We talk a lot about first time home buyers, but first time home sellers are, for the most part, forgotten. Most assume since they’ve gone through the process of buying a home, they don’t need any education about selling their home. The reality is, buying a home is a completely different beast and requires a completely different mindset than selling a home. One of the most confusing parts of the process is hiring the right listing agent. In this post, we’ll help demystify as much of the home selling process as we can. What questions should I ask a Realtor?
Interview Questions for Listing Agents
To help you with that process, we’ve come up with a list of 26 questions you should ask a potential listing agent. We’ve also written our answers, so you can get a sense for what types of responses you can expect.
Credentials and Experience
How long have you been in real estate?
No offense to those newbie agents out there, but the amount of time a Realtor has been in the business is a critical piece of the puzzle. Finding an agent who knows the process inside and out, knows the market and how to negotiate hard on your behalf is invaluable. These skills aren’t something you can read in a book or learn in a class. The reality is, these are the skills that will put more money in your pocket. Hire an experienced Realtor, or team of Realtors, to help you sell your home.
Our team has a combined 55+ years of experience in real estate. Raymond has 40+ years of experience, Rebecca has 12+ years and Cassandra has 3+ years of experience. Between the three of us, there isn’t too much we haven’t seen.
What designations do you hold?
Designations are important because it shows the agent is committed to their business and are continually looking for ways to improve their skills. Real estate is a constantly evolving business and is on the cutting edge of marketing and selling compared to other industries. Realtors who don’t keep up are left looking like dinosaurs in just a few years time.
As a team, we have several designations. Notably, Raymond and I have a CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) Designation, which is like getting a PhD in Residential Real Estate. Here you can learn about Real Estate Designations and what they mean to you as a home seller.
Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors?
REALTORS®, members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) must abide by the NAR code of ethics. NAR members are also state Association of Realtor members. Each state requires continuing education to renew a real estate license. Each one of us is a member of NAR, Texas Association of Realtors and the Austin Board of Realtors.
Is your license in good standing? Have you had any complaints?
Realtors in Austin are overseen by the Texas Real Estate Commission and those that are members of ABoR are overseen by that committee as well. If a consumer or agent has filed a complaint against the agent you’re interviewing, I would imagine you would want to know a bit more about that. You can do your own research about a agent on TREC’s website.
All of our team’s licenses are in good standing and we have had no complaints.
Do you work solo or as a team?
This is more to find out how you will be represented. Will the agent you’re interviewing be the one handling the transaction, or will it be an inexperienced assistant? This helps set expectations for how the transaction will proceed.
Personally, we work as a team, but we are all experienced agents so there are no assistants or inexperienced agents. We are a true team in the sense we are also a family, so we can step in as needed to manage the needs of our clients. When you work with us, you get 3 experienced Realtors for the price of 1!
Will you represent me exclusively, or will you represent both buyer and seller in the transaction?
Our company will only represent a buyer or a seller exclusively. This practice, surprisingly enough, is a pretty rare occurrence in our market. Most brokerages want to represent both sides so they can make more money in each transaction. We don’t feel we can represent buyer and seller and be honest and fair to both parties. It is pretty hard to get the best price and terms for the seller while working to get the best price and terms for the buyer in our opinion. If we agree to work for you, we put all of our resources into getting what you want, not the other side. Think twice if a Realtor you interview says they, or their company, will represent both parties. Don’t fall for the old excuse they will “save you money” by representing both sides. In an effort to “save money” you’ll end up costing yourself much more than you saved.
What are the top three things that separate you from your competition?
This is an important question to hear where the agent feels they add the most value. Our value to a seller compared to other Realtors is we market your home, not our name. You’ll notice all of our marketing materials focus on the homes we are selling, not our logos or photos. Most Realtors use a listing to get other clients and spend very little time actually selling it. We know how to get clients and don’t need to use your house to do that.
We also take the time to explain the process, so you understand what you’re signing and what you have to do. Most Realtors simply email the documents to their clients and ask them to sign without any explanation. We find when you know what you have to do and when you have to do it, it makes for a much less stressful experience for you.
Finally, we listen to your needs (you are, in fact, the client) and speak honestly about the market and the transaction. In all transactions there are things we have to tell you that we know might be difficult to hear. Most Realtors don’t want to hurt your feelings or run the risk they’ll lose a client. Though we don’t want to hurt your feelings either (and we’ll try to put whatever we have to say in the nicest way possible), we know it is important for you to know the reality of every situation that affects the sale of your home.
How will you market my home differently than other Realtors?
This is another interesting question that again gauges how a Realtor sees themselves compared to the competition. How our team is different is we actually market your home, not our logo or headshot. If you look at all of our marketing materials for our listings, the main focus is the product we are selling, your house. Our logo is a very small piece of any marketing piece and you won’t see our photos anywhere. Again, we know how to get clients. We don’t need to put a billboard of our faces in your yard for brand recognition. Instead our For Sale signs are custom designed, with interior pictures of your home so buyers can instantly see what it looks like. We also create professional flyers and build custom designed websites with content buyers are looking for about your home and your neighborhood. Again, all of these marketing pieces showcase your home, not our company. I’ve seen a lot of listings and I know we are the only Realtors in Austin that take this kind of approach.
Do you use a professional photographer to take pictures of my house?
If you’ve been reading our blog, you know great photos sell homes and professional photos could mean $1,000 or more in your pocket. Professional photos the secret weapon to home selling, though it doesn’t seem like too many of our colleagues have caught on. I see too many homes (in all price ranges) with crappy photos on the internet, which honestly costs a seller a lot of money and can be the difference in your house selling or not selling. Our team uses a professional photographer for 100% of our listings to showcase your home in the best possible light.
What specific marketing systems and approaches will you use to sell my home?
This is an especially important question to ask Realtors you interview. Everyone has their own strategy when it comes to marketing a home. You want to make sure your expectations are aligned and you agree with the Realtor’s marketing methods.
At Eleven Oaks Realty, we focus on two groups of clients – buyers and professional Realtors who bring buyers. We focus the majority of our marketing efforts and dollars to market to serious, qualified buyers. We want to minimize look-y loo’s and unqualified buyers who are out to entertain themselves on a Sunday afternoon. Here are some of the highlights. We print a custom For Sale yard sign with a detailed description of your home and interior photos. The sign that sits in your yard will showcase your home, not our headshots or logos. Because 100% of buyers look on the internet for homes, we also build a truly custom website (not a templated one) that gives buyers exactly what they’re looking for. We base the website’s content on recent studies by the Texas Association of Realtors who asked buyers what they wanted to know about homes for sale. We don’t withhold any info from a potential buyer to make them call or text for more info. We’ve found that only discourages potential buyers from reaching out. Withholding info is yet another tactic for a Realtor to use your home as bait to get buyers. We simply won’t do that. You can learn more about our marketing program on our Sellers page.
What type of print marketing do you do?
I’m going to be honest with you. Print marketing, newspaper ads, full page ads in your local Homes and Land Magazine do not sell your home. Realtors who use this as a selling point aren’t telling you that these ads are only successful with one thing – brand identification for the Realtor or their company. Serious buyers are looking with an agent or on the Internet. They aren’t relying on print media. In our market, by the time it goes to the printer, 75% of these listings are already sold anyway.
At Eleven Oaks Realty, we use our marketing dollars on the best vehicles to sell to today’s buyer. We don’t waste money on avenues that don’t accomplish our mutual goal – selling your home.
What type of online marketing do you do?
As I mentioned, NAR’s most recent study of home buyers showed 100% of home buyers use the Internet as their primary tool to search for homes. You’ll want to make sure the Realtor you hire has a dynamic online marketing plan to capture as many serious buyers as possible.
Our online home marketing program is pretty dynamic and extensive. You can learn more on our Austin Home Marketing Plan.
How’s the market in my neighborhood?
All real estate is local. What’s going on in Austin isn’t what’s going on in your neighborhood. What’s going on in the neighborhood next door might not even be the same as your neighborhood. One of the most important benefits to hiring a Realtor to sell your home is so they can help you interpret the market. Let them tell you how the market in yoru neighborhood is performing. If they can’t, hire someone who can.
Curious about the Austin real estate market? Check out our Austin Real Estate Price Reports.
What do you do to help prepare my home to go on the market?
Experienced Realtors who know the market and know what buyers in your market are looking for are invaluable in helping you prepare your home to meet the market. At Eleven Oaks Realty, we spend a great deal of time going through each room of your house pointing out things that you can do to make your home look more appealing to today’s buyer. If you hire us and follow our recommendations for preparing your home to sell, your home will be ready to meet the market.
What are the drawbacks of my home?
As a seller, knowing what a buyer is going to identify as a drawback to your home is incredibly helpful. Some things, like backing to a freeway, can’t be changed. But other things can. Ask the Realtor your interview to identify those drawbacks and ask them what, if anything, you can do to improve them.
How frequently will you keep in touch with me during the transaction?
We know home sellers want to be kept informed about the progress of the sale of their home. Therefore, we make it a point to communicate with sellers at a minimum of once per week, even if there is nothing to report. The reality is we will probably be communicating with them a lot more frequently due to the nature of our market, but we make it a point to keep them informed every step of the way.
Will you go over the contract with me so I understand what I’m signing?
We are one of the few Realtors who feel strongly about making sure our clients understand what they are signing. We take the time to explain the contract in detail, so sellers aren’t flying blind. We find when everyone knows what they are expected to do and when, it makes for a much less stressful transaction.
Will you personally present all offers to me?
You should run from any Realtor who will not personally present offers to you. This is the time when you can ask questions and determine which aspects of the buyer’s offer will work for you and which won’t. That isn’t always readily explained by simply reading the offer. One of our team members will always personally present offers to you, so we can be sure your response to a buyer is exactly what you mean it to be.
If I’m not pleased with your services can I cancel the listing without any problems or cost?
Let’s be honest. You can ask all of these questions and get all the right answers from the Realtor you are interviewing to sell your home. But, the reality is you really don’t know how that Realtor will perform until they are hired. The Realtors who stand behind their promises with a guarantee gives you added protection that what they are telling you to get the business is what they will actually be doing once they are hired. When you hire us to sell your home, we allow you to cancel the listing without any problems or cost to you if you decide we aren’t a good fit.
What are your fees and what do they include?
Before we get into this commission talk, I have to say – all commissions are negotiable and are not set by law or local ordinance. That being said, asking a Realtor to break down their fees and what they include will help you determine how much it will cost to sell your home. At Eleven Oaks Realty, our fee to list a house is 6%. We pay half of the 6% to the broker who brings the buyer. Our fee is only paid when the sale closes, so we work for free until then.
Are there any upfront fees?
Some Realtors will charge an upfront marketing fee to offset the cost of marketing your home. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know that before you hire them. At Eleven Oaks Realty, we do not charge any upfront fees. The cost to market your home is our cost, not yours.
Will you reduce your commission?
This is one of my favorite questions, but not for a reason you might think. Studies have shown sellers are successful in getting Realtors to reduce their commission just over 40% of the time. It amazes me that sellers are excited about this. When you think about it, a seller is able to get a Realtor to reduce their commission by simply asking. If that Realtor readily gives up their money without any pushback, how do you think they are going to react when they are negotiating with your money?
Representing a buyer, I can always tell when a Realtor is representing a seller for a discounted commission. They aren’t as motivated to fight for that seller’s price and terms. Sure, you might get a few extra bucks in your pocket from the discounted commission, but you are losing quite a bit more from a buyer who might have been willing to pay more if your Realtor fought hard for your price and terms. Wouldn’t you rather pay for great service than pay a slightly reduced amount for inferior service? If a Realtor is willing to reduce their commission with just one question, I would think twice about hiring them.
Though we can certainly appreciate a seller asking if we will reduce our commission, Eleven Oaks Realty’s policy is not to discount commissions. We provide full service to our sellers and fight hard for their price and terms. You’ll find if you compare our home selling program to the others in Austin, you get a lot more value for your dollar when you choose us to sell your home.
How will you help me price my home?
Most Realtors show up on your doorstep for the initial appointment with a price already in mind based on the numbers they pulled up on their computer. They have never seen your house, don’t know the condition, what you’ve done to it, nor have they gauged the competition (what’s currently on the market that your home will be competing against). To me, it is pretty impossible to suggest a price for a house you’ve never seen.
At Eleven Oaks Realty, we deal with pricing a bit differently than most Realtors. We will certainly help you price your home, but we need to see it in person first. We also like to revisit the pricing discussion when you are actually ready to put your home on the market. Sometimes this can be weeks or months after the initial conversation. This way, we can evaluate the competition at that time. We’ll take you to see the other homes you’ll be competing with, so you can see exactly what a buyer will see. We find that when a seller sees their home’s competition, it helps them get more clarity on the appropriate price for their home.
References & Wrap Up
Could you give me the names and contact info for three recent clients?
Any Realtor who isn’t willing to give you the contact info for their past clients would make me wonder what they are hiding. Call a few of their references and see how those people liked working with them. We’re always happy to give out references.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that I need to know about the process?
This is a great summary question because it allows a Realtor a chance to tell you something important that you may not have touched upon yet. This list of questions is pretty thorough, but there might be something else they will want you to know about their team, the market, etc.
Download our Study Guide to Have on Hand During the Interview
We’ve put these questions in a one page handout you can download to keep on hand when you are interviewing a potential Realtor. Click the PDF icon below to download it.
Time to Sell Your Austin Home?
If you’re looking for a Realtor who puts 100% of their efforts into selling your home, not building our brand, we might be the Realtors for you. Check out our Austin Home Sellers section to learn a bit more about our team and our home selling system. Then, fill out our Seller Survey, email us at info@11OaksRealty.com or call us at (512) 827-8323 to schedule a no obligation conversation.
How Much is My Austin Home Worth?
Want to get an estimate of how much your Austin home is worth before speaking to a Realtor? Based on the same data Realtor’s use to research pricing, not unreliable public data, our Market Snapshot tool will email you an analysis to help you determine what your Austin home might sell for in this market. Simply enter your email and home address and we’ll send you an interactive report. Need a more in depth analysis? Try our Qualified Austin Home Evaluation.