How to Interview a Real Estate Agent

Apr 18, 2024 2:00:00 PM / by Matt McGee

How to Interview a Real Estate Agent

Disruptions to your daily life. The uncertainty of when your home will sell. The emotions of leaving a place where you made memories. And don’t forget the money concerns.

Welcome to the world of selling your home. 

With so much at stake, it’s smart to hire a professional real estate agent to guide you through the process, reduce stress as much as possible, and help you navigate any surprises and speed bumps that come up along the way.

But be careful about which agent you hire. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), 81% of sellers interview only one agent before hiring one to sell their home. And even the best agents say that’s not enough.

“It's important to interview a couple agents because you don't know what you don't know until you've talked to a few of them,” says Cindy Allen, a top agent in Keller, Texas. “You’ll learn more with everybody you talk to.”

Before hiring an agent, you’ll want to spend time researching your options. Choosing an agent is about more than just numbers; it’s about compatibility and trust. And there’s no better way to measure that than by interviewing the agents you’re considering.

In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to interview a real estate agent to help sell your home. We’ll walk you through the complete process from finding the right agents to interview, to prepping for the interview, to asking the right questions, and evaluating their answers to help choose the right one for you. 

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How to find the right real estate agents to interview

Not all real estate agents are the same. Some are better at marketing a listing, while others might be skilled negotiators. Some have a friendly, relaxing personality, while others are more stoic and business-like. Some are skilled in new construction sales; others might be experts in selling historic homes.

You’ll want to cast a wide net in the beginning of your search for the right agent. Here are three common ways to begin building your list of potential agents:

  1. Ask friends, family, or coworkers for recommendations. Keep in mind, though, that what worked for them might not be right for you and your needs.

  2. Online research. A quick Google search will lead you to plenty of local real estate agents. Be sure to check their reviews to get a sense of what it’s like to work with them.

  3. Attend open house: If the listing agent is hosting the open house, this is a great way to see how they present their listings and interact with potential buyers. Even if it’s not the listing agent who’s hosting the open house, you can still get a first impression of the agent who is.

As you research online, consider a service like Redy where top agents compete and pay for the privilege of listing your home. With Redy, you can easily compare a curated list of agents and their proposals—their background, experience, and their upfront cash reward—all in one convenient location. 

How to prepare to interview real estate agents

You’re about to hire a real estate agent to sell your home. Take this seriously. Just like you’d prepare to interview job candidates at your workplace, don’t skimp on preparing for your agent interviews. 

If you haven’t already, check their social media profiles to see how they promote listings online. But be careful not to jump to conclusions right away.

“I think that could be a double-edged sword,” warns Luis Garibay, a top agent in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. “There could be some judging the book by the cover because somebody who may be 60 years old looks at my social media and sees that I'm younger, and thinks ‘Oh, I'm not gonna jive with him.’ Well, some of my best clients have been from older demographics.”

In addition to checking the agents’ social media, look for recent client reviews on Google or other sites. Check their websites to see if past sales are listed to get a sense of the type and location of homes they’ve recently sold. 

Before the interviews begin, think about what’s important to you about the agent you hire to sell your home. Make a list of qualities of the agent you want to work with—i.e., are they a great communicator? Are they an innovative marketer? Do they have experience selling your specific type of home? (We’ll go deeper into the criteria to consider in just a moment.) When your list is complete, separate the qualities into must-haves and nice-to-haves to help choose the best match. 

When you use Redy to find the right listing agent, your preparation happens in a low-pressure environment where you can compare proposals from real estate agents privately from the comfort of your home. You can filter proposals by the criteria that matters most to you, then pair each proposal alongside our robust agent profiles with useful information on their past sales, awards, and designations.

Key criteria for evaluating agents

You might be tempted to want to hire that mega-popular agent in your area who has tens of thousands of social media followers. Or the agent who’s always sharing glamorous selfies as they stand next to a sports car parked in front of a high-end mansion across town. Or maybe you’re all about numbers and you just want to hire that agent who seems to sell more houses than anyone else around. 

Sorry to say, but choosing a real estate agent is more complicated than that.

As you go through the research and interview process, here are some criteria you might consider:

Local market knowledge and experience

You want to hire an agent who knows your local market—i.e., what’s selling and how quickly is it selling, as well as what’s not selling and why not. Finding an agent with a track record of selling homes in your neighborhood can position you for a successful sale.

Beyond the local/neighborhood experience, Allen says it’s important to find out if the agents you’re considering have experience with your type of property and your price range. 

“I'm listing one home next week for $400,000 and another one is going up at $1.1 million—completely different buyers looking for completely different things,” she says. “If I don't sell $1.1 million homes often enough, I won't recognize the importance of that second half-bath or that particular layout in the kitchen because that market entertains at home more often than the guy at $400,000. So I think it's really important to have experience in that market so you know what buyers are looking for.”

Marketing skills and strategy 

Your agent’s job is to get your home seen by as many potential buyers as possible. Note that we said “potential buyers,” not “people.” Marketing and advertising your home to people who aren’t likely to be interested or able to buy it is a waste of time and resources. 

There’s a lot more to marketing a home than putting a “For Sale” sign in the front yard and posting some photos on Facebook. Make sure your agent has a comprehensive marketing plan that includes digital and traditional media, as well as other outreach tactics, to ensure wide exposure to the right audience.

Reviews and references

When reading reviews of the agents you’re considering, go beyond the typical platitudes like “we would highly recommend Sally Agent to anyone looking to buy or sell.” Look for indicators that might reveal what it’s really like to work with each agent. Did the agent(s) do anything specific to overcome an unexpected challenge during the sales process? Did they go above and beyond to get their clients’ homes sold? Insights like that can separate the best agents from their competition.

Sales success

Many agents will tell you how many homes they’ve sold and their overall sales volume, but going deeper into their numbers can provide valuable intel about different aspects of selling a home. Here are two stats to ask about during your interviews:

  • An agent’s list-to-sales-price ratio—i.e., their listings’ original asking price compared to their final sales prices—can indicate if they’re good at pricing homes. 

  • If you’re on a schedule to get your home sold, an agent’s days on market can indicate if they’re good at pricing and marketing their listings aggressively enough for a quick sale. 

Keep in mind, though, that there are factors out of the agent’s control that can negatively impact statistics like those, such as a home’s condition or the homeowner’s willingness to negotiate on repairs, sales price, and more.

Rapport level

From start to finish, selling a home typically takes from 45 days in the best-case scenario to potentially several months. You’ll be working very closely with your agent to get your home ready to sell, then to schedule showings, review offers, navigate the inspection and appraisal process, and ultimately close the sale. 

“You want to make sure that you're going to jive with the agent,” Garibay says. “You want to feel that they're a trustworthy person. If you don't have that good rapport, are you really going to feel like they have your best interest at heart?”

You and your agent don’t need to be best friends, but you do need to enjoy communicating and working together. And that’s a perfect segue into the next important criterion…

Communication skills

In a process with as many possible ups and downs as selling your home, great communication is a must. Find out how and how often each agent typically communicates with their seller clients. If their communication style or frequency doesn’t fit what you’re looking for, ask if they can be flexible. If not, that might not be the agent for you.

Workload and availability

You obviously want to hire an agent who’ll be responsive and pay attention to you throughout the sales process. But there’s a bit of a Catch-22 here: A successful agent may have so many clients that they can’t give you the attention you want, while an agent who has loads of time to dedicate to you may not be very skilled or successful. You’re looking for a sweet spot between the agent’s skills and availability. 

What’s the best way to interview real estate agents?

There’s no perfect method for interviewing real estate agents. Whether it’s in-person, virtual, or over the phone, choose the method that best fits your comfort level and availability. 

Whichever method you choose, be prepared with your list of questions (see our suggestions below) and have something handy for note-taking. 

Keep in mind that different interview methods will give you different insights into the agents. A phone conversation, for example, won’t let you see the agent’s non-verbal communications skills and may not offer the same opportunity for rapport as an in-person interview. 

Questions to ask during the interview

Your research and preparation are finished. You have a list of must-have and nice-to-have criteria for choosing your real estate agent. Now, it’s time to talk to them! Here are five important questions to ask each agent during the interview.

1. How will you decide my home’s list price?

Plot twist: An experienced agent should explain that neither they nor you decide your home’s listing price…the market does. Listen for the agent to discuss and show you recent sales of comparable homes (often called “comps”) that impact what your list price should be. Don’t instinctively choose the agent that suggests the highest listing price; if the appraiser doesn’t agree with the final sales price, your sale could be in jeopardy.

2. How will you market my home? 

As we mentioned earlier, your agent should have a plan to expose your home to as many potential buyers as possible. Ask each agent to walk you through their marketing process and show you examples of how they’ve marketed previous listings like yours. Give bonus points to any agent who also markets your home to other agents—especially the ones that often have buyers that fit your home’s profile.

3. What needs to be done to improve my home’s value? 

Rare is the home that’s in perfect, ready-to-sell condition. Listen to each agent’s answer to find out if they’re familiar with buyers’ expectations for homes in your price range. Each agent should be able to share specific improvements that will make your home more attractive to buyers and potentially increase its value. 

4. How and what will you communicate with me after my home is listed for sale? 

An open line of communication during the sale will help you understand how buyers are reacting to your home’s price and features, as well as minimize any stress you might be feeling. A weekly update on showings and feedback is common. It’s smart to set expectations for regular communication at the beginning. And speaking of expectations, that leads right into the next question…

5. What are your expectations of me as your client? 

Working with an agent to sell your home is a two-way relationship. You may not realize it, but while you’re interviewing these agents, each one is also interviewing you. They, too, want to make sure you’re a good fit, that you have good rapport, and that your expectations aren’t unrealistic about things like your home’s value and what needs to be done to fix it up before it hits the market.

“I want to make sure that [the seller is] willing to do what I need them to do to get them top dollar so they're not disappointed,” Allen says. “And to understand that not doing that is costing them money. If you don't want to do it, that's fine. But understand that I can't give you top dollar if you're not going to do that.”

The questions above will give you a good start on deciding which agent is right for you. But don’t miss our in-depth list of 11 questions every seller should ask potential real estate agents to help get even more prepared for these interviews.

Choosing the right real estate agent

You’ve finished the interviews…congrats! Unless you’re in a hurry to get your home listed and sold, don’t rush to make a decision. Let each agent know that you’ll need a day or three to decide; they’ll understand. 

Now’s the time to review each agent and conversation. There are three primary considerations to balance now:

  1. Each agent’s sales metrics (i.e., their track record)

  2. How each agent works (i.e., their communication and marketing plans)

  3. Intangibles (i.e., your rapport with each agent)

When you work with Redy, you’re in charge throughout the process. Rather than having several agents calling you at all hours of the day, you’ll choose the agent(s) with whom you want to interact and fully control when this interaction happens. Once you find an agent that catches your attention, you'll schedule a walkthrough of your home to ensure it's a mutual match. Redy only shares your personal information with agents you’ve selected to meet. If the first agent isn't a fit, you can always choose another. 

Your home is probably your biggest investment and primary source of wealth. Selling it isn’t something you should take lightly. Ultimately, you want to choose the agent that you believe will best represent your interests and handle the sale of your home with both skill and integrity.

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