Hiring a real estate agent can be daunting if you’ve never done it before, but here’s the good news: You probably already know what you want—you just haven’t articulated it to yourself or to an agent.
As the buyer or seller, there are a few things you’ll need to assess to figure out which agent is the best fit for you. These are the questions you should be asking every real estate agent you consider hiring so that you can ensure you’re making the right choice.
1. How long have you had your real estate license?
This question will give you a sense of how experienced your agent is, but it’s not the final word. Don’t automatically disqualify a fresher agent—they may have seen a lot of sales despite being newer to the game!
2. Do you work full-time or part-time?
Some real estate agents consider their real estate jobs more of a side hustle than their main gig. That’s important to know coming in the door!
3. Do you work with both buyers and sellers?
Some agents specialize in one or the other. Agents who work both sides might not be as specialized, and they might also have a broader sense of how to negotiate a transaction.
4. What’s the ratio of buyers to sellers?
Depending on whether you want the agent to help you buy or sell, you might prefer one that leans more toward your side of the deal.
5. How many homes do you list every year?
If you’re selling your house and your potential agent works with both buyers and sellers, ask how many homes they list to determine how experienced they are.
6. What geographic areas do you specialize in?
Real estate is a hyperlocal business, and not every agent is going to be the best fit for helping buyers or sellers in every neighborhood. Ask them where they work!
7. Do you sell specific types of property?
Some agents specialize in working with waterfront homes and all that those transactions entail, while others might be downtown condo specialists, or farm specialists.
8. Have you helped buyers find homes at my price range? How many in the past year?
In a hot seller’s market where there isn’t much inventory, it’s wise to ask your agent exactly how successful they’ve been at helping people like you find and buy a house, and how frequently they’ve managed to achieve that success.
9. How many homes do you help buyers purchase every year?
Slightly different than the previous question, this one digs into an agent’s buyer negotiation skills and experience. Even if the agent isn’t helping many buyers in your specific price range, knowing that the agent has a surplus of buyer clients in general can help you weigh your decision.
10. How many clients do you have right now?
A busy agent is probably very good at their job, so it’s a fantastic sign when lots of people want to work with them. At the same time, you also want to make sure your agent will have ample time to help you! Ask them how many listings and buyer clients they have to get a sense for the level of effort involved.
11. How long do you usually work with clients like me?
This is a good question for both buyers and sellers; it can set your expectations around how long it will take to buy a house (or sell one).
12. How are you helping buyers compete in this market?
When there are more buyers looking for a house than there are homes for sale on the market, buying a house can be a daunting and unpleasant challenge. Ask agents what (if anything) they can help you do to gain an edge and finally get that house.
13. How will you help me find a house?
One incredibly important function of real estate agents is to help buyers find a home that they love, which might involve looking in areas the buyer isn’t familiar with, or using search strategies that the buyer doesn’t yet know. So ask what their plan is!
14. How will you help my offer stand out?
A multiple-offer situation is wonderful for sellers, but less so for buyers. You will no doubt want to know how you can write an offer that the seller won’t forget, even if it’s not necessarily the highest.
15. Do you take buyers to showings personally? How does that work?
Some buyer’s real estate agents will personally escort you through different homes for sale, but depending on the market, that might not be as feasible. If you want more or less of a personal touch here, now is the time to ask what you can expect.
16. How would you help me handle a potential bidding war?
This is a question for both buyers and sellers to ask: Buyers will want to know what the thought and strategy is behind winning a bidding war (and how high is too high), whereas sellers will want to know how the agent is going to help them decide which bid to take.
17. How are you helping sellers list homes in this market?
The post-pandemic market has been hot pretty much everywhere in the United States, but that’s not guaranteed forever! And even in a hot market, maximizing listing exposure is still always a best practice. Ask prospective agents what they are doing to help sellers find the largest possible pool of buyers.
18. What price would you recommend I list at if timing isn’t a big issue?
When you’re interviewing a listing agent, perhaps one of the biggest questions is “how much money could I make”—so don’t neglect to ask every agent what they think your house would fetch if you could list it for as long as it took to sell.
19. Why do you think that price makes sense?
Everyone likes hearing a big number in relation to an asset you own, but don’t get too carried away by the number without understanding why the agent believes it’s accurate! They should be able to share how comparable homes in your area sold and what the list-to-sales-price ratios looked like for those homes.
20. What could help me increase my list price?
Agents who are familiar with home listings in your area can give you suggestions for how to boost your list price, both small and large—even before you’ve hired them. They might be ballpark or high-level, but you can at least get a sense for how they will advise you when the partnership is official.
21. What kind of marketing plan can I expect you to put together for my house?
Getting the highest and best price for your house means exposing its listing to as many qualified buyers as possible, which in turn means marketing. Even in a hot seller’s market, your agent should still have some kind of marketing plan to maximize exposure.
22. Will you also be representing the other party?
When a real estate agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a deal, it’s called “dual agency.” This isn’t legal in every state, but in states where it is legal, you do have a right to know whether your agent is representing just your interests, or yours and someone else’s.
23. How does your pay structure work?
Real estate agents might get paid with a flat fee or rate for helping a buyer or seller, or they might get paid on commission (which is more common). It’s absolutely fair to ask them to explain how they will get paid and what (if anything) you need to do to facilitate that!
24. Do you have references?
Satisfied buyers and sellers from past sales can speak volumes about an agent’s competence, and they ought to be able to refer you to at least a handful of happy customers.
25. Do you work solo or are you part of a team?
Real estate teams have been a popular way for agents to manage business; teams are structured differently than a solo agent’s business would be, but that said: Agents on teams may still have end-to-end responsibility for managing your transaction. Ask whether an agent is on a team and who else you might be interacting with if so.
26. What’s the best way to contact you?
Many agents will ask you this question, and as the client, you certainly have the right to set parameters around how you want to talk to your agent. This will help you understand how to best contact an agent in an emergency, should one arise.
27. When are you typically available?
Real estate is known to be a fairly round-the-clock business, but that’s not certain! Your agent might have certain hours of operation when they’re most available, or when they’ll have you talking to an answering service instead.
28. Why do you think I should work with you?
If an agent can’t sell you on why they can help you and why you should trust them, then they might not be a great fit for you! Ask them why their clients love working with them and how they stand out from the rest of the real estate crowd.