Real Estate

Shopping for a real estate agent? Expert tips on how to interview potential sales brokers

With so many real estate agents in the market today, how do you know which one is right for you? If you make the wrong decision, you could be stuck in an exclusive contract with someone who frustrates you for months. Making matters worse, your house could linger on the market with no buyers in sight.

But if you choose wisely, your agent will make the process less stressful, at the very least, and hopefully get a great price for your home so you can move on.

So what are the most important things for you to consider when interviewing a potential sales broker? We asked New York-area agents to offer their advice. Some tips, like a proven track record of successful sales, may be a little obvious, but others might surprise you.

Experience: “Always ask about their experience and what the agent does to separate himself/herself from other agents,” says Louis Adler, principal and co-founder of REAL New York.

Another important question is, “has the agent sold properties of this type in this or a similar location before?” adds Lindsay Barton Barrett of Douglas Elliman. Ask about their last few properties, including, “their recent sales regarding the ‘sold’ price versus the asking price, days on the market, and how they negotiated the sale,” notes Marilyn Blume of Warburg Realty.

How busy they are: “It’s also important to consider how many clients the agent is already actively working with to understand how much time they can spend on you,” Adler adds.

Pricing strategy: “How does the agent go about pricing the property?” Blume asks. “What comps do they have to determine the price range?”

Advertising budget: Most sellers don’t know to ask agents about the advertising budgets within their brokerage, but it’s a crucial question, warns Joel Moss, also with Warburg. Start by inquiring if the broker has a marketing budget or allowance, then ask who pays for photographer, floor plans, advertising and marketing materials. “Does the firm pay? Or are those items paid for by the agent with their allowance?” Moss asks. “No one wants to wind up with iPhone photos because their broker doesn’t have the budget to pay for professional photographs.”

Creativity: Another key thing to consider – “what recommendations do they suggest to prepare your home? For example, staging, lighting, painting, et cetera?” Blume advises.

Transparency: “If you need numbers and data, do they have a system where they will be present you with this info throughout the course of the sale process?” Barrett asks. “If you want to hear about what every buyer says who walks through the house, are they comfortable doing that?”

What your gut is telling you: Make this decision like you would make any other business decision, Barrett suggests. Find someone you trust and feel confident in, “keeping in mind that they will be in your home and helping you, and perhaps your family as well, through a personal process that could have bumps along the way,” she says.

A positive attitude: Your real estate agent is a person you’ll be interacting with a lot, so you want a good rapport with them. “The seller is looking for a positive attitude and positive feedback about their home,” says Dorothy Schrager of Warburg. “Many brokers can give you a long list about what they will do for you, but very few express a real desire to work with you.”

Social chemistry: “You will know if it’s the right fit on your ‘first date’,” agrees Wendy Sarasohn of Brown Harris Stevens. Is this someone you will enjoy spending time with during what can be a very stressful process? “You deserve an adviser who is generous with their time and helps you not waste yours. It’s a combination of chemistry, trust and confidence,” she says. “The right fit is when you know the agent understands you and your needs and is committed to satisfying them.”

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