It always blows my mind when I read statistics like the average home buyer interviews less than one agent before deciding who to hire. Maybe that’s because you don’t know the right questions to ask, and today, we’re going to solve that. Let’s talk about the five questions that you need to ask your agent before making that decision to work with them.
It’s not always true that the average person interviews fewer than one agent, but there are also a lot of people who don’t even interview anyone at all. They just make a phone call, sign a document, and they’re done.
It boggles my mind that people don’t interview at least two to four agents before hiring someone. It’s because, generally, it’s just like when you get surgery or when you hire an attorney, you would also like to get second or third opinions. This is why it’s truly amusing, especially at the price points and the amount of money I see on the line.
For me, when there are millions of dollars on the line and you’re at the price points that are required to win in this marketplace, you should be asking at least a few extra questions. That’s regardless of whether you just have a more intelligent conversation with your first choice. So without any further ado, let’s get into the five questions.
Question number 1: Have you ever lost or released a deposit?
So the first question you should ask is, “Have you ever released or lost somebody’s deposit?” This is really important because you’re required to put an earnest money deposit into escrow as a buyer. As soon as you ratify that contract, you’re very excited; you’ve got the offer accepted. Then, you put down around $20,000 to $50,000, sometimes $100,000, as a deposit. However, remember that you’re putting that huge amount of money on the line. That’s because the seller can take it if you don’t perform for some reason.
In addition, there are a variety of reasons why deposits could be at risk. In general, what you need to find out is whether your realtor takes that seriously. Do they mitigate your risk of losing your deposit and of having the seller go after it? Or, perhaps, have they litigated against liquidated damages and some of the other things involved with taking a deposit? However, admittedly, it’s not as simple as, say, sellers not returning the deposit when you don’t perform.
But, you really need to understand your realtor’s track record with that particular topic. Ideally, you want to hear that they’ve never lost or released a deposit. Or, consider, for example, a situation where an escrow has been canceled for whatever reason. You want to be sure that they have experience in keeping as much of the deposit as possible. Therefore, make sure you’re asking that question. It’s because, by doing so, you would know where they’re coming from on that front.
In addition, you can also ask them this one as a follow-up question to that. And that is, “Have you ever had a client go into litigation of any kind?” Even if it’s a mediation relative to the contract they wrote, and then see what they say.
Question number 2: How many offers does your average buyer write?
The second question to ask is, “On average, how many offers does your average client write?” Personally, I would always ask this, especially on the buy-side, but this is an interesting one for the sell-side too.
First and foremost, it would tell you if they are keeping track of their stats.
Do they know their numbers by heart? Or are they just winging it? That will tell you something right there if that is a good fit for you.
There are also other things it would tell you if they knew their stats. For example, if they know their stats and have three, five, or even 10. You can say, “Okay, well, why is it that number, and what is normal? What is the average? What are you seeing out there?” Just a quick note, though. You might want to do that research on your own before you ask them. But, if you can do that beforehand, you can then compare their answer against what you’ve researched in the marketplace.
Admittedly, this is hard data to aggregate. However, many people generally write 5–10 offers, and it is not uncommon for people to write that many. When I talk to people at open houses, I hear things like, “There’s a lot of buyer fatigue.” And with something like that, I would say that there are a lot of missed opportunities potentially there.
So, suppose you hear someone writing an average of three or four offers. In that case, you might have somebody who has a better strategy or handle than average for succeeding in this market. Therefore, you might want to dig in on that as to why. If they tell you that their average client rates 12 offers, there might be a reason for that. So make sure you dig in and find out what those numbers are. Doing so will tell you a lot about their process and their grasp of succeeding in the market.
Question number 3: What is one area of weakness that you are working on?
The third question is an interesting one. I have actually never been asked this in person, but I have thought about this a lot myself. So, the next question is, “What is an area, professionally, that you’re not very good at that you’re actively working on to improve?” To tell you the truth, it’s less about what the actual answer is. Instead, it is more about how introspective and humble they are to tell you something about themselves that they’re still working on. They might probably say, “Yeah, I honestly get really focused on a lot of details. I sometimes miss the bigger picture. And I really am trying to figure out how to let go of some of the small details as needed. Or vice versa. It’s like I don’t focus on the details. And I’m really trying to focus on something.”
But whatever that answer is, it will tell you a couple of things about that agent. It will give you an idea if that person is someone you want to work with. Are they introspective? Are they self-aware enough? And do they have the humility to share that with you?
If possible, you have to find out the answers to these questions. It’s because you’ll be forming a professional or business relationship with this person. That’s why it’s crucial to get to know them ahead of time. It’s imperative to try, at least to find out if you like how they operate. Not only that, but you also have to know about their ethics, ethos, etc. You have to get a little intimate and personal to properly get to know this person. It’s because, again, you want to make sure that this is someone you can engage with and enjoy being around.
Question number 4: What is a positive thing you can say about one of your competitors?
This next one is another interesting question that gets asked from time to time. This is especially true in listing presentations. But, in my opinion, you should ask this every single time. And that would be, “What is one quality about some of your competitive realtors that you really admire?” Or, “What’s something you really respect about your other competitors in the industry?”
If you’ve already interviewed more than one person, maybe you can throw a name out when asking this. You might try to say, “What do you respect about this agent and that agent?” Then see what they say. Doing this will also tell you some things about the agent you’re interviewing. It’ll tell you if they have dealt with people or other agents who are popular in that territory. Do they know those people well enough to have personal relationships with them? Or, have they at least come across them in transactions or on broker’s tours? It will also show you how humble they are and how aware they are. They’re not the only show in town, but everyone would want to tell you how great they are. And that’s the whole point; they’re trying to make you choose them as your agent.
However, if they can tell you something positive about some other agents in town, it gives them self-awareness. Again, it shows some humility. And it shows you that they’re awake at the wheel. They know what’s going on and who their good competition is and who isn’t. They are aware of where they stack up in that rank. The bottom line is that it can give you a good sense of whether they are well-liked or not in that community. So you’re really looking for that personality fit with that question.
Question number 5: What percentage of your deals are done off-market?
Finally, this last question, I think, is really important, especially as we head into the holiday season. That’s November and December and the early part of January. So, the question is this: “How many deals a year, on average, do you do off-market? Or, what percentage of your deals are done off-market?” That’s because as we move into the holidays, those off-market opportunities come up more and more and more. And there are a lot of different reasons for that but what you really are looking for from this question is how plugged into that community they are.
Do they know the prime listing agents? Are they getting in front of those opportunities on your behalf? That’s so that you can go in and look at them if there is a pocket listing or an off-market opportunity. With this, you’re making sure you’re seeing everything you possibly can see. Generally, I would say that an average of 10%–20% of off-market deals annually is really pretty solid. Much more than that would be something that would make you want to know why.
But to be clear, them doing zero off-market is not necessarily a problem. However, it’s something that you need to dig in on and understand why they don’t do it that way. Try to understand how they feel about off-markets. Can they find them for you? Is that important to you? Is that important to them? Just make sure you ask the question and then listen intently. Then, once you get those answers, you can also ask follow-up questions as to why.
As you can tell, this whole process will get a little personal. However, that should be expected because your goal, in the first place, is to find out who that person is. It’s because, at the end of the day, everyone will tell you they’re number one. Everyone will tell you their customer service is top-notch, white-glove this, top-rated that, platinum this, etc., right? In other words, everyone will try to sell themselves so that you might pick them. And what you really want to know is, can you connect with that person? Can they deliver the goods better than you could by yourself, or better than your next best option?
Then, ultimately, are you going to have a good time doing it or working with them? Or is this someone you can trust? Is this someone who can get it done for you? Can they do it themselves without you having to worry and sweat the little details? And lastly, are they going to get in front of all the possible opportunities that would fit your criteria?
Ultimately, you will have to judge that character for yourself. Therefore, if you ask at least those five questions, hopefully, you’ll have a better knowledge of the agent you’re interviewing. I’m sure there are many more that you could ask about. However, if you get to those five questions, you’re already heading in the right direction, I’d say. Whenever I’ve been asked those, I always respect that person asking more. It’s because they’re really digging to find out if we’re going to be a good fit. Ultimately, it’s a two-way street, and that’s why you want to make sure it fits both ways. Remember, it’s your purchase; it’s your home. That’s why it’s got to work for you.
I hope my list of Five Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Real Estate Agent has helped you.
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