11 Most Revealing Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent

Matt McGeeApril 18, 2024

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11 Most Revealing Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent

It's after 7 p.m. on a Monday night. For the past 20 minutes, you and your spouse have been listening to a real estate agent explain why you should hire her to list your home for sale. Her presentation was great, but when she asks, "What questions do you have for me?" you both freeze. 

After a few awkward seconds, the agent smiles, shakes your hands, and heads to the door, saying, "I'm excited to work with you."

Talk about a missed opportunity!

According to the National Association of Realtors, 81% of sellers contacted just one agent before choosing one to help sell their home. It's crucial to interview agents and be prepared with questions that will help you choose the right one. 

“There are agents that are less transactional and more relational that are spending the time with you that you need,” says Cindy Allen, a top agent in Keller, Texas. “You may require more time to feel comfortable about putting this biggest asset on the market with somebody. And those transactional people aren't going to give you that time.” 

Use the questions below to guide your interviews with each agent. Take notes during each conversation so you can be sure to choose the agent who best fits your wants and needs. 

What to ask when interviewing real estate agents

In our list below, we won’t repeat the questions we outline in our guide for how to interview a real estate agent. We’ll also skip standard questions like “What’s your commission rate?” and “How long does the listing agreement last?” 

When you feature your home on Redy, you’ll already have key information like that as part of each proposal that agents submit, including the terms of the listing agreement, their commission rate, as well as an upfront cash reward for the privilege of selling your home. Our focus here is on deeper questions that will help you understand the true difference between agents. 

1. Are you a part-time or full-time agent?

When it’s time to sell your home, you want an agent whose focus is entirely on their real estate clients. In much the same way you’re committing to an agent, you want an agent who can make the same commitment to you. Working with a part-time agent means you might put your sale at risk, especially if s/he is at another job or too busy to respond quickly to buyers and their agents.

Two good follow-up questions to ask the agent:

  1. Do you have a team or assistants who will be providing support during the sale?

  2. (If the agent runs a team) Will I be working with you or will you pass me on to another agent on your team?

There’s no right or wrong answers to these two questions, but you should understand the working arrangement with each agent and make sure you’re okay with it.

2. Do you work exclusively with sellers, or with both buyers and sellers?

It may be tempting to work with an agent who calls him/herself a “listing specialist” and works solely with sellers, but as Allen points out, there’s an upside to working with an agent with buyer experience.

“I'd want to know how many properties they sell to buyers,” she says, “because if they're coming through my home and they work with a lot of buyers, they'll know exactly what a buyer is going to say about the house.”

3. How much of your business comes from past clients and referrals? 

Online reviews are a good measure of an agent’s skill, but this question goes deeper. Agents often say that the greatest compliment they get is when past clients hire them again or refer friends to hire them.

According to the National Association of Realtors 2023 Member Profile, the typical Realtor® earned 27% of their business from repeat clients and 24% through referrals from past clients. Use that ~50% mark as a good barometer to measure how much of the agent’s client base really enjoyed working with him/her.

4. Tell me about your experience marketing homes in my price range.

It’s important to understand how an agent plans to market your home. Luis Garibay, a top agent in Willamette Valley, Oregon, suggests you go deeper by asking if the agent has experience marketing homes in your price range.

“The biggest thing is, ‘How are you going to sell my house,’ and ‘What do you do to market the house? That's the number one thing,” he says. “If I have a million-dollar home that I want you to sell, but you only really ever sell $300,000 to $400,000 houses, that's a totally different ballgame for marketing. So you should match that up.”

When selling an upper-end home, many agents will market the home via things like drone videos or twilight photography. In luxury markets, some agents may hire a production crew to make a cinematic lifestyle video complete with actors! At lower price points, marketing like that would likely be seen as over the top. Be sure the agent you hire understands what’s needed to market your home.

5. How much sales experience do you have in my town?

With a glut of real estate agents in many markets, Garibay says some agents are fishing outside their normal area to find clients. Beyond the price range question above, you want to make sure the agent knows your local market, knows the local agents, and has experience selling homes there. 

“We've got a lot of Portland agents that are coming down to Salem to sell [but] they don't really have a lot of market knowledge in our area,” he says. “You want to make sure that they're in your actual local area buying and selling, so they can properly negotiate—because what works here doesn't work an hour away.”

6. What do you know about the people who typically buy in this neighborhood?

While you’re asking about the agents’ local sales experience, you can go even deeper by asking how well each agent understands buyer demographics in your area. 

“You need to understand who buys in your neighborhood,” Allen says. “Is it lots of kids? Are people there for the schools? And then I'd be listening for that feedback from the agent.”

7. Will I have input into how you market my home? 

A good agent will have a proven marketing plan that exposes your home to as many potential buyers as possible. But the agent you hire should also be flexible enough to adjust that plan to account for any concerns you have — especially ones that involve your privacy. Some sellers, for example, ask their agent not to do open houses, or not to show certain areas of the home in photos and videos. 

It’s OK to express those concerns to the agents you interview and ask how they’ll take your concerns into account when marketing your home. On the flip side, the agent should also be transparent in explaining to you how those compromises might impact your home’s visibility and ability to attract buyers.

8. How do you handle negotiations with buyers?

Whether it’s over sales price, buyer-requested repairs, the closing date, or other details, every transaction involves negotiations. How your agent handles those negotiations can make or break the sale. You want an agent who will advocate for you as the homeowner. But you also need an agent who can walk you through the compromises that are often needed to get a sale to the finish line.

Listen for each agent to discuss how they’ll fight for your best interests in each negotiation without jeopardizing the sale of your home.

9. Have you had a difficult sale recently? How did you overcome the obstacles?

Spoiler alert: It’s rare for a real estate transaction to go perfectly smoothly. With so much at stake and with all the emotions involved in selling a home, most experienced agents are skilled at putting out the small fires (and sometimes big!) that come up during a transaction.

Listen for how transparent the agents are as they answer this question (they shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit their job can be very difficult), as well as how well they navigate unexpected situations.

10. Are there any external factors that could impact the sale of my home, and how would you address them? 

No matter how beautiful your home is, and no matter if you price it correctly from day one, there are sometimes outside factors that can affect how quickly your home will sell and for what price. It could be recent layoffs that hit buyers in your price range or neighborhood. It could be an influx of homes like yours that recently hit the market. It could be recent market trends that are impacting sellers more than buyers. Listen for your agent to be transparent about potential challenges, and to be proactive about addressing them.

11. Can I get out of our contract before the home sells if I’m not happy? 

No matter how much research you do and how well the interview goes, you might still end up with the wrong agent. Don’t be afraid to ask each agent about their policy for releasing clients before the listing agreement ends. If you’re not happy, they might not be, either, and many agents prefer to invest their time and money into clients where the relationship is good.

Many agents will let you out of the listing agreement before it ends. But some may expect you to reimburse them for marketing expenses like staging, photography, online ads, and so forth. Be sure to clarify those details with each agent before you select one.

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Choosing the right real estate agent for you

You should be prepared with great questions and know how to interview agents during one of the biggest financial events of your life. Sure, you’re looking for an experienced agent with a history of sales success and plenty of transactions under their belt. But you also need an agent who understands the personal side of real estate and your needs as a homeowner.

With the questions above, you can go deeper than a typical real estate agent interview and get a true sense of how well each agent fits your wants and needs.

“You need to make sure that you can work with [the agent] very well,” Garibay says. “You need to make sure your communication styles work and their work ethic is great. Not every agent's the same, right? We know that. And every home is going to be different.”

Now it’s time to take the information you learned in each interview and determine which agent checks as many of your must-haves and nice-to-haves so you can pick the best agent to sell your home.

Redy helps you prepare for this stage of the selling process by providing you with a list of agents and their proposals—including their background, experience, and a personalized message—before you even meet with them. In addition, Redy is the only platform where agents offer you an upfront cash reward for the privilege of listing your home, which can factor into your decision of who to work with. Get started today and see how much experienced agents would pay as a commitment and investment to your home sale.

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