Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a house or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Today, real estate expert Christian Nossum, founder of RealesDate, provides some very helpful questions that you should never actually ask.
Shopping for a real estate agent can be a difficult process. Often, people rely on family or friend recommendations when it comes to finding their agents, which return unreliable results at best. This is why many buyers and sellers are now choosing to interview multiple real estate agents before making a choice. But what should you ask these agents once you've found a few candidates to choose from? There are many questions that you should ask, and a few that are simply not worth your time. No one talks about the questions that don't matter...until now.
The questions you shouldn't ask, and the answers that you should focus on...
No. 1 - What's My House Worth?
As a seller, this might seem like the only question that matters. The truth is that it's pointless to inquire about this when you're just interviewing agents. In fact, asking this question at this point in the process is often counterproductive and might even result in you choosing the wrong agent. Why? Because some agents will say they can sell your house for an unreasonably high price just so you'll choose to work with them. Instead of getting caught up in what your house is worth, focus on what type of marketing your agent will do for you. Marketing is what sets great agents apart from mediocre ones.
No. 2 - What Company Do You Work For?
Agents basically work alone. Back in the old days it was important to know which real estate brokerage an agent worked for, but these days it doesn't make a lick of difference. It's not about the company name on an agent's card, or about their fancy office building- it's about whether that individual agent is good at their job or not. Instead of asking what office an agent works for, you should ask them if they are a full time agent or a part time agent. There are some great part time agents out there, but generally it's pretty hard to stay on top of your game in this fast paced industry if you only do it part time.
No. 3 - How Many Certifications And Designations Do You Have?
Agents love to boast about certifications and designations that they have, and many agents will have what looks like a mixed up alphabet on their business card after their name-Certified Short Sale Negotiator (CSSN), Accredited Home-Staging Specialist (AHS), e-PRO Internet Professional (e-PRO), and about 100 others. While it's great that an agent might have taken a class to get these designations, they really don't mean a whole helluva lot to you as a seller. Instead of paying attention to these designations, you should ask for testimonials or feedback from past clients. Testimonials and chatting with past clients will tell you a lot more about whether they are a great agent than a laundry list of designations and certifications.
No. 4 - How Fast Can You Sell My House?
Agents have very little control of how fast your house sells. We agents sometimes brag that we sold a house in just a few days, but really that's more of an indication of the current market conditions and how well the house was priced. Generally speaking, the price and condition of the home dictates how fast it sells. Marketing matters and can help a house sell faster, but price is by far the biggest factor. You, the homeowner, control the price, which means that you are in control how fast it will sell- not your agent. Instead of asking how fast an agent will get your home sold, you should have a conversation with your agent about your goals and follow your agent's advice on pricing. This is easier said than done since most sellers have a specific price in mind, but the agent is the expert. Listen to their advice.
No. 5 - What Print Publications Will You Advertise My Home In?
Print advertising doesn't convert well. Many top agents don't even advertise in print anymore. Instead you should ask what they'll do to advertise your home online. If you get a blank stare and start to hear crickets as the agent fumbles around for an answer, move on because these days online advertising is what matters most.
No. 6 - Where Is Your Office Located?
There are two reasons most homeowners ask this question. First, you want to know if meeting the agent at their office will be convenient to you. And second, you want to know what area your agent is an expert in.
Where their office is located doesn't answer either of your questions. First, most agents are on the go all day and will meet up with you at your house, a coffee shop, or anywhere else that's convenient for you (and you'll probably be signing papers electronically online, so you won't have to meet in person for that anyway). And second, the location of their office doesn't mean an agent is an expert in that area. Agents choose which office they work at for a plethora of reasons ranging from monthly overhead costs, to the number of leads generated for them by the office, to the prestige the name of that office might bring them.
A better question to ask is if they're available to help you when you're available, which is probably nights and weekends. It can be a huge logistical problem trying to coordinate a time to look at houses when you and your agent have conflicting schedules. Knowing when an agent is available upfront can save you a lot of headache down the road. If you want to know which areas an agent knows best, just straight up ask them before you tell them where you're looking, and don't let them turn the question back around on you. Picking an agent is a big deal. There's a lot of money at stake. Take your time and talk to a few agents before you make your decision. Now that you've read this, you know exactly what to ask potential agents and which questions not to waste your breath on.
Christian Nossum is a Seattle real estate expert and the founder of RealesDate.