How to Interview a Realtor® in a Brief 15 Minute Phone Call

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Finding the right real estate agent can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re wondering how to interview a real estate agent effectively, we’ve put together a handy guide that will help you ask the right questions to gauge their experience and see if they click with your needs. Scroll on for some useful tips and tricks to make interviewing a potential real estate agent feel less like a chore and more like meeting a new ally.

What most sellers want in a real estate agent

A strong working relationship is essential to any client-agent partnership. It’s important to find an agent who not only understands the market but also connects with your specific selling goals and communication style.

“I think there are a lot of factors that sellers should take into consideration,” says Kim Batterman, a top-selling agent in Appleton, Wisconsin, who has sold nearly 400 single-family homes. “One is going to be comfort level.”

Batterman’s list of other qualities sellers should look for in an agent includes:

  • Communication: Replies quickly and clearly
  • Competency: They’re an expert in the local market
  • Current transaction history: Number of houses sold within the last year
  • Experience: Negotiates with skill and wisdom
  • Tech savvy: Keeps up with the latest marketing practices
  • Well-versed in updated legal documents: Completes transactions legally and with integrity

If you’re not sure where to begin your search for a potential agent, HomeLight’s Agent Match program can help. Our experienced agents consistently outperform the agents in their area, selling homes faster and for more money. They come with local expertise and can save you thousands of dollars on your next home. HomeLight’s Agent Match service is completely free and will connect you to multiple top agents – it’s up to you to pick the professional who best suits your needs.

Your next task will be to make some phone calls, get to know the agents, and see if you’d be comfortable working with them over the next few months.

To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of 17 questions to ask a potential real estate agent.

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How to interview a real estate agent in 17 questions

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. How well do you know the area?
  3. What sets you apart from other local agents?
  4. How many clients do you represent at a time?
  5. Who would I be working with on your team?
  6. What’s your marketing plan for properties like mine?
  7. How do you handle prep work and staging?
  8. How deep is your professional network if we need contractors?
  9. How often will we be in touch?
  10. Do you have any buyers or properties in mind already?
  11. What’s the biggest challenge you think we’ll face?
  12. What kind of guarantees do I get?
  13. How long do I have to review the documents before I sign anything?
  14. How much do you charge?
  15. Can you send over some client references?
  16. If I pick you, what’s the first thing we need to do to get started?
  17. What haven’t I asked you that I need to know?

You probably don’t feel like hitting a potential agent with a ton of questions straight away, right? That’s why we’ve divided the interview into three parts. This way, you can save time, structure the phone call, and find an agent who’s just the right fit for you.

Interview a real estate agent in 3 parts

Most real estate agents you chat with will be eager to impress and win your business. They’ll often take the lead in the conversation, talking up their best qualities. This actually works in your favor because they end up covering a lot of ground without you having to poke and prod.

Remember, agents are natural salespeople, and some might just keep going. To keep things efficient, aim for a 15-minute conversation. That’s enough time to get a good sense of who they are without getting overwhelmed.

You can keep the conversation on track – and on time – by splitting it into three five-minute sections:

  1. First, you’ll need to spend five minutes covering the basics – the who, what, and where.
  2. Next, take another five minutes to get a sense of their approach and style. How do they tackle challenges? What makes them stand out?
  3. Finally, the last five minutes are for logistics and next steps. Think timelines, paperwork, and what comes after saying ‘yes’ to them.

Covering the basics when interviewing a real estate agent

The beginning of the call is the best time to dig into the agent’s business and how well they know the area. You’re listening for things that signal experience, knowledge of the area, and workload.

“You want to make sure that you really understand who the person is that’s going to list your most important asset,” advises Batterman. “Think about it: For most of us, our homes are the most expensive things we ever purchase.”

How long have you been in business?

The agent’s answer to this question gives you a sneak peek into their experience and success in the field. If they’ve been around for quite some time, it’s a good sign they’re running a stable, reliable business.

More than likely, the person you’re interviewing will know the area well and have a wide network of agents and other real estate professionals at their disposal. In contrast, a relatively new business might be hungry for clients. A newer agent with strong performance data may fight harder for you but they might also face some challenges along the way due to less experience.

And don’t forget to check if they’re a full-time, licensed agent. Part-time agents might not have the time, experience, or patience to provide the full service you deserve.

How well do you know the area?

Here’s your chance to test your real estate agent’s knowledge of the market you’re home shopping in. Ideally, your real estate agent lives in or around the area and has for quite some time.

A top agent will have inside knowledge on:

Batterman stresses the importance of local expertise in real estate, noting, “It’s about being able to identify what are all the great things about this environment and what to expect in the future for this neighborhood.”

What sets you apart from other agents here?

By posing this question, you’re not just giving the agent an opportunity to highlight their strengths, but you’re also actively engaging in the process of comparing different agents. The agent is aware that you’re looking for the best fit, so they should showcase what makes their approach, experience, or network unique. Their answers will give you a clearer perspective, allowing you to weigh their skills and qualities against those of other agents you’re considering.

How many clients do you represent at a time?

This might seem like a straightforward question but what you’re really asking is “Will you be able to make time for me and my needs?” Ideally, the agent should explain how they handle their workload and their team’s capacity to meet your needs.

When an agent works too many deals simultaneously, you’re more likely to be handed off to assistants or other members of their team. However, you don’t want to be a real estate agent’s only client – that signals a dying business.

A related follow-up question is: How many current deals are you working on? Asking this question clues you into how active and up-to-date they keep themselves with market trends.

Batterman recalls a competitor who advertised “hundreds of transactions … but they haven’t sold a house in five years.” The entire market shifts within a year, so her competitor was way behind the times.

Understanding an agent’s work style

The middle of your phone interview should focus on the task at hand. You might be buying or selling a home, but all that matters are results.

After your phone call you need:

  • A firm understanding of the agent’s locating or marketing strategy for your home
  • All contact information for your agent and team
  • An agreed-upon line and frequency of communication
  • An understanding of the complete process from start to finish

To gather this information, you’ll want to ask the following questions:

Who would I be working with?

It’s a simple question, but one that’s important to ask. The real estate agent you initially chat with might not be your day-to-day contact. To make sure you’re on the same page, find out who your primary point of contact would be, how you can reach them, and their specific role on the team. It’s also a good idea to ask about the entire team who’ll be involved in your transaction and the best times to contact them. This way, you’re not left guessing who to call or email when you have questions or need updates.

What’s your marketing plan, especially online?

Each agent markets a property differently. All competent agents will use the internet to market their listings. The National Association of Realtors® 2023 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers states that 100% of home buyers used the internet to search for homes. If people can’t find your property online, they won’t buy it.

A top real estate agent will have a clear, concise, and proven strategy far beyond placing your home on the MLS (multiple listing service) and putting a sign in your yard. You should hear words like Google, Facebook, and other major websites and social media platforms. Blog posts don’t cut it anymore.

Batterman says your agent’s marketing plan should include:

  • Accurate keyword positioning
  • Drone video footage
  • Social media marketing plan
  • Streaming walkthroughs of the home
  • Professional photos and video

How do you handle prep work and staging?

This question is key because selling your house isn’t just about listing it; it’s about making it shine for potential buyers. Your agent plays a pivotal role here. They should be able to advise you on what needs sprucing up to make your home more attractive to potential buyers – from staging tips to advice on repairs and boosting curb appeal. Plus, a top agent can connect you with trusted professionals for any work that needs to be done.

Just remember that it’s not all on them. Make sure you’re clear on what falls under your responsibility and what the agent will handle themselves.

How deep is your professional network?

Your agent’s professional network can significantly impact your real estate journey. A well-connected agent can offer you access to a range of professionals who not only fit your budget but are also reliable and skilled in their respective fields.

Here’s a list of professionals you may need:

How often will we be in touch?

From the get-go, you’ll want to set clear expectations for communication between yourself and the agent. Will they be your direct point of contact, or do they have an assistant or team member who handles their communications? Bill Gasset, a top-selling agent in Hopkinton, Massachusetts suggests digging deeper by asking, “How readily accessible will you be? Do you have a cell phone that I can reach you on when I need to?” This helps establish whether you’ll have a direct line to your agent for urgent questions or updates, ensuring you’re never left in the dark.

Do you have any buyers/properties in mind already?

An agent’s response to this question tells you about their level of preparedness and how well they truly understand your needs. If the agent already has potential buyers interested in your property, or if they have a selection of homes lined up for you to view immediately, it’s a strong sign of their competence and professionalism. It shows they’re proactive and have a keen sense of the market, which can be a deciding factor in choosing them as your real estate agent.

What do you think will be our biggest challenge?

Ask this question to gauge the agent’s expertise. Every house, market, buyer, and seller comes with unique challenges. A top real estate agent anticipates challenges and addresses them before they become problems. The best answers are honest and humble. You want someone who will be direct with you about what your challenges are so you can tackle them together. 

Brass tacks and next steps

By the time you get to the third section of the interview, you should have a solid understanding of your real estate agent’s character, approach, and personality. You’ve spent the last ten minutes asking them incisive questions and listening intently.

Now, you need to find out some critical pieces of information:

  • How much will this cost?
  • What do you need to sign?
  • What are the next steps?

How much do you charge and how flexible is that?

Real estate agents work on commission. The commission pays for the following:

  • Agent’s assistance in pricing your home
  • Buyer and listing agent fees
  • Marketing your property to buyers
  • Negotiating with other parties in your best interest for price and terms

HomeLight’s Agents Commissions Calculator calculates the national average as 5.8%, but there are many variables at work. Agents are only paid when your house is sold and will split their commission with the buyer’s agent and the broker.

To get commission data specific to your area:

You can use this information to get a better understanding of a real estate agent’s costs.

You should also factor in your personal budget. Ask yourself:

  • How much am I willing to spend?
  • On what am I willing to spend?

Don’t forget to get all the financial details straight with your agent – it’s the key to keeping your transaction smooth and stress-free.

As part of their commission, your agent inputs your home into the multiple listing service (MLS). “The MLS is where all agents are in the country,” says Batterman. What she means is that with so many agents using the MLS, there’s a good chance of finding the right transaction partner for you. A seasoned agent will earn their commission by seeing the deal through – from getting your home listed on the MLS right up to the final closing.

What kind of guarantees do I get?

Typically, agents should not guarantee that they’ll get you in a home or sell your home in a specific number of days. If an agent starts talking about a guaranteed home sale program, it’s likely a gimmick. If you select that agent, the “guarantee” could mean you’ll sell your home for less than it’s worth; or if you’re a buyer, you’ll overpay for the home.

An honest agent will avoid promising things they can’t deliver.

How long do I have to review the documents before signing?

Buying or selling a home is a huge financial decision. Your agent should understand this and give you ample time to review all the documents without feeling rushed or pressured. Remember, a good agent prioritizes your understanding and comfort with the process, ensuring you’re ready and confident when it’s time to sign.

Can you send over some client references?

You’ve checked performance data and online reviews. Yet, you’re still not convinced. The next step is to ask for client references. You’ll want to find previous clients who purchased in the same area and whose situation relates to yours – perhaps another first-time home buyer or another family with a waterfront property. References and anecdotal evidence may be the deciding factor between your potential agent candidates.

If I pick you, what’s the first thing we need to get started?

Before you end the call, make sure you leave with a clear, actionable step – it’s like a bit of homework that preps you for your buying or selling experience. It could be gathering certain documents, making a list of your must-haves in a property, or clearing your home of clutter. This shows the agent that you want to be actively involved in the process and is a good test of their overall preparedness.

What haven’t I asked you?

This question opens the door for your real estate agent to share any important information you might not have thought to ask about. Buying a house is a complex process, and there’s always more to it than meets the eye. Take it from Batterman, who points out, “In the City of Appleton, Wisconsin, an average offer to purchase is 37 pages long – it’s quite a big deal to go through and there’s a number of questions that are really important.”

Take this opportunity to make sure you’re not missing anything essential, especially after discussing the previous 16 questions – who knows, something valuable may come to light!

After the call, you’ll want to ask yourself if the agent is right for you. Here’s a list of questions you might mull over:

  • Do you feel comfortable with the agent’s personality?
  • How do you feel about how they conduct their business?
  • Was the agent prepared? Clear? Direct?

Pam Zaragoza, a top agent in Burlingame, California with 23 years of experience advises, “You have to have a level of trust in an agent, almost as if you were dating or engaged, because you’re sharing a lot of information with them.”

Get started now by reviewing top agents in your area

Not all agents provide the same level of service. Skill, experience, and results matter most when choosing a real estate agent.

Homelight’s internal data reveals the top 5% of agents sell homes for as much as 4.8% more than the average agent. That means more money in your pocket, time saved, and less frustration.

Let us streamline your real estate agent selection process. Use HomeLight’s Free Agent Match tool, which analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews, to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

Now you’re ready to begin! We recommend that you interview at least three top agents in your area before you hire one. Remember, the goal is to get all the information you need to make a smart hiring decision in 15 minutes or less per call.

Header Image Source: (Taylor Grote / Unsplash)