Questions to Ask Real Estate Agents
Hey, it’s Treasure Valley Dave in Nampa, Idaho. Welcome to module two: Questions to Ask When Interviewing Agents. This one’s near and dear to my heart. It’s all about what you should ask real estate agents before hiring one.
Are all agents the same? What’s important to know? Let’s get into it.
Why is Having the Right Agent Important?
But let’s get into it. Why is having the right agent important? Because you’re building a team to get a job done. This is a project, and you need a project manager. That’s going to be your real estate agent. They’ll deal with other resources, including inspectors, title companies, and lenders.
If you’re in another state and have an agent listing your house while you need to move here, your real estate agent truly functions as a project manager with all these things going on. Not to mention, they’ll help you with all the paperwork involved. Plus, I want to ensure that your best interests are always protected.
So, what’s your availability? You need an agent that is available when you’re available. If you’re already up here and need to look at houses, ensure you have an agent that can do that.
And why do I say that?
Are You a Part-Time or Full-Time Agent?
Two years ago, when the market was going up rapidly, everybody was getting their license, and everyone was jumping in to become a real estate agent. You could make good money doing that, but times have gotten tough. It’s been a year since our interest rates increased, cooling off the market.
So, some agents just aren’t making it as an agent full-time. They have another job as well. It might not be a good fit if their full-time job doesn’t give them the time to show you houses when you are available. I put together these numbers for you because I want you to understand that not all real estate agents are alike. Let’s take a look at this.
Of all the agents with an active license in Idaho, there are 12,506 agents in the Treasure Valley area with an active license. That’s 8,152. Over 8,000 agents in the Treasure Valley cover Boise, Nampa, Fruitland, Mountain Home, and so on. That’s almost 8,200 agents in the Treasure Valley.
Of those, 3,149 agents have yet to do business this year. That means 5,003 agents in the Treasure Valley have done some real estate business this year. That still seems like a big number.
But this next step is where it gets interesting. Of the 5,003 agents that have a license and did some business in the Treasure Valley, 4,693 are averaging less than two deals per month. That means they’re not very active in the market. They need to be entirely up to date because they’re doing little business.
Of the people doing the business, 310 agents in the Treasure Valley complete two or more monthly transactions. These are the agents who know what’s going on. They’re engaged; they understand seller and buyer perspectives. Such agents treat real estate as a full-time job and try to make it work. That’s the category we fall into. We’re part of those 310.
Remember: Not all agents are created equal. A total of 12,506 agents could sell you a house in Idaho. However, only around 310 could represent your best interests and protect your assets, earnest money, and time.
How Long Have You Been a Real Estate Agent?
Suppose someone has been a real estate agent for 20 or 30 years, good for them. If someone has a month, good for them. We all have to start somewhere, right?
Even though someone is a newer agent, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t taking this seriously. You might ask them:
How Many Homes Have You Helped Buyers Close in the Past Year?
That’s question number four. Maybe the agents only got three or four in the last year because they’re brand-new, going through training, and being coached by their broker.
Being a newer agent is not necessarily bad. Are they taking this seriously as their new career, or is this a part-time endeavor? Will they be part of the thousands of other agents that don’t do much?
Do You Work Independently or with a Team?
So, if you are a newer agent on a team, that’s fantastic. Why is that? Because on a team, there’s this team atmosphere. There are other agents, and then the team lead and management can help that agent with any questions. They can offer advice and go along with them if anything is out of the normal. We do have a list of pros and cons here.
Pros of Being a Part of a Real Estate Team
A pro for working with an agent on a team is that the agent is focused on buyers. There’s probably somebody else on the team responsible for handling the paperwork and coordinating all the different aspects of the transaction. We call that a TC in most cases: a transaction coordinator.
Another pro is that there’s typically a backup agent ready if needed. So if one agent is on vacation or out with a family, another agent on the team can step right in seamlessly and help you find the right home. That’s what we do here on the Treasure Valley Dave team, too.
You also get oversight from the leaders of the team. They have team trainers and coaches who can help keep agents up to speed on the latest things. It’s a nice thing. And then, paperwork is handled by the pros. That’s the TC person I was talking about.
Cons of Being a Part of a Real Estate Team
A con is that a team of real estate agents often take this very seriously and stick to a schedule. They don’t have time to look at 80 houses. Now, why do I say that?
Guess how many houses my family viewed when we were looking to buy the house we’re in now. It was about 80 of them. And bless his heart, our agent was the nicest guy ever, but it did take a long time. We missed some opportunities, but he didn’t ask the questions we will discuss in module four. That one’s hugely important, and it means a lot to me.
Pros of Being a Solo Agent
There’s gotta be some pluses and minuses there.
A pro of being a solo agent is that they have time to look at 80 houses with you. So, if you’re retired and have nothing but time, your agent’s a great person to hang out with. Looking at 80 houses might be a fantastic thing.
Also, a solo agent can be very hands-on to service you. Whenever you’re ready, they need the commission so bad that they’ll go out and show you houses in the middle of the night. Another way of saying that is they could be very hands-on service for you. If you need that extra handholding, an individual agent who’s not doing a lot of business is the best person for you.
Cons of Being a Solo Agent
A con is that solo agents typically don’t have systems and are more seat of the pants. A team will have a fantastic CRM, a client relationship management tool that keeps track of things. Meanwhile, individual agents only sometimes have that.
A sole agent might also be very busy with other tasks, like taking kids to school or picking them up or various other things. Then, they won’t have that availability for you.
Another con is that they don’t have a backup agent because they only have two or three closings a year and need every penny. They won’t share any of that commission with another agent, even if it brings discomfort or doesn’t work in your schedule.
So, there are some pros and cons. I wasn’t trying to be negative — just putting some realism out there.
How Many Clients Are You Currently Working With?
You don’t want an agent with so many clients that they’re too busy to provide you with the information and service you deserve. But you don’t want an agent who isn’t working with any because they lack market experience. Typically, agents with better systems can work with more clients at a higher level for each of them.
How Will You Keep in Touch With Me, and How Often?
That’s question number seven. COVID-19 taught us to use technology to communicate. A Zoom phone call is a great way to get to know each other, especially if you’re in another state. My lender, whom you’ll meet in the next segment, also uses Zoom frequently to connect.
We move on to the transactional side once we’ve covered the get-to-know-you part. We’re talking about questions like, “When are you available?” or “Hey, Dave, I saw this house. Can we take a look at it?”
Emails and texts work great for something like that. Agents are busy, so they can respond to texts when they can, and vice versa. Although some people prefer phone calls, there’s nothing wrong with that. Whatever works best for you is how your agent should be able to communicate with you.
Do You Work With Buyers and Sellers?
You hear the phrase ‘buyer’s agent’ or ‘listing agent’ who works with sellers. You don’t want one — an agent who works exclusively with buyers or sellers. Instead, you want someone who understands what’s going on in the market regarding what sellers expect and what buyers ask for or need.
It’s imperative, especially when it gets to the point where we’re putting in the offers and doing that negotiation back and forth. So, if your agent has three sellers for every seven buyers, that’s a good mix. It could be 50/50 or something like that. But to have some exposure to both buyers and sellers, it’s very beneficial for you.
Do You Have References I Can Check Out?
In today’s world, checking out their online presence and seeing what kind of Google reviews, Facebook reviews, or testimonial videos they have can be very powerful. It will give you a good feeling about how that agent works with other people and the results they’ve got.
Also, you should dig a little deeper. It would be good to ask the agent, “Hey, do you have two or three people I can call and ask?” And they should be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve got these people that are in a very similar situation that you’re in. I think you’d have a great time talking with them.” So, that’s a great question.
What Areas Do You Specialize in?
I’m not talking about commercial versus retail versus residential because you’ll probably want someone focusing on residential. In Idaho, you can do any property if you have a real estate license. But you want someone up to speed on what’s happening in the market with buyers and sellers.
If you want to live in the north end of Boise, a half dozen real estate agents/teams handle that area very well. They know all the ins and outs and intricacies of what goes on in that area. If I were moving there, I would talk with one of those people.
But if you’re looking for a regular house in an ordinary neighborhood, that’s typical for most agents to handle because the Treasure Valley is relatively small. It only takes 20-30 minutes to get from one place to another. So it’s not that big of a deal.
We work everywhere from Mountain Home to Emmett, out to New Plymouth and Payette, stops in Wilder and Parma, but we focus on Nampa, Caldwell, and Meridian. But we are very familiar with all those different places.
Now, some agents will only go so far. Their business model focuses on a tiny area, like North Meridian, which is fine. But ask beforehand, like, “Okay, so Mr. Agent, how many homes have you sold in Melba?” And if they go, “Well, I’ve never even been to Melba,” that might not be a good fit.
But suppose you were to say, “Hey, you know, how many have you sold in Star?” Then, they reply, “Oh, like three or four in the last couple of years,” that would be someone who could very well answer your questions.
Can You Explain the Buying Process From Start to Finish?
Well, once you get to module five, you’ll know the buying process from start to finish — at least your part. I won’t tell you the process right now, don’t worry. But that agent should be able to jump in and go through all the steps, maybe with some good stories about things that have happened along the way.
If you get an agent that says, “We’ll look at houses, offer, and pray it all comes together,” that’s not the process.
How Will You Determine My Wants and Needs?
This is the part of the process we should have done when we were buying our house, resulting in us looking at 60-80 houses. So, your agent should talk with you about what’s important to you. We have a checklist on the other page. Highlight what’s important.
The agent should also discuss things like your motivation, timeline, and factors that matter to you beyond the physical features of a house. It’s essential. For us, it was the school district, which we only realized much later. Having that open line of communication is vital.
How Do You Help Buyers Compete in This Market?
That’s where we excel, and you’ll learn more in module four when we talk with Mareen. She’s an expert in this area. We find out what’s essential to the seller and your flexibility. Often, sellers need time to move out after closing, and if you can accommodate that, it can strengthen your offer.
It’s not just about free rent after closing; it could involve other creative solutions. We’re good at finding out, communicating, and bringing or holding deals together.
What Professional Contacts Do You Have?
We’ve been working for many years and have a toolbox of great tradesmen and other professionals who offer excellent service at a great price. We’re happy to share these contacts with you, whether it’s a roofer, mover, or handyman for small projects.
Asking this question is crucial during your agent interviews. If an agent can’t readily provide key contacts, it may indicate they haven’t been providing the right level of service or lack experience.
How Does Your Commission Work?
In Idaho, the seller typically pays your buyer’s agent’s commission, so it doesn’t cost you anything to have representation. Whether you choose a lousy or great agent, it won’t cost you more. In the case of a house for sale by owner, you might pay some or all of the commission for your agent, but the price could be lower, potentially saving you money.
Builders may ask for your email address, which could prevent other agents from helping you. It’s best to have your agent contact the builder to ensure you have proper representation.
I’m Relocating From Out of the Area. How Can You Help?
This is an important question. An experienced agent can offer assistance, like recommending great movers and connecting with an agent in your current location to ensure a smooth transition. They can also help with critical events like closing, final walkthroughs, and finding the right neighborhood and house.
When relocating to a new area, your agent can be your eyes, ears, and nose. That wraps up this module. Check the checklist to determine what’s essential to you and use it during discussions with prospective agents. Feel free to speak with multiple agents.