1. How long have you been an agent?
The specific answer to this question is of some importance, but how it is answered is what you should look for. For example, a new agent does not equal a bad agent. In fact, you may receive much better customer service from a new agent because they are eager to please and hungry to succeed. New agents also often have an experienced mentor to guide them and step in if there is an issue. If you find yourself interviewing a new agent, ask them about their training, their mentor, and their goals to get a better idea of how they operate.
Conversely, an experienced agent does not equal a good agent. As agents we routinely run into veteran agents who are not up to date on current laws or best practices or are simply stuck in their ways. Similarly, you may think you are getting a hotshot agent when really his intention is to hand you over to a mentee because they simply don’t have time to juggle another client. If you find yourself interviewing a veteran agent, ask who else on the team they expect you would be working with on a regular basis to get an idea of their intentions. You can also ask them about their communication strategy and availability. If the answer is “You can call my transaction coordinator any time,” or “my executive assistant can answer any questions you have,” you can expect their availability to be limited.
2. Can you provide references?
Let me quickly point out that online reviews are not references. Depending on how the agent answers this question you can gleam a lot about their style. If they balk or complain about providing references, it gives you a bit of insight into how they will react to similar demands on their time later in the process. If they cannot provide any references, or it takes them a long time to gather them, you can assume that they do not form a strong bond with their clients.
New agents may not be able to provide real estate related references, which is understandable if they are still getting started. A positive reference from a previous employer or teacher demonstrates a willingness to go above and beyond, which is definitely one of the traits you want in your agent.
3. What guarantees do you offer?
There is only one correct answer to this question: “If you are not 100% satisfied with my service, you can fire me at any time without penalty.” This can be written into the contract in its simplest form, or it can come with all manor of caveats. If you are not comfortable with the answer you receive, try asking follow-up questions about clients that canceled an agreement with them in the past, or what their company’s policy on canceled agreements is. You should never feel trapped when it comes to your choice of agent.
4. What separates you from your competition?
The answer to this question will tell you a lot about the agent and their strategy, just be careful of prefabricated, generic answers about marketing plans and strategies. You can go online and find a “30 Point Marketing Plan” for every major brokerage in minutes, and you probably won’t be able to tell them apart. So, what really separates you from other agents? What you are really looking for is a thoughtful, authentic answer that provides insight into the agent’s personality and history. Regurgitation of learned talking points is always the wrong answer.
If you take only one thing away from reading this, it should be that the agent who does the most business by volume might not be the best agent for you. Many other guides to hiring an agent focus on numbers that are a poor representation of the agent as a person. If you were to rank each agent by their sales volume you might find that the winner is the agent who spends the most on advertising, or who focuses the most on growing his business, not necessarily the one who provides the best service. If you are looking for the best service in the city, or have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to reach out to Sellstate Alliance and we would happily assist you.