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10 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent Before You Hire Them

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Out of the millions of real estate agents in the United States, finding the right one for you can be challenging. Referrals from friends and family, as well as research online can help, but you’ll ultimately need to qualify the right one based on your specific needs. Since all agents aren’t created equal, we suggest interviewing a few before deciding who you want by your side for the biggest purchase of your life. Here are 10 questions to ask a real estate agent to help determine whether they’re the right fit for you.

1. Do you work full-time or part-time?

This question can help you determine how much time and effort an agent typically puts toward clients. It can also reveal if an agent works a second job and may not be available for last-minute showings, negotiations, and inspections. In terms of norms, most real estate agents who are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) worked 36 hours per week in 2019.

2. Is your commission negotiable?

This question may be especially important if you’re selling a home. That’s because sellers usually have to pay a commission to their agent and the buyer’s agent. All told, that usually equals 5–6% of a home’s sale price. The good news is that some real estate agents are willing to negotiate their commission percentage. As an example, a seller’s agent may lower their commission on a sale if you buy your next home through them.

3. How many years of experience and training do you have?

A good, seasoned agent will have years of on-the-job experiences to share, as well as training that can benefit you. In part, that’s because agents are required to take continuing education classes. That can add up to years of courses covering topics such as real estate contracts, the mortgage process, and marketing. You can also ask if an agent has earned any credentials. NAR offers several designations and certifications to its members, with its Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) designation being highest. Real estate agents who obtain it undergo additional training and tend to be high performers. Certified Residential Specialists usually “earn nearly three times more in income, transactions, and gross sales” than their counterparts.

This isn’t to say new agents can’t deliver great results, but it’s wise to find out if they work closely with a senior agent or broker.

4. Is your license up to date?

All real estate agents must have a license, but they can lapse if they expire or an agent doesn’t meet their education requirements, for example. To confirm your candidates are qualified, check with their state’s real estate commission. The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO) lists state regulatory agencies here.

5. What neighborhoods do you primarily work in?

Working with an agent who knows your neighborhood or where you plan to move can put you at an advantage. Local agents may have info on neighborhoods, school systems, taxes, and surrounding amenities that can make or break a sale. If you’re planning to buy and sell in two different areas (e.g., neighboring counties), you can consider hiring different agents with expertise in each.

6. Will you be handling everything, or will I also be working with a sales associate or administrative assistant?

Some agents appear to work solo at first glance but actually work on teams. As an example, they may hire other agents to show or list homes, and an administrative assistant to keep things running. There are pros and cons to this approach, including that you may work with an expert at every stage of your transaction. On the downside, the associated agents may have less experience, and communication could break down.

7. What percentage of your clients are buyers, and what percentage are sellers?

This question can reveal the types of transactions a real estate agent is comfortable with. You may also discover some agents only work with either buyers or sellers. To gauge an agent’s experience further, experts recommend asking how many transactions they do each year.

8. How many clients are you currently representing?

A big client roster could indicate a real estate agent is efficient or stretched thin. A low workload may signal an agent is new or doesn’t do much business. Getting the answer to this question will give you insights into which. It’s also helpful to ask agents how they like to communicate and how responsive they are to ensure they’re compatible with you.

9. What’s your list-to-price ratio?

List-to-price or list-to-sale ratios compare how much a home sells for compared to how much it was listed for. You can calculate it by dividing a home’s sales price by its list price. For example, if a home was listed for $300,000 and sold for $300,000, its list-to-price ratio would be 100%. If it sold for $290,000, its ratio would be about 97%. If you’re a seller, you’ll want an agent’s ratio on sold homes to be near or above 100%. It will suggest he or she prices homes well and gets what’s asked for or more. If you’re a buyer looking for the lowest possible price, you’ll want an agent’s ratio on purchased homes to be under 100%.

10. Can you provide references?

Once you’ve got some top contenders, past customers can provide added peace of mind. Potential questions to ask them can include:

  • “How comfortable did you feel with this person helping you buy/sell?”
  • “How long did your home stay on the market?”
  • “How long did it take to find a suitable home to move into?”

Have more questions about the real estate process and making it work for you? Check out our buying and selling guide for a personalized look.

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