Looking to Sell a House? 5 Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent

 Looking to Sell a House? 5 Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent

If you’re selling your property, you’ll want to interview three real estate agents or brokers to find the right one for you. This is a big decision (I have an entire section in my book about it) but the short version is that you’re looking for someone who is competent, honest, and who you get along with. Remember that in the current market, you’re going to be talking to them a lot!

When you call an agent, tell her how you found her (“my friend Jane Smith suggested I call you” or “I saw your ad on a website”) and set up a time for her to come see your house or apartment. Then you’ll want to ask a bunch of questions to help you make your decision so you can have an easy and successful closing. Here are five of the best questions to ask:

1. What Should I Do Before I Sell My Property?

One way real estate agents get business is to flatter sellers—every house or apartment is “gorgeous” and is decorated “in such great taste.” To sell a property, though, you have to rip out stained carpet, paint smudged walls, and get rid of any pet smells. If you ask an agent “What needs to be done to put this in tip-top condition?” and he says “absolutely nothing”—she’s probably a flatterer. Run.

2. What Comparable Properties Have Sold Recently?

Internet sites such as Zillow allow you to find recent sales in your neighborhood—but not every recent sale is a guide to valuing your property. The recent sale of a five-bedroom Colonial, for instance, doesn’t mean much if you’re selling a three-bedroom ranch house. So ask your agent which sales are truly “comparable” and can provide some clue to the value of your home. The way she answers the question will show you how persuasive she’ll be with actual buyers.

3. How Long Is Your Exclusive Listing Contract For, And How Can I Get Out Of It?

If a realtor wants to sell your property, she’ll ask you for an “exclusive listing”—the right for her to market your home for a certain period of time. Time periods are often customary (in my market, six months is pretty typical) but if an agent wants to tie up your business for longer, find out why. Also ask what your remedy is if you’re not happy with his work—many agents provide a guarantee that you can end an exclusive early if you’re not happy with the job they’re doing.

4. What Do You Need Me To Do?

Even a great real estate agent needs to get into the property she’s selling, so ask how often she’s going to hold open houses and what kind of access she needs. It’s also good to discuss specifics like “no dishes in the sink” or “open the blinds,” as well as what to do if you’ve got pets and how to lock up your valuables.

5. What Do You Charge And Why?

If you’re selling your home through a real estate agent or broker, you’re going to pay him or her a good chunk of change. So go ahead and ask how much the agent charges, and what makes her think she’s worth that. A good agent will be able to tell you that now’s the time to talk about the specifics of marketing your particular place. What’s more, an agent’s job is to talk to you about money: the right pricing of the property, how to handle buyer’s offers, and what closing costs you may run into, so you want to make sure you pick an agent that it’s easy to have those conversations with.

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