise you on one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.
- National Associaton of Realtors (2022)
- Realtor.com (2017)
- Clever Real Estate (2023)
- U.S. Census Bureau (2023)