Questions to ask a real estate agent
No matter where or how you find a real estate agent, asking a few questions right at the beginning can save you from a considerable amount of trouble further down the line. Below are a few questions to ask a real estate agent before you decide to do business with them:
Is This Your Full Time Job?
Do you do this full time, and if so, how many clients do you work with per year on average? An agent who does this sort of work day in and day out will almost certainly be familiar with current market trends and current laws.
How Many Transactions Have You Dealt With In My Chosen neighbourhoods?
Ideally, you want to use an estate agent who is familiar with the local property market in the various neighbourhoods where you are willing to buy.
All Businesses Have Unhappy Customers, How About You?
If a real estate agent says they've never had an unhappy client, they're most likely being dishonest. Don't fret too much if they tell you they have had sour clients, but at least ask them what caused those clients to be unhappy.
Have You Ever Had An Official Complaint Filed Against You?
Many people feel a little uncomfortable asking this sort of question, but if that's the case, then you can inquire at the State Licensing Board.
How Are The Fees Determined?
Pay close attention to the answer you get to this question, bearing in mind that the seller is responsible for paying the agent, using the money you will be paying for the property. While there isn't any risk for you, you can still help to ensure the agent is treating the seller fairly. To do this, ask the agent what his commission will be if you buy. This will also give you an idea if the agent is trying to sell you a particular property purely because he'll be getting better than average commission.
Apart From Negotiations And Escrow, What Other Services Do You Offer?
You might even want to draw up a list at this point, bearing in mind that their services should include all negotiations; all necessary paperwork, as well as contingencies. This is the minimum you should be willing to accept.
At What Point Do I Become Obligated To Work With You?
Numerous people get involved in the buying process without actually realizing it could make them legally obligated to work with a particular agent. This can happen regardless of whether there's a contract or not.
Who Else Will I Be Dealing With?
It's not unusual for an agent to be supported by a team, but the person you are dealing with should do most of the work.
Am I Obligated To Work With Other People, Including Lenders And Inspectors?
A "Yes" answer to this question should immediately set your alarm bells ringing. Many agents can recommend top class lenders; inspectors and other service providers, but they should never pressure their clients into using people they recommend. It is also illegal for any real estate agent to force their clients into using a service provider recommended by them.
Do You Represent Both The Buyer And The Seller?
When an agent represents the buyer and the person selling the property, it's known as a "dual agency" and it's a situation which is best avoided. If your agent is representing the seller, their job is to get the best possible price for the seller, so how can the agent then also try to get you the lowest possible price?
What Qualities Do You Have That Other Agents Don't?
Many clients tend to get swept away by the enthusiasm of a real estate agent, but in fact, they should rather look for expertise. Ideally, you need an agent who has experience in your preferred neighbourhood, and also a long list of satisfied clients.
What Options Do I Have If I'm Unhappy With Your Service?
Virtually all real estate agents get paid once you've bought the property, so it stands to reason that they want to finalize the deal as soon as possible. Once you've signed the papers, you're pretty much at the mercy of your agent, so it's a good idea to ask them if they can guarantee your satisfaction. Also ask them what sort of recourse you will have in the event of a bad experience.
Can I See Reviews And/Or Client Testimonials?
Nearly all agents have some clients who think the world of them, but really good agents will deliver an outstanding service consistently, and therefore have more than just a handful of happy clients. Reading through a few handpicked testimonials is not going to tell you much. You want to also see the not-so-good testimonials. A good agent has nothing to hide, and they should be more than happy to share some of their negative experiences with you as well.