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10 Essential Questions for Choosing a Real Estate Agent

May 26, 2020

Time for the next adventure? Whether you're moving for work, starting a family or finally embracing that sea change, sometimes you’ve just got to sell up.

Selling your home can be an emotional process. If you haven't done it before, it can also be pretty bewildering. And since it’s usually your biggest asset, you absolutely don't want to make a mistake that could see you lose out on thousands of dollars.

That’s where the right real estate agent comes in.

‘Knowing you’re in good hands makes all the difference’, says Narelle, Head of Brand Operations. “Your agent handles a lot more than open for inspections. There are over 180 touchpoints in the selling of a home and for a professional it takes more than 100-man hours per home. Getting all these touchpoints right is vitally important when achieving the very best result for the sale of your home. When you have the right person working with you the process gets a whole lot easier.”

But how do you choose the right real estate agent for you? Knowing the right questions to ask your agent when selling can make it a lot clearer. Here are the ten things you should ask.

1. What is your experience?

You want an agent who has experience in determining the right market price for your property and negotiating the maximum sale price on your behalf. That means looking for someone with naturally great communication skills, but who has also put in the hard yards to build rapport with buyers. With experience comes confidence, so they’ll be able to put your mind at ease and stand their ground against pushy buyers.

Not all experience is equal either. “Choosing the agent who is skilled in your property type. Commercial, Rural and the established home markets all require different knowledge bases and skill sets. Pick an agent who has a strong history of working with your type of property.”

2. What were your last five local sales?

“People want to know what should they ask a real estate agent about their local sales.’ Narelle says. “You’ll hear a lot about sales volume, but that doesn’t tell you anything about individual results. Agents who are churning through properties might be pushing their vendors to accept prices lower than the home is worth just to get them off the books quickly.”

Instead, you want to see specific sale results. Ask your prospective agent to give you the details of their most recent sales, what they were listed at and what they sold for. You’ll be able to tell whether the price they’re quoting you is based on actual market performance instead of wishful thinking. Plus, you’ll know whether they’ve prepared to put in a bit of extra effort to get the price for your property.

3 What do you know about the local area?

“Buyers want to see themselves living in your home,” says Narelle. “They’re already planning who gets which bedroom, what they’ll do on the weekend and if the commute is going to be okay. They’ll ask your agent questions like, which school is the property zoned for? Are there buses that run nearby? The more your agent knows, the better, especially about those local secrets that don't show up on a map. Little things, like that the local coffee shop does fabulous breakfasts has awesome coffee, the local supermarket has a wide range of vegan products or there are 20 different trails on the local mountain great for bushwalking or mountain bike riding – these can be real drawcards.”

Local knowledge also means having a good understanding of the planning regulations. Maybe there’s a by-pass planned that will take traffic off a nearby road very soon, or development restrictions that mean the view will be preserved. A buyer who wants to renovate should feel confident that the agent is giving them the right information about what's allowed.

4. How do you maintain relationships with buyers?

Every real estate agent worth their salt maintains a buyer database. That means that when your property comes up for sale, they can contact potential buyers who might be looking for that type of home and arrange an early inspection. A strong buyer database means a more efficient sale for you, and often a premium price from a buyer who’s been waiting for that perfect property.

The best agents don’t stop at the database, though. A really effective agent sees potential buyers everywhere. Word of mouth is still the most powerful tool we have, so look for an agent who cultivates relationships wherever they go. That means being active in the community, attending local events and being open to every possibility.

5. Can you give me some references from recent sales?

There’s no evidence as strong as recent clients’ testimonials. Ask your potential agent to give you the contact details of their last three clients (with their permission). If they’re unable to do so, it’s a red flag that either they don’t have many satisfied clients, or they don’t have many clients at all.

"Most people are really happy to talk,” says Narelle. “If they’ve been happy with their agent they want to pass that on. And if they’re unhappy, you’ll definitely hear about it!”

6. Who do you see buying my home?

This is one of the most critical questions to ask when selling a house. Your property may have more appeal than Bradley Cooper but that still doesn’t mean everyone will be interested. Knowing who’s likely to be looking for a home like yours will help you market it properly and achieve a better price.

“You need to know who, what, and how,” says Narelle. “Who is looking, what they’re looking for, and how they’re looking”.

Identify what your buyers are looking for and showcase those elements of your property. A young couple might appreciate its proximity to the restaurant strip or an easy commute to the CBD, for example. If you’re targeting families with children, they’re more likely to want to know about the local schools and parks. People buying rural properties want to know about water licensing, soil quality, fencing and service connections. Land sales are all about the location and the view.

Then ask your agent to identify how they’re looking.

“Different demographics make their buying decisions differently”, Narelle explains. “Younger buyers make their decisions online, so if you’re selling to first home buyers you want to focus on online advertising and social targeting. Older Australians still prefer print advertising, so if you’re targeting downsizers, newspapers are crucial. If it’s a prestige property, we might even look at interstate marketing to reach a wider group."

“Your agent needs to be well-versed in these demographics so they can work with you to develop the right marketing strategy.”

The answers to these questions will give you a clear idea of whether your agent understands your property and has a smart strategy that’s tailored to your needs.

7. Do you recommend auction or private treaty, and why?

Just as different properties call for different marketing strategies, they also suit different methods of sale.

You’ll want to know which method your real estate agent recommends, but it’s just as important to understand why.

“An agent may recommend auction because they believe that the property is unique and they can get some healthy competition going,” says Narelle. “Or it might be a sale method that suits them personally.”

A good agent will recommend the best sale method for your home, which takes into account all the relevant factors including what methods are working best for your type of property right now in the market”, says Narelle. “The homeowner needs to understand why the agent is making their recommendation.”

8. Do you have a plan for property inspections?

Open inspections are one of the most important marketing tools out there. They give you a chance to show off your beautiful home, attract buyers and entice in people who might not even be looking seriously. “You’d be surprised at how many people just come to open inspections because they like having a look at other people’s homes, and then fall in love with the property themselves!” Narelle says. “To make that happen for you, you do need the home to be looking absolutely impeccable. Spotlessly clean, well-styled, and if there are any little repairs that need doing, do them beforehand.”

Ask your prospective real estate agent how they handle open inspections. How many do they hold, and will they consider private inspections if a good prospect can’t make it on the weekend? Do they have a checklist to guide your preparation? An experienced agent can help you identify which things to focus on and what buyers will be looking for.

9. What is the timeline for the marketing campaign?

This is where we get down to the nuts and bolts of the plan. Ask your agent what they see the timeline being, from when photography is scheduled to when they anticipate launching the property. This will give you a good sense of how efficient they are, how long you have to prepare the home and whether the timeline works for you.

“There’s no way around it, selling your property is pretty disruptive to everyday life,” admits Narelle. “You’ll have to make sure the home stays absolutely pristine throughout the photography and inspection period, make plans to be out during inspections but also be on call in case you get a time-critical offer. Make sure you understand exactly what will be required of you when so that it doesn't conflict with any other big life events or travel plans.”

10. How (and how often) do you communicate?

You want to be kept up to date with the sale of your property. But how an agent communicates is also important. You might prefer someone who gives you a detailed rundown of every open inspection and all the comments that potential buyers made on their way through. Or, you might want someone who just lets you know when there's something you need to take action on. Some people prefer phone calls, others want to keep it all in the in-box.

"Real estate agents tend to enjoy communicating with people,” says Narelle. “It's a people-oriented industry, after all. No two communication styles are the same but a great agent is able to adapt and adjust to the communication style that works for you. Whether you’d like regular short sharp emails, SMS updates or detailed conversations once per week, a great agent will be able to adapt to what works for you.”

Selling your home is a big decision. Knowing the right questions to ask your agent when selling means you’ll be set up for a smooth sale.

If you’re just starting to think about selling, head to our online appraisal page for a free, instant, online appraisal of your property.