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Five questions to ask a real estate agent

Five questions to ask a real estate agent

Thinking of selling your house? One of your first steps will be to appoint a real estate agent. A good real estate agent will do the hard work of selling your home for you. That includes listing it for sale, marketing it to attract buyers, showing it at open inspections and negotiating with potential purchasers.

It’s an important role, which makes it vital that you appoint the right person. It’s a good idea to meet with several candidates who work in your local area. When you do, here’s what to ask.

1.     What is the target market for my property?

Different homes appeal to different people. Your target audience will dictate how the home is marketed. Everything from your choice of photography, where it’s advertised and how you choose to style the home will help it to appeal to a particular audience.

Ask your real estate agent how they intend to position the property in the market. A good agent should be able to see who it will appeal to, and tailor your marketing strategy to match. They’ll also be able to advise you on whether to undertake minor renovations and stage the home.

2.     Do you have local area knowledge?

Location is a huge part of why buyers look at particular properties. Being able to highlight the attractions of your neighbourhood is therefore an invaluable marketing tool.

Find an agent who specialises in your local area and quiz them on their knowledge. Do they know which homes fall in the desirable school zone? What the public transport is like? Whether there are any proposed developments in the area or infrastructure upgrades?

If your home needs some work, it’s also useful to find an agent with knowledge about local council restrictions on development and subdivision, since these can be added attractions to a would-be buyer.

Ask about recent sales in the area to get a feel for how much they’ve worked nearby, what the local market is like and what you can expect.

3.     How will you be marketing the property?

As well as establishing the target market, you want to know what the agent’s approach will be to the marketing itself.

In today’s competitive market, it’s not enough to take some snaps with an iPhone and hope the buyers do the rest. Ask the agent whether they use a professional photographer and copywriter, if they employ drone photography for aerial shots, and if they utilise video.

You should also ask about a multi-channel marketing campaign. While sometimes it makes sense to save money, it can also be a false economy. An effective advertising campaign can help reach prospective buyers faster and add thousands to the sale price.

Ask your agent which marketing avenues they’ll be employing. Do they have a strong social media presence as well as utilising print and web advertising? Do they keep a data base of prospective buyers to whom they can send listings? More exposure means you can target an audience who might not even be deliberately looking to buy.

4.     What is your commission?

This is often the first question buyers ask. It’s certainly essential to know how much your real estate agent is going to cost. Make sure that you understand the bottom line. Some agents roll all of the marketing costs into their commission. Others advertise a lower rate, but charge marketing separately. To compare them, you need to know each cost.

Bear in mind that cost isn’t everything. A cheaper agent won’t save you money if their service is lacking and they fail to negotiate well with buyers. At the end of the day, the sale price is the most important consideration. So, while commission is important, make sure you consider it as part of the wider picture.

5.     What results do you get?

Look for an agent with a history of strong results in your area. You can ask them about various metrics, like their average days on market or auction clearance rates. Even the best agent is affected by wider market conditions, though, so make sure that you’re comparing like with like. How do their metrics compare with other agents in the same time frame and area?

You can also look at how many listings they have and their previous sales results. This will also give you insight into how fast their properties turn over and what their marketing approach is. It’s not just about who has the most advertisements or For Sale signs: it’s about the results they deliver for those clients.

Still not sure? Go with your gut.

If you’ve talked to a few agents and they’ve all given you the ‘right’ answers, it can seem difficult to choose. By now, you’ve had chance to sit down with each of them and chat. Which one seemed right for you?

In real estate sales, personality is a huge part of the job. There’s no ‘right’ way to be a real estate agent, but there will be people with whom you gel better than others. Selling your home can be stressful and emotional. Choose the person with the traits and approach that you feel most comfortable with and it will ease the stress on you.