How to Find the Perfect Real Estate Agent (and What to Ask Them to Find Out!)

Finding the right real estate agent is a lot like dating.

You have to scope out the field, sometimes meet blindly to discuss your life and aspirations, ask a lot of questions to one another, and spend some time together. When you find a home, there’s wine or champagne involved, and you stay in touch even when you go your separate ways.

Essentially, your real estate agent plays a key role in your life, helping you make the largest purchase you’ll ever make. (No pressure.)

Your agent represents you in the buying and selling process to other agents and people, so you want to be sure you choose the right one. So, while your agent is asking you questions about you and your expectations, you should also be interviewing your agent.

To do so, you need to ask the right questions. Here are some to consider:

Is real estate your full-time career?

While this isn’t a necessity, it’s a good indicator of how much time and effort your agent will be putting towards finding you a new home or selling your old one. A real estate agent who works full-time will typically have more experience, more buys and sells under their belt, and more connections than their part-time counterparts.

This question should be paired with some follow-ups like “How long have you been an agent” and “Why are you working part-time,” if they’re not going at it 24/7. (Sometimes an agent will be part-time for other reasons, but have substantial experience and networking from past work, so it’s good to suss that out in the interview.)

How well do you know this area?

If you’re looking for a home in a specific neighbourhood, or you’re selling your home, it’s extremely important that your agent knows the area inside and out.

If you’re buying, your agent should be able to answer simple questions about nearby amenities, traffic, growth, and local events. If you’re selling, your agent should be able to relay this information to potential buyers.

Any past deals in the neighbourhood is a good sign your agent is telling the truth. It also doesn’t hurt if your agent lives in the neighbourhood, but it’s definitely not necessary, so don’t hold it against them.

What are your average timeframes for buying or selling?

It’s a good idea to find out how long it takes your agent to sell a home, or to help buyers find and finalize a new home. Every agent should have a general idea of how quick and efficient they actually are. That said, you don’t want an agent that says two days, either; you want an agent that’s going to give a realistic amount of time to find what’s right, not what’s quick. (Fastest isn’t always best.)

You can also pair this with asking about average buying and selling over/unders. It’ll illuminate the agent’s negotiation skills and give you an idea of what to expect.

When asking questions like this one, it’s impossible to tell whether or not the agent is telling the truth, so just go with your gut. If the answers feel too good to be true, they could be.

How much of your business comes from referrals?

While you might ask yourself who cares how much comes from referrals, this is a key indicator of what past clients think of this person. An agent should be relying on networking and referrals to grow their business, so if the agent says very little comes from referrals, that is a serious red flag.

Like in any form of business, clients pass along good and bad experiences, so if no one is praising this agent, there could be a reason.

Flickr: Ethan Lofton

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About Jam Michael McDonald

Jam is a content editor based in Toronto. He's been the editor of a community newspaper, a national magazine, and two startups. Although he lives in a tiny condo, he uses every corner, and is an avid cheerleader of the compact home movement. You can find him every day on Twitter @mcjamdonald.

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