Buying and selling homes is big business. It pays to do some “home work” to find a real estate agent who knows his or her stuff – literally, it pays. An experienced agent with a track record will go a long way to get you top dollar on your property sale, and the best deal on your purchase.
Treat your vetting process like a job interview. Ask questions, and don’t settle until you’re satisfied with the answers.
7 key questions to ask a prospective real estate agent
1. What is your area of focus? By “area” we mean city or neighbourhood, but also the type of property: condo or detached, recreational, luxury, investment, fixer-upper or brand new. Also, some agents specialize in sales while others focus on purchases or rentals. Just like in medicine, a general practitioner can probably handle a typical transaction, but there are specialists who may be better equipped to help you seal the deal.
2. Are you a full-time real estate agent? Someone dabbling in the business part-time to make some extra money might lack the knowledge and the time required to market and show your property, and to negotiate the best deal on your behalf.
3. How many other clients are you currently working with? If it’s a high number, question whether the agent will have the time to devote to you and your needs. On the flip-side, if the answer is zero, that could be a red flag that this particular agent may not have the experience or level of success that you’re looking for.
4. Do you have references? Ask for a few names and numbers of past clients, and call them to help determine if the agent is worth the commission they charge. This leads us to the next question…
5. How do you get paid? There’s no set commission rate for real estate agents in Canada, but typically these range between three and six per cent of the sale price. On a $500,000 home, that’s between $15,000 and $30,000. And remember, cheaper isn’t necessarily better. A cut-rate agent may also fall short in the service department. On the flip side, you may be able to negotiate this fee, so it’s definitely a discussion point.
6. How will you market my home? That ‘For Sale’ sign on the front lawn is great and all, but it just scratches the surface when it comes to selling strategies. Will the home be listed on the Multiple Listings System? What about social media marketing, like Facebook? Online virtual tours? Print advertising, like newspaper ads or flyers? Open houses? The more eyes see your property for sale, the better.
7. What’s your sold-to-list-price ratio? This number will tell you how close the agent has come to asking price. Aim high on this one, folks!
A home is likely the most significant financial transaction you’ll make in your lifetime. Finding the right real estate agent will go a long way to making it a smooth and successful one.