26 questions to ask your REALTOR® before you sign on the dotted line

Before you even think about selling your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home, read this important report. Ask these 26 critical questions before you sign!

Buying or selling a home is probably one of the largest investments you will ever make. That is why it is important to choose the correct REALTOR® who will work to your benefit, to guard your equity and your future.

Which REALTOR® should you choose? Some people have the mistaken notion that all REALTORS® are the same. They sign with the first REALTOR® who comes along. Later, they realize they should have interviewed several people prior to signing.

This report will help you avoid this mistake by providing you with some selection criteria. When you are choosing a lawyer, doctor or health care practitioner, you would interview several people before you select an individual you are most comfortable with. The same rule applies to a real estate agent.

When it comes to your next home it makes sense to choose an expert. You will save time, money and aggravation. Here are some of the areas to review when you are considering a REALTOR® to represent your interests: 

  • he/she must have the experience, qualifications and abilities to sell your home
  • he/she must have in-depth knowledge of your area and the market in general
  • he/she must work hard on your behalf
  • he/she must have the resources to support the sales effort
  • he/she must keep you informed during the process
  • you must be comfortable with his/her personality
  • you must be able to feel free to voice your honest opinion

[I'd love to be the REALTOR® you choose.  Please read the section "This is what I promise my clients" on my About Me page.] 

To begin your search you might want to check with friends and neighbours. Satisfied customers are usually a reliable source. From this list of names, you may want to conduct some preliminary investigation and then an interview. Be sure you are completely satisfied with the answers to the following questions.

Question 1
Do you have any personal marketing materials I can review?

Everyone has an image that is portrayed in his or her personal marketing materials including brochures, direct mail, listing presentation books, etc. Call all the names on your list and ask this individual to send you information prior to your meeting. When you receive this information, you will get an impression about the person. Do these items look professional? If not, you may find yourself asking the question, "If they are not marketing themselves professionally, how will they market my home?"

Also, keep track of this person's communication with you. Does he or she respond to your request for information quickly and in a friendly, helpful manner? Does he or she treat you with dignity and respect? What is your sense of this person? Does he or she appear pushy and overbearing? Are you comfortable with this person? Trust your feelings. If this person handles your requests in a less than professional manner, it is likely he or she will also handle potential buyers for your home the same way. You could lose a sale and even worse -- the best price for your home.

If you feel comfortable with this initial communication, invite the REALTOR® to make a listing presentation to you. You may want to meet with three or four REALTORS® from different companies before you make a final decision.

Question 2
Are you a full-time or part-time REALTOR®? How long have you been working in my neighbourhood?

Ideally, the REALTOR® should be working full-time, with at least 3 to 5 years experience, preferably in your neighbourhood. A part-time REALTOR® may not be able to keep up with the pace or complexity of today's rapidly changing marketplace. He or she may not be available when you need him or her the most. When you select an experienced REALTOR®, you will be getting a track record, a roster of contacts for any services you need, and a host of creative, time-tested ideas for marketing your home.

Question 3
How many homes have you listed in the past six months and the past year?

A REALTOR®'s record of longevity is important. Even more important is the quality and success of this time, as reflected in a large number of listings. At the same time, however, a REALTOR® must have the resources and systems in place to market each of these homes successfully.

Question 4
How many homes have you sold in the past six months, and the past year?

A REALTOR® may have demonstrated his/her ability to list homes. However, the real test is in the finding, negotiating and closing deals -- that is, selling homes.

Question 5
How long do your listings remain on the market?

Some people assume that a shorter time on the market is to their advantage. However, this may not be in their best interests. Keep in mind: If the average time on the market is faster than the average for the neighbourhood, ask why. Is the REALTOR® really effective, or is he or she low-balling the asking price to sell the home more quickly?

Carefully examine the original asking price compared to the selling price. This gap will tell you how effective the REALTOR® is at establishing and obtaining the right asking price.

Question 6
What professional memberships do you hold?

The minimum should be a fully licensed professional who is a member of the local real estate board and Multiple Listing Service®. Other affiliations are beneficial. However, the main focus should be the selling of homes.

Question 7
Do you have support staff working for you?

Depending upon the nature of their business, some REALTORS® hire additional staff. While this may not be an indicator of better service, it does suggest that a REALTOR® treats his efforts as a business. When an assistant handles the details, the REALTOR® is free to spend more time serving your needs. At the same time, however, you do not want to end up feeling like you are passed off to someone else. You should be kept informed of exactly what the REALTOR® is doing to get your home sold.

Question 8
Do you have any questions for me?

A REALTOR® who is effectively working for you should ask pointed, specific questions about your home and situation. He or she should not simply fill in blanks on a form. By asking about your needs, a REALTOR® can create a plan of action for you, rather than using a cookie-cutter approach.

Question 9
How will you market my home for my best advantage?

REALTORS® have many tools in their toolbox, which includes the MLS® (Multiple Listing Service®) System, open houses, advertising, flyers, Internet, virtual tours, welcome brochures, for sale signs and personal networking. A REALTOR® should not use the same plan for each client. What worked for yesterday's seller may not get you the results you want. A REALTOR® should understand the effectiveness of each of these items, as it relates to your personal needs.

Question 10
Will you create a professional looking brochure and how will it sell my home?

A REALTOR® should create a piece that makes the most of quality, design and words, so that your home's best features are presented. It should give buyers all the information they need at a glance.

Question 11
Can you explain your position on open houses? Will they be public, broker-only or by-appointment? How will this help to sell my home?

Selling your home for the best price involves more than placing a sign on the lawn and having an open house every Sunday afternoon. If too many open houses are held, a home could be perceived as a loser, making it ripe for low-ball bidders. Be sure that your REALTOR® has a reason for an open house plan of action.

Question 12
How do you plan to advertise my home?

Ask to see the plan (including ads) for your home, which should include the latest technology (Internet, fax, toll-free hotlines), combined with more traditional vehicles of newspaper and magazine advertising.

Question 13
How will other REALTORS® be advised of my home?

While a REALTOR® uses the Multiple Listing Service®, he or she should have a network in place to present your home to additional REALTORS®. Exposure is the key to any home sale. Often, another REALTOR®'s client is looking for a home just like yours.

Question 14
How will you help me in staging my home?

To make the most of your home, you will want to present your home in the best possible light for potential buyers. Your REALTOR® should not be afraid to tell you about the positive areas of your home, while suggesting improvements to the negative areas. If he or she does not mention the subject, it is likely he does not have this in his toolbox. You should expect a confident and competent REALTOR® to provide you with workable ideas to make your home more salable.  [Read my blog articles on home staging:  "Home Staging Starts With De-cluttering" and "Be Your Own Home Stager".]

Question 15
How will you keep me informed?

Be sure to tell your REALTOR® how you would like to receive regular communication, whether weekly, daily, via letters, Internet or phone. Or, would you rather meet in person? Since you are dealing with one of the most important investments of your life, you deserve all the time and attention you need and want.

Question 16
How did you arrive at the listing price?

The right or wrong listing price affects the length of time your home stays on the market and ultimately, your net profits. If a REALTOR® suggests too high a price, your home could languish on the market. At the same time, do not settle for a low price, to sell too quickly. Your REALTOR® should be able to justify the price with a comparison to other properties and the market.  [Read my blog article "What is a Market Evaluation?"  Call me for your free market evaluation.]

Question 17
What if I need other resources?

Your REALTOR® should have a network of professionals in place to assist you with other items you will need, including mortgages, home inspection, carpet cleaning and carpenter. While you are not obligated to choose any of these people, it is likely your REALTOR® has established a relationship with these people that is reflected in the referral.

Question 18
Can you give me some references?

A REALTOR® should be happy to provide you with several names of satisfied clients. [Read my Testimonials.]  Be wary if they are defensive when you ask the question. If he or she cannot supply references, then choose another REALTOR®. Many sellers do not check references. But you should. This is one of the easiest and most important steps you can take. Talking to past clients is a good way of learning how a REALTOR® operates beyond what he says he is going to do. Here are some questions to ask your REALTOR®'s past clients: 

  • How long was your home on the market?
  • Do you feel the REALTOR® priced it realistically?
  • What was it originally listed at? What was the selling price?
  • What type of marketing did the REALTOR® do?
  • Did the REALTOR® suggest how to make your home more marketable?
  • Did the REALTOR® keep his promises? Did he do what he said he would do?
  • Were you kept informed along the way? How often did you talk?
  • How many offers did you get?
  • During the closing process, did the REALTOR® have good customer service?
  • What did you like most about the REALTOR®?
  • Was there anything about the REALTOR® that you didn't like?
  • Would you use this REALTOR® again?

Question 19
What is involved with the listing agreement?

This is a very important step. Before you sign, be sure you understand every detail of the contract. This is a legally binding document, which places responsibilities on both the REALTOR® and the seller.

Question 20
When does the listing agreement begin and end?

Details and dates are important. In a dispute, these items could determine commission payments. Generally speaking, three months is sufficient for a listing agreement. Be wary of a REALTOR® wanting a longer period without a valid reason.

Question 21
What are your commission fees?

These fees are negotiable. You should also weigh the merits of each REALTOR®'s fee versus the benefits he or she provides. Be wary of a REALTOR® who is willing to reduce his commission up front. Perhaps he or she does not intend to spend the time, effort or money to sell your home.

Question 22
Do I need to consider any other fees or charges?

Additional items could be title insurance, closing costs, pro-rated insurance, taxes, rent, inspections, levies, etc. Be sure that your REALTOR® explains any of these costs that could affect your bottom line.

Question 23
Do any disclosure laws or zoning restrictions apply to my home?

A REALTOR® should be familiar with any provincial or civic laws and restrictions that apply to your home and neighbourhood. He should also have the necessary disclosure forms required when selling or buying a property.

Question 24
How do you qualify potential buyers?

Your REALTOR® should be proficient in determining whether a potential buyer has the desire, means and resources to purchase your home. This way, you will not be spending your valuable time with dead-end offers or deals that cannot be closed.

Question 25
What happens if my home does not sell in the specified time? What happens if I change my mind about selling my home?

These items should be clarified in the listing agreement. A listing contract may also contain a "liquidated damages" clause, meaning that you could be liable for a dollar amount, should you take your home off the market before the listing expires.

Question 26
Am I comfortable with this REALTOR®?

You should ask yourself this very important question. Are you comfortable with his or her personality and how he conducts business? When it comes to your investment, do not settle for anything other than honesty, respect and integrity. If you do not like this person, choose another REALTOR®. The last thing you want is a personality clash when you are trying to sell your home and maximize your equity. Your REALTOR® should look after your interests!

[See also my blog article "Questions Sellers Ask".]

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