Your Realtor® – Your Partner: What to Ask?

If you’re selling your home, that means you have bought a home before, and the odds are good that you probably worked with a real estate agent to do it. So chances are you already know what to look for in a Realtor®. But do you know all the important question your Realtor® should answer before you even consider working with him? 

Even if you had a great experience with your buyer’s agent, selling your home is a different experience altogether.  This time, you are the one who’s in possession of the asset, and all you want to do is sell it for the most possible money with the least amount of hassle.  Instead of the exciting prospect of moving into a new home (perhaps for the very first time) you may find you are feeling a lot of stress and worry; Will the job be done right?

Important questions to determine if your Realtor® is the right fit to help you sell your home:

Most real estate agents who are trying to get your business will visit your home in person to do a listing presentation.  During this presentation, they will speak to you about their services.  It’s a great opportunity to discuss your own thoughts and goals for your home sale, and ask key questions.  Here are some good questions to ask a Realtor®, when you are thinking of hiring them to help you sell your home:

Are you a full-time professional real estate agent? How long have you worked full time in real estate?

Knowing whether or not your agent practices full time can help you determine potential scheduling conflicts and his or her commitment to your transaction. As with most professions, the number of years a person has been in the business does not necessarily reflect the level of skill and service you can expect, but it is a good starting point; experience can definitely come in handy when it comes to negotiating and keeping a deal together.

Do you have an assistant, team or staff to handle different parts of the sale? What are their names and how will each of them help me in my transaction? How do I communicate with them?

Many agents who sell a lot of houses have people working for them. If all or part of your transaction will be handled by others, you need to know who they are, what their roles are and how to reach them.

Do you have a website that will list my home?  What about your company’s website?  Who responds to emails I send you, and how quickly?

Every agent has access to the Toronto MLS; it’s one of the major marketing advantages for your home.  But do they also advertise your home on their website?  As a home seller, you need all the web exposure you can get.  And you need to know whether or not your agent is easily reachable by email, to avoid confusion about expected response times.

How will you keep in contact with me during the selling process, and how often?

Some agents may email, fax or call you daily to tell you about showings and other activity on your home, as well as keep you posted on what other relevant properties are being listed at/selling for during your listing period; while others will keep in touch less frequently or expect you to ask them to convey feedback to you. Asking this question can help you to reconcile your needs with your agent’s systems.

What will you do that other agents don’t, to ensure I’m getting top dollar for my home?What is your average days on market ratio compared to the GTA average?

Sometimes a real estate professional’s unique marketing strategy makes all the difference between whether or not a home sells quickly.

Can you give me any names of past clients?

Contacting references (satisfied customers) can be a good way for you to understand how the Realtor® works, and whether or not this style is compatible with your expectations.

Do you have a performance guarantee? If I am not satisfied with your performance, can I terminate our listing agreement?

If your agent does not have a guarantee, it does not mean they are not committed to high standards; most agents don’t have a guarantee, but they can and should outline what you can expect from their performance.  Most agents will let you terminate a contract, understanding that they do not benefit anyway if you are truly unhappy; cancellation, however, may be subject to brokerage approval as your listing technically belongs to the brokerage, not to the individual agent.

How will you get paid? How is your commission structured?

In Toronto, you as the seller will be paying all agent commissions, so it’s important to be aware of the commission breakdown (in writing, on the listing agreement) before you sign anything.

How would you develop pricing strategies for our home?

Although location and your home’s condition affect the selling process, price can be the primary factor in determining if a home sells quickly, or at all. Ask your agent how they created their market analysis.

What will you do to sell my home in terms of advertising, marketing and promotion?

Ask your real estate agent to present you with a clear marketing and advertising plan, and find out whether and how you can participate in the marketing for your home. Request samples of the types of marketing strategies that your agent proposes (such as Internet campaigns, print magazines, open houses etc.

What can your brokerage company do for me, and what is their market share?

Some of the big brokerages are part of a large referral network and have a very strong presence in terms of advertising, marketing and being a household name; this can all help you when the time comes to sell your Toronto home.

How do you market to other Realtors®?

According to statistics, up to 40% of buyers find out about suitable properties through a Realtor®. Other than the MLS, what does your agent plan to do to inform his/her colleagues that your beautiful home is on the market?

How will my listing get handled when you are away?

Realtors® need time off like everyone else; maybe more so, since they tend to work long, irregular hours.  A rested agent is a more effective one.  But when your primary Realtor® is away, what is their procedure for providing coverage for themselves – especially if offers on your property come in?

What percentage of your business is repeat or referral?

If the percentage is high, it speaks for itself; an agent who does a lot of repeat and referral business typically does so because they demonstrate a high level of commitment to the relationship, not just the individual transaction.  Such agents are also more likely to double-end more deals, which means they may have access to qualified buyers for your home.  If the agent doesn’t know their percentage of repeat/referral business, that is not really a great sign.

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