What to ask a potential real estate agent
- How many homes have you sold?
- Have you sold homes in my area?
- Can I cancel our agreement?
- How did you arrive at your suggested list price?
- How will you market my home?
- How will you vet the buyer?
- What’s your commission?
- How will you communicate with me?
- What do I need to do to get my home ready?
In this article:
If you’re about to hire a real estate agent to help you sell your home, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. Who you hire impacts what the sales process looks like, how long it takes, and what your home sells for — which is why you need to know what to ask a real estate agent before you agree to work with them.
9 questions to ask an agent before you sell your home
Do your research before you hire a real estate agent to help you sell your home. You want to find the perfect fit (and avoid bad real estate agents), so don’t be afraid to ask the questions that will bring you some much needed clarity.
Not sure where to start? Here’s what to ask a realtor before you work with them:
How many homes have you sold?
You’ll want to work with an agent who has ample experience selling homes, so feel free to inquire about how many home sales they have under their belt. The more recent sales they have, the better. Ask to see their portfolio to learn more about what kind of homes they have experience with.
Have you sold homes in my area?
Ideally, you will also work with a real estate agent with experience with homes in your area. Agents with local expertise will have a better idea of how to price your home and what selling points will appeal to buyers (such as proximity to schools and shopping centers). If your agent is new to the area, you shouldn’t necessarily write them off, but you will want to get them up to speed on what they need to know about your community — or, better yet, inquire about what they’re doing to get themselves acquainted with the area.
Can I cancel our agreement?
This is one of the most important questions to ask a realtor. Once you choose a real estate agent to work with to sell your home, you will need to sign an agreement that confirms you’ll work with them exclusively. Typically, these agreements last for at least six months and make it so you can’t fire your agent to work with another agent. This agreement also makes it so you have to pay your agent if your house sells, even if you aren’t happy with their services.
Before you sign anything, ask your agent if you can cancel your agreement. They should say yes and put it in writing. While the average listing agreement won’t have this language in it, there is no reason your agent can’t add it in. If they say they can’t, don’t believe them.
When you have the option to cancel the agreement, their commission check is no longer guaranteed, which means they will work harder to sell your house quickly at a price you’re happy with. They will also be less likely to overinflate the price and risk your house remaining on the market for months.
How did you arrive at your suggested list price?
If your agent already recommended a list price, you need to know how they chose that number. The how is important here. The goal when you sell a home is to choose a price that will maximize your profit and make it so your home sells without delay. If you haven’t chosen an agent to work with yet, inquire as to how they’ll determine the list price. You need to make sure this decision stems from knowledge and data and isn’t an inflated price designed to keep you happy.
Ask your real estate agent to present you with a comparative market analysis (CMA) that compares your home to similar recently sold homes. If your real estate agent can’t justify their price, their analysis will likely be very vague. An overinflated price may lead to your house staying on the market for longer than you’d like, so it’s important to make sure your real estate agent is thoughtful in their price recommendations.
How will you market my home?
How your real estate agent markets your home affects how long it takes to sell your home and what type of buyers you attract. Your agent has a lot of marketing options at their disposal, so ask what their plans are to get the word out about your home. At the very least, they need to upload your home to a multiple listing service (MLS), but what will they do to make your house stand out from the crowd? For example, they may choose to advertise via flyers, ads, networking, or brochures.
How will you vet the buyer?
Entertaining offers on a home is a time-consuming process. You don’t want to invest time in the wrong buyers, so it’s important that your real estate agent has a process in place to vet buyers so you don’t waste time with ones who are likely to drop out of the sale.
Buyers may back out of a sale if they aren’t able to secure financing, so a very important step for your real estate agent to take is to require any potential buyers to submit their pre-approval letter with their offer.
What’s your commission?
The seller is the one who pays the real estate agent’s commission, not the buyer, so you’ll want to know what you’re expected to pay for. Typically, the commission is 6% of the final sale price of the home and is split between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. While 6% is average, you can negotiate a different commission rate. You won’t want to lower the fees so much that you drive away good agents, but if your home is going to sell for a pretty penny you may be able to negotiate a smaller commission.
How will you communicate with me?
Communication is key in the home sale process. Before you choose an agent, make sure they communicate in a way that works best for you. Perhaps you like to hash things out over the phone. Maybe texts or email are easier for you to navigate in the midst of a busy work day. Before you sign a contract, make sure you and your agent agree on a primary communication method to make the relationship as effective as possible.
What do I need to do to get my home ready?
What your home looks like will have a big impact on how quickly your home sells for and for how much. If you plan to make changes to your home to improve it before you list it, you’ll want to get some expert advice on what changes are most worthwhile. The last thing you want to do is spend time and money on updates that won’t make much of a difference. When you ask your agent what you need to do to get your home ready for sale, you’ll kill two birds with one stone.
Not only should you get some expert insight, but you’ll gain an idea of how savvy and experienced they are. If they aren’t able to give you some helpful directions, they may not have the experience level you need.
Don’t be afraid to interview multiple real estate agents. You don’t want to rush and sign a contract with an agent that isn’t the right fit for you. Ask as many questions as you need to so that you feel confident in your choice.