What a big decision! Interviewing and hiring a listing agent will be the most important step in the home selling process. This is the make or break moment that will decide whether this process will be smooth and less stressful for you...or the opposite.
Here is a list of interview questions to help! And if you are interviewing our team to get your home sold, then we have included our answers to help you get familiar with how we work to provide the best service and, most importantly, fetch the most money in the least amount of time, while protecting our clients' liability throughout the process (If you are also going to be buying a home, here are Interview Questions for Buyers Agents and my answers to help get the ball rolling. Ask us about your discount incentive when we help you Sell and Buy a home).
Side note: This post is long and extremely detailed. We appreciate you taking the time to read it before we meet. We are one of the top real estate teams in Central Texas and we are passionate about serving our clients at the highest level possible! And please review the Information About Brokerage Services, as I am legally obliged to provide you if you are considering hiring our team to work for you. I am licensed to sell real estate in Texas.
We hope this blog will help anyone that reads it make the best decision when they are choosing an agent to help them or be a guide if you are thinking of selling your home on your own. And we further wish to help all brokers and agents in our industry raise their standard of service and improve the reputation of the real estate profession.
On to the interview!
1. How are you different from other agents?
I love this question because there is only one way to answer it correctly and that is using statistics. My listings sell 111% faster and for .79% higher than the average agent in our market (this is calculated from listings sold starting 2016-August 2017).
What does this mean for you? Our average days on market was 14 days versus 49 days and our average list price to sales price ratio was 99.15% versus 98.36%. If you take the average sales price in Austin of $309,882, this means that our clients, on average, put nearly $4,000 more dollars in their pocket (including fees).
If an agent can not provide these statistics then be weary of hiring them. This is also the agent that is going to offer to discount commission to win your listing. Without knowing these statistics, you are taking a big risk and will most likely end up losing more money than you were trying to save. And our team has a flexible fee structure to cover all scenarios to assure that you are making the most money when you sell your home.
Go ahead, say it. You thought we were all alike, right? Our team provides service and marketing that many agents would not even know how to implement (we will explain more of this below).
2. Are you a full-time agent? How much experience do you have?
All great questions. Yes, I am a full-time Broker-Associate with Keller Williams Realty, Inc. (licensed since 2004) and CEO of Ivy Blessing Realty, LLC. Not only am I full time, I have the most amazing team that works with me that includes a Buyer's Agent, Full Time Operations Manager, Full Time Administrator, Transaction Coordinator and Marketing Manager. We also work with the best loan officer, escrow officer, stager and photographer in town. Yes, it takes a village to do this job properly and bring success at a high level.
You may be asking, why do you need so many people? If you are interviewing an agent that works as an individual, my advice would be to move forward with that agent if you are their ONLY client. There are 180 steps to preparing to list and get a home sold. What do you think happens when an individual agent gets more than one client? Yes, that is when some of the steps get skipped that will cost you money and/or that is when agents are unable to return phone calls when you need them or answer the phone when a prospect for your home is calling. (And side note, if you are their only client, which for the average agent is most likely true because the average agent sells 12 homes a year versus our average of 5 a month, then this agent is most likely not making enough money to market your home properly).
3. Will I be able to get a hold of you when I need talk to you?
Another great question! We do our best to answer the phone whenever possible. This is another advantage to working with a team. If we are unable to answer the phone, we encourage the caller to send a text (and all team members can see this text and we have an agent on duty to assist outside of regular business hours. This agent will begin working on their request and text/call them back asap.) We often hear from prospects, "I called 5 agents and you were the only one that answered the phone or called me back right away." Again, individual agents get busy in our industry and overwhelmed and stop answering the phone when they get too many clients at once (just like a waiter at a restaurant that is given too many tables to serve at once). This is giving our profession a bad reputation unfortunately.
4. How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood?
I've sold more than 200 homes from Buda to Georgetown. I have not sold in every neighborhood in our market. The success of our team's marketing and organizational systems work in every neighborhood. We do not work in one area or price point because we are in this to help people (And I say this because you know there are agents only interested in taking yours listing if you are luxury or priced in the millions because they only want to sell 3-4 homes a year and vacation the rest of the time. My team sold 128 homes in 2016. We are in this business to help people and protect them throughout the home selling process, whether their home is priced at $100,000 or $100,000,000.)
5. What marketing will you do to get my home sold and what do you do that is different from other agents?
We will cover a lot of this when we meet, as many of our marketing strategies are proprietary and we can not post them here. Some of our strategies most agents wouldn't even begin to know how to implement. Here are some highlights from our marketing plan that may be implemented when we list your home:
· Mobile Marketing Strategy (Buyers do not have their computers with them all the time, majority are out driving around looking up things on their phone. Does your agent have a mobile marketing plan? Most do not. We do. And the #1 goal is to talk to that person looking up your home, get them pre-qualified and get them in the home asap.)
· SEO Strategy (Search Engine Optimization) Google is the #1 site on the Internet. What plan does your agent have to get your property on the first page and at the top of Google? This plan should include securing key words, using blog and video, etc. We will show you this when we meet.
· MLS Strategy One MLS does not cut it these days, we have the ability to list on up to 3 that are locally and internationally in 19 different languages and 55 different currencies.
· Professional Photography This should be a standard now for home selling and I cringe when this not the case. So important to look good on the Internet.
· Professional Stager We pay for the consultation and the stager's goal is to use your furniture and items to make the home look amazing for the photos and showings. You may elect to rent or buy furniture, yet we can discuss if this would be beneficial or not.
· 3D Matterport Virtual Tour and Floor Plan: I also cringe when a "virtual tour" is marketed and it's a glorified slide show. That's not how we market. See a sample here. This is imperative for proper Internet marketing and has helped us attract more out of state buyers. Side Note: The out-of-state buyer that is relocating for a job that is in town for one weekend to find the right home, statistically pays the most for homes. If you are planning to put your home on Zillow and sell your home on your own (which I completely respect and have a flexible fee structure to cover this scenario if this is the case) then you are most likely missing out on this buyer! You will attract plenty of investors, un-prequalified and un-serious lookey-loo buyers that will waste your time and tons of calls from agents claiming to have a buyer that really just wants to list your home. If you still want to go this direction without the help of a professional like me with proven success, then at the very least offer to pay a commission or fee to a buyer's agent/representative. This buyer doesn't have much time to find a home and they are for sure working with one when they are in town that weekend to find their home.
· Pricing Strategy (Another cringe worthy strategy many agents are doing completely wrong and could cost you big money. Such a pet-peeve of mine. Let's talk about this when we meet.) Also, when the situation calls for it, we will consult with an appraiser regarding your price. Unless we hook a cash buyer (which many times we do) then the buyer is going to be financing and the bank is going to hire an appraiser to give an opinion of market value. This is where many deals will die with a less experienced agent. My experience and consultation with appraisers will play a big part in the success of your home sale, starting with the price you choose to enter the market and/or providing a rebuttal when the home appraises lower than sales price. So important to talk with your agent about his/her experience in this realm.
6. What is your negotiation experience and strategy?
Another question in which there is only one right answer and many agents are going to get this wrong. I negotiate for you based on how YOU want me to negotiate for you. You are the boss. And I come across so many agents that do not work this way. For instance, an agent should not tell me they have another offer on the way unless their client has approved it. And agents do this all the time without thinking about it when I ask.
As your listing agent, I have a fiduciary duty to you and to hold your interests above my own. I will advise you with the different choices in every situation and tell you which choice I think is best and then proceed based on your decision. I take this job very seriously and the fiduciary duty. This is another aspect of the job in which other agents in the industry are not performing correctly.
7. How much does it cost to sell my home? What fees should I expect?
During our meeting and once we agree on the list price, we will review a Seller Net Estimate document that I calculate for you. By the way, this is another skill that I find many agents do not know how to do. Sad, yet true. If your agent does not offer to do this for you, run. Fees could add up to 7-10% of your sales price depending on your tax rate and if you escrow your property taxes, HOA resale certificate and transfer fees, title insurance fee, recording fee, survey, repairs, and commission. We want you to be fully prepared when you list your home. This is a very important step of the process.
8. How do you handle an intermediary status?
This means the buyer is unrepresented by an agent or the buyer is represented by another agent in my office, of it is a buyer that has hired me to represent them and they want to buy your home. Again, you are the boss and we will handle the scenario based on your decision. I will present to you all of the different options (and pros and cons) and we will review and put in writing what the rules are with each scenario when you make this decision. And most importantly, my goals is that you feel comfortable and protected throughout the selling process and that you understand every decision you are making during the process. Also important to note, I am not allowed to represent both the seller and the buyer in a transaction. This is not allowed.
9. How extensive is your knowledge of the market?
This is an important question! And this is another question in which most agents do not know how to answer correctly. Every agent should know how to calculate absorption rate and tell you whether it is a buyers' market, sellers' market or balanced market at a macro and/or micro level for your market. Most agents get their market knowledge from the media. The newspaper may say it's a strong Sellers' market, yet your neighborhood may be a buyers' market at the moment. Ask your agent what kind of market it is at the moment and how they calculate, track it and interpret this information for you while your home is listed. Ask them how many month's of inventory you currently have in your neighborhood? A Sellers' market is less than 5 months of inventory, a balanced market is 5-7 months of inventory and a Buyer's market is more than 7 months of inventory (this is also important to review absorption rate per price point).
10. What if I am not happy with your service and I want to cancel the listing?
All of our listing contracts are "no pressure" agreements. This means you can cancel at anytime and you will not be charged a fee (double check other agents are not charging you a fee please, I had one past client get charged $1500 after he terminated the listing. I'm not a fan of these fees.) I'm also not a fan of sellers feeling "stuck" with their listing agent till the last day of the contract. If I am not getting the job done and you are not satisfied with my service, please cancel. I always offer this, yet have had very few clients use it unless they decide not to sell their home.
There are many more great questions you could ask. Yet, I think these are the most important to ask and will help you gauge the knowledge and experience of the agent you are interviewing.
Thank you for reading and reviewing! Please comment or message me to discuss further.
Laura Ivy Blessing blogs about the Austin, TX known and lesser known happenings with a splash of real estate savvy for today's buyers and sellers. Please call her today to consult and advise you through your next real estate transaction.