Selling your home is one of the largest financial transactions of your lifetime. You need to hire a real estate agent, and you need them to be skilled. We’ve put together this guide so you will know how to interview a real estate agent in your initial phone call.
What most sellers want in a real estate agent
You need to be able to work with your real estate agent. “I think there’s a lot of things that sellers should really take into consideration,” says Kim Batterman, a top-selling agent in Appleton, Wisconsin, who has sold over 300 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, expert in the local market
- Current transaction history, sold houses within the last year
- Experience, negotiates with skill and wisdom
- Tech savvy, keeps up with best marketing practices
- Well versed in updated legal documents, completes transactions legally and with integrity
Here’s the good news. We analyze millions of home sales to find real estate agents who sell homes the fastest and for more money. Our network of agents consistently outperform the agents in their area for properties like yours.
You can find your perfect agent using HomeLight’s Agent Match.
Your next task is to make these calls, get to know the agents, and see if you’d be comfortable working with them over the next few months.
You’re busy, so before we go into detail, here is a list of 17 questions you can have readily accessible for your next call.
How to interview a real estate agent in 17 questions
- How long have you been in business?
- How well do you know the area?
- What sets you apart from other agents here?
- How many clients do you represent at a time?
- Who would I be working with on your team?
- What’s your marketing plan for properties like mine?
- How do you handle prep work and staging?
- How deep is your professional network if we need contractors?
- How often will we be in touch?
- Do you have any buyers / properties in mind already?
- What’s the biggest challenge you think we’ll face?
- What kind of guarantees do I get?
- How long do I have to review the documents before I sign anything?
- How much do you charge?
- Can you send over some client references?
- If I pick you, what’s the first thing we need to do to get started?
- What haven’t I asked you that I need to know?
Next, you will learn how these 17 questions work in a three-part concise phone interview to:
- save you time
- structure your phone call
- match you with an agent that suits your needs
Interview a real estate agent in 3 parts
Each real estate agent you talk to wants to win your business. They’ll likely drive the conversation and talk up their most attractive qualities. That works because the agent covers a lot of the material you need to know.
Agents are in the business of selling, and some will talk your ear off. You’ll want to limit the conversation to 15 minutes.
You can keep the conversation on track and on time by breaking it into three specific sections. Each section should be a maximum of five minutes. Your agent should give you enough actionable information in those five minutes.
Each section is five minutes long and broken down into:
- Getting the basics out of the way
- Getting a feel for how they do what they do
- Going over logistics and next steps
Covering the basics when interviewing a real estate agent
The beginning of the call is the best place to get to know 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. “You think about it. For most of us, our homes are the most expensive thing we purchased.”
How long have you been in business?
The agent’s answer to this question reveals a peek into their track record. If they’ve been in business for a while, you can infer that they run a stable and respectable business.
More than likely, the real estate agents know the area well and they’ll have a deep network of agents and other real estate professionals at their disposal.
In contrast, a relatively new business might be hungry for clients. A young real estate agent with strong performance data may fight harder for you but might struggle with unexpected roadblocks.
You’ll also want to be certain they are a full time, licensed agent. A part-time agent may lack the time, experience, and patience to provide the full service you deserve.
How well do you know the area?
You have a chance to test your real estate’s knowledge of the market. Ideally, your real estate agent lives in and around the area, and has for a long time.
They’ll have inside knowledge on:
- buyer taste trends
- economic data
- hidden gems
- housing market
Having knowledge about the area helps with real estate transactions. “It’s being able to identify what are all the great things about this environment and what [to] expect in the future for this neighborhood,” explains Batterman.
What sets you apart from other agents here?
You’re comparing several agents to find the best one for you. Your real estate agent knows that.
Asking this question gives the agent a chance to sell you on their business and gives you more information so you can compare and contrast each of the agents with one another.
How many clients do you represent at a time?
You are really asking: Will you make time for me and my needs? You want the agent to explain to you 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 work with their assistants and team and not the actual agent. On the other hand, 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 in to 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.
Covering how agents work
The middle of your phone interview needs to 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
That’s why you’ll ask them the following questions:
Who would I be working with?
The real estate agent you call might not be the person you deal with daily.
You need to find out:
- name and contact info of the primary point of contact
- who is on your team
- when it’s okay to contact your people
What’s your marketing plan, especially online?
Each agent markets a property differently. All competent agents will use the internet to market. Almost universally, homebuyers use the web for searching up properties.
The National Association of Realtors® 2022 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report states 95% 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 suggests that your agent’s marketing plan should include:
- accurate keyword positioning
- drone video
- social media marketing plan
- streaming walkthroughs of the home
- virtually stages the home with professional photos and video
How do you handle prep work and staging?
Selling your house requires hard work. Your agent is responsible for:
- advising you on what is necessary to stage
- guiding you through prep work, such as repairs and curb appeal
- connecting you with verified professionals
You need to find out what your responsibility is in the deal and what the agent will not do.
How deep is your professional network?
Your agents should connect you with professionals who fit your budget and are trustworthy.
Here is a list of professionals you may need:
- home inspectors
How often will we be in touch?
You will need to find out how accessible your agent will be throughout the process. Do they have an administrator who assists with communication?
Bill Gasset, a top-selling agent in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, recommends asking, “How readily accessible will you be? Do you have a cell phone that I can reach you on when I need to?”
Do you have any buyers/properties in mind already?
This question is key to your success. The agent’s answer could influence you to make a choice immediately.
If the agent has a buyer interested in your property, or if the agent has properties ready for you to look at that day, you know they are competent and professional.
What do you think will be our biggest challenge?
You ask this question to check the agent’s expertise. Every house, market, buyer, and seller come 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 is direct and honest 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 critical information:
- how much will this cost
- what do you need to sign
- what’s next
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 it to buyers
- negotiating with other parties in your best interest for price and terms
Our 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:
- use HomeLight’s commission calculator
- enter your city
- check out the rates
You can use this information to get a better understanding of a real estate agent’s costs.
You should also bring up your personal budget. Ask yourself:
- how much am I willing to spend
- on what am I willing to spend
Make sure to be clear on the financial details with your agent to ensure a well-ordered transaction.
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,” Batterman explains. By “ALL AGENTS” she means there is bound to be a transaction partner out there somewhere for you, and an experienced agent will earn their commission by seeing the deal through — from MLS listing to 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. As a result, your agent should not pressure you into signing anything before you are ready to begin.
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 with similar deals as yours in the same area. 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?
Don’t hang up the phone until you get an actionable step. It’s something the real estate agent wants you to do, like homework for your buying or selling experience.
What haven’t I asked you?
Your real estate agent may have some crucial information to relay to you. Buying a house is a complex process.
“An average offer to purchase in the city of Appleton is 37 pages long,” says Batterman. “It’s quite a big deal to go through. There’s a number of questions that are really important.”
This question enables the agent to provide valuable information or ask important clarifying questions. Once you’ve covered the previous 16 questions, there is not much left to go over.
After the call, ask yourself if the agent is right for you. Here is a list of questions your 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 Burlingame, California, agent with 21 years 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 are equal. Skill, experience, and results matter when choosing a real estate agent.
HomeLight’s internal data reveals the top 5% of agents sell homes for as much as 10% 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. 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)