Whether you are trying to sell your home or looking to buy a new one, choosing the right real estate agent makes a significant difference in the outcome. With the right realtor by your side, you can sell your house quickly and smoothly, but if you hire the wrong broker, the same selling endeavor can become long and cumbersome.

Did you know that you can wind up paying more for the same property if your agent is inexperienced? So much of the home buying process depends on the role of your realtor, and it pays to ask these 8 things when deciding on the right agent for you.


1. How long you have been working as a realtor?

Though most realtors don’t last more than two years in the business, many people still feel it won’t make a difference if their real estate agent is highly experienced. In reality, 20% of agents do 80% of the business. Those same folks will regret choosing a newbie when their home buying or selling experience becomes long and cumbersome because their real estate agent isn’t used to the process. There is just no substitute to experience in the world of real estate. Do not hesitate to ask this question before hiring your realtor.


2. What is the ratio of your list price to sales price?

Your goal as a home buyer is to pay less than the owner’s asking price, while your goal as a seller is to extract a price as close to the listing. You can judge the negotiation skills (or lack thereof) of the real estate agent by inquiring about their list price to sales price ratio. A near unity ratio of list to sales price means you should hire the agent as he or she will be able to sell your house at list price. If you are a buyer, this ratio should be less than 1 to indicate the skills of the agent.

If you’re going to be buying and selling, you’ll want to talk with your agent about their practices for both. Every state allows an agent to “represent” both a buyer and seller within a single transaction. In a situation like this, you’ll need to be clear on what the agent’s policy is.


3. Do you have marketing plans according to my needs?

Every property is unique, and experienced agents know at a glance what they need to do to market it effectively. Stay away from the agent if you are not satisfied with the marketing plan they have in mind for your house. Ask for their plan for the house hunt according to your requirements.

To get a better understanding of your potential agent’s marketing style, check out their online presence. For sellers, this is especially critical. You will want your property professionally marketed on all major social media platforms as well as on major real estate portals. Examine the agent’s website. How professional is it? Is it one that actively attracts buyers? How many websites do they distribute to? If you Google them, what do you find? Include online reviews and testimonials in this endeavor. If you want to sell your house fast and you are not impressed with an agent’s marketing plan or their online presence, do not hire them.


4. Do you have references?

Your potential agent should be able to provide you with a long list of their previous clients. What others think of the agent will readily answer any lingering questions you may have about them. It’s reasonable to ask about the past employers and performance of the real estate agent. After perusing online reviews, ask for previous clients’ phone numbers to talk to them personally and know their experiences with the realtor.


5. How much commission do you charge?

Real estate is an industry that is based on the commission of the realtors. It’s important to understand the rate of commission charged by the professional, and if there any fees to the agent that you are responsible for so that there is no dispute later. 

You need to find out if there is a minimum commission your agent expects to receive, and if so, what happens if the seller side doesn’t pay it. You’ll also need to know what happens if you end up buying a home For Sale By Owner, or if there are bonuses offered as an incentive to the buyer’s agent. Even though all real estate fees are negotiable, do not take it for granted that you will be able to get a 20% discount on the fees charged by your broker. What matters is that you understand what, if any, your financial obligations may be when working with the agent.


6. Do you provide any guarantees?

Not all real estate agents can deliver your desired results. Ask your agent if he or she gives any guarantees or not. You should be able to cancel the agreement if you are not satisfied with your realtor’s performance. There are no set prices or terms for all agents; everyone has a different policy. You should be clear on what their policies are and what you’re entitled to when entering into a contract. 


7. How many houses did you sell in the last year and at what price range?

The answer to this question will give you an indication of the caliber of your potential real estate agent. You even can ask for documentation of the agent’s recent transactions; any agent should be able to quickly generate a report showing their active, pending and closed listings and sales. 

Remember, markets can vary greatly so there is no “right” number of transactions to look for. A good rule of thumb is that a “good” agent might close on 12 or more transactions per year. When working to sell your home, you will also want to inquire if the agent has sold similar properties in the past. 


8. Do you help in staging and what are the charges?

Staging is an essential step in the sale of real estate and is often overlooked by sellers. Staging prepares the house and makes it attractive to prospective buyers, helping them imagine the potential for their future home. 

Many agents hire professional stagers or are experienced in staging homes themselves. It is crucial to understand beforehand what the realtor’s fees for staging are, or who pays for the fee of the hired stager. 

When it comes time to list a home, most sellers only want to know how much they will get for the property and what will the agent’s commission be. Few buyers and sellers take time to interview their prospective agent and ask additional questions before hiring them. A better approach would be to treat your first meeting with an agent as an interview: ask a wide array of questions and understand your mutual expectations before making a decision.