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The 5 Questions That Agents HOPE Sellers WON’T Ask!

Thinking of selling your house?

You'll probably interview one or more agents. You'll have them out to your house, receive their opinion of value, and talk about market conditions. Among these agents may be your next door neighbor, your sister's best friend, or some other family acquaintance, who just happens to have a real estate license.

Before you sign a listing contract with anyone, you should ask the following important questions. This list grew out of an informal survey in which Sellers and Agents identified those areas that caused the most friction or problems in their relationship. By having the answers to these questions up front, you can avoid misunderstandings, save yourself some grief and aggravation, and make certain that what you get from your agent is the same as what you expected.

Warning: When first asking these questions, you might encounter "the squirm." Some agents may not be prepared to answer such straightforward inquiries. Don't be uncomfortable. As a seller you have every right to know these things, and any professional agent should be happy to provide you with the answers.

  1. Are you a full time professional, or do you have another job besides selling real estate? Many, many people sell real estate "part time". While this is no crime, it's no great virtue, either. In most cases, a family’s home represents a substantial portion of their financial assets. Such an important matter deserves to be entrusted to a full time agent.

  2. Do you have a specific marketing plan for my house, and will you commit to it in writing? Find out, ahead of time, exactly what your agent will or will not do to sell your house. Does the agent's plan include featuring your home on the Internet, as well as aggressively marketing the property in your local area? The real reason for asking this question is to make certain that your agent definitely has a plan, and is not ‘shooting from the hip’.

  3. Who determines how much money will be spent on advertising my home, and what is that figure? If seeing your house in print every week is important to you, then ask - up front - if your agent makes those decisions. In many cases, the owner/manager decides which properties are advertised. If this is so, then your home may only be featured sporadically, if at all. While most experts agree that the amount of time a house is on the market is not directly related to the number of times the home appears in ads, you should still have a fair idea of the type and number of ads you can expect.

  4. What financial resources or connections do you have for assisting marginal or unusual buyers? While all sellers want buyers with whistle clean credit and a 20% down payment, experience shows that many viable buyers do not fall into that category. Find out if your agent is knowledgeable, and prepared, to work with all buyers, whether AAA or marginal. This is just one of the areas where sellers will find experienced, full time agents much more knowledgeable than beginners or part-timers.

  5. Do you have letters of recommendation from past clients, and may I call them? Get the references and make the calls. One of the best ways to discover how someone will perform in the future is to investigate how they have acted in the past.

Including this short list of questions in your initial interview with a real estate agent can be an eye-opener. The purpose of raising these issues, however, is not to embarrass the real estate agent, but rather is to make absolutely certain that you, as the seller, understand the qualifications and strengths of the person you are retaining for the important job of selling your home. Hopefully, the answers given will raise your comfort level with the agent, and contribute to a profitable and enjoyable real estate relationship.

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