What to ask a realtor in an interview?

I know that I have read some great responses to this in the past, but was unable to find them using the search function.

I have a new duplex that I am selling, and am at the point of bringing in an agent to sell it for me, but have never used one before. What are some tips? I have several that have been referred to me.

Do you get a very busy agent who has a lot of listings, but not much time, or a specialized agent for new construction? Busy people get things done, but I want to find the agent that is going to be busy in a few years.

Any thoughts are appreciated.



Right now is not the best time to be a seller in most real estate markets. The experts are expecting real estate prices to bottom sometime in 2009 - 2010 and then recover from there. If your market mirrors the national averages, then don’t sell just now if you can afford to wait a couple more years.

If you can’t wait and are going to use an agent to sell, you want an agent that is successful in your area. You want an agent that knows the neighborhood, knows the property values, and knows how to market your property for sale. A referral is worthless if the agent is not familiar with your neighborhood.

Does not really matter how busy the agent is because 95% of the time your buyer will be brought to you by another agent as a result of your agent’s marketing.

Interview at least three agents that have worked in and around your neighborhood. Have all present their marketing plan and written comps. The comps should include recently sold properties in your neighborhood that are similar to yours, and, the active listings in your neighborhood for properties that are similar to yours.

The agent’s suggested list price should be in line with the comparable sold properties and also a fair value in light of your competition. If the price is higher than the available properties for sale, then make sure the agent justifies why your property should be worth more. If the suggested list price is significantly less, ask the agent what you can do to repair or enhance the value of the property to justify a higher price.

Beware of the agent that wants to lowball your listing to get a quick sale, and also beware of the agent that pushes for an unreasonably high list price (only to lower it later because no one is interested) just to get your business.

Ask the agents what percentage of their own listings are sold by themselves, meaning they find the buyer. The industry average is 5% of the time the listing agent finds the buyer. If the agent tells you a number significantly higher, beware unless you are in a really small town with few competing agents.

Make sure the list of comparable sold properties shows you the contract price and the list price as well as any seller subsidy given to the buyer and the number of days the property was on the market. For the list of comparable properties available for sale, look for the number of days on the market there too. The number of days on the market will suggest how long it will take to sell your property if it is fairly priced for your market.

Look at the marketing plan. Does it include internet exposure, or just rely on MLS and open house showings. Newspaper print ads are not as effective as they used to be but agents still need to do them because their competitors do. Savvy buyers today are using the internet to identify the property they are interested in buying.

Are you really selling a duplex (two units), or are you selling one side of a duplex (what we call a paired ranch in my area). If you are selling a two unit property, then the agent should discuss with you how the pool of potential buyers will include investors who will not pay as much as an owner occupant buyer. If the agent does not do this, then the agent is not helping you set realistic expectations for the outcome of your sale.

I am not an agent. Just my two cents, for what it is worth.

Dave T,

Thanks for a thorough reply. I recently started a home building business, and while our market has slowed a little, it is still moving. This is inventory for me and while I could sit on it and rent it out, that is plan b right now and I want and should be able to move it at market price.

You are right, it is not an actual duplex, but seperately sold “twinhomes” with an HOA for the exterior and lot.

Thanks for the solid advice on things to check on the agent.


Dave made some excellent points. A few others to go by as well.

You want a full-time agent. Someone who has made this their career, and preferrably, need it to make their income. No part-timers, or rich men’s (or women’s) spouses “playing” at the job.

You want someone who is with a national franchised company. This goes along with marketing/advertising. An agent that is only so-so in their marketing BUT is with a national company is still 100% better than an independent with a solid marketing plan. Franchises market their properties on a global scale. This is done simply by the agent taking the listing. Exposure is always the key. So if the agent has a good marketing plan AND is national, you’ll get maximum exposure.


I keep a lrunning ist of over 30 questions and taylor them to the agent and the situation…Here are about half of them that I would personally want to know ahead of time…

  1. How long have you been an active real estate agent?

  2. How many listings have you had this year?

  3. How many of your listings have sold?

  4. Were any of those listings similar to my house?

  5. How long were those houses on the market?

  6. How close did they sell to their asking price?

  7. How many buyers have you worked with in the past 6 months?

  8. How many of those buyers actually purchased something?

  9. What happened to the one’s who didn’t?

  10. What is the amount you think my home will sell for?

  11. What list price do you recommend? Why?

  12. How often will I hear from you?

  13. Do you offer a written guarantee?

  14. What are you going to do differently to sell my house?

  15. Why should I hire you over another agent?


There are two types of real estate agents. The agent who represents the buying side, referred to as a Selling agent and the agent who represents the seller, referred to as a listing agent. Even agents get this mixed up so if you are confused don’t worry about it.

Let me first state that I am a Licensed California Broker and member of the National Associations Realtors Association. With that said I would not buy property listed in the MLS (Multiple Listing service) unless the listing price was sixty-five percent of appraised value or less. Here is the problem; properties listed by real estate agent tend to require both cash and credit to purchase. Both of which I do not like using when buying real estate. And although I could write low ball offers on properties in hopes that the seller would say yes I know from experience that if I used the money paid to the agents as commission for my own advertising I would have a much greater return. That being said, in a time when the REO (real estate offered) market has a high amount of inventory and is selling that inventory at greatly reduced prices then the MLS would be a great source for undervalued bank owned property. Also know that if a REO is on the market more than five days without multiple offers it probably isn’t a good deal. Good deals tend to be gobbled up by real estate agents in the listing office the first few days or by clients of the listing agent.

If you do plan on writing offers on properties listed in the MLS request to your agent that they request to the listing agent that they be present to present the offer to the seller. As long as the agents are Realtor members the listing agent must allow the selling agent the right to present the offer to the seller unless the seller has requested them not to.

When I resell property I always list the house in the MLS. Here is why. The highest and best use of your time is to constantly be making offers to buy houses at an equity value of 30 percent or more. Therefore if a good agent charges six percent to sell list your house, and causes it to sell, if you sold your house yourself then you would be losing twenty-four percent, besides there are over one million of real estate agents country wide. There is no possible way you can compete with their mass. Not to mention the fact that your house will be displayed on the MLS it is also displayed on hundreds of local, state and national websites.

When wanting to hire, or locate an agent to hire, there is a little trick you can use to find the right agent to use. Call your escrow company and ask for the sales manager. This may take a couple of telephone calls as these are extremely busy people, so don’t give up. When you finally do reach the sales manager, ask him, or her, to assign you a sales representative. Most of these representatives are very beautiful and friendly people, willing to do almost anything that is legal to earn your business.

Once you have a sales representative assigned to you, ask him, or her, for a list of the top five agents in town who understand real estate investment strategies and are the “Top Producers”. Interview them for the job of selling your property. The key here is that most “Top Producers” are listing agents and have a handful of selling agents who work underneath them. There are two distinct mind frames between listing agents and those agents who like to put buyers in their cars to drive them all over town and look at houses hoping they will buy a house. The “Top Producing” listing agent’s goal is to double end the transaction, thus making the entire commission. Also, these “Top Producers” have a fairly large advertising budget, which means your property will be advertised more than if you had hired the “Normal” agent. If you are going to pay the same, you might as well hire the best.

These “Top Producers” have also established a reputation for their abilities and have earned the respect of the real estate agent community for “getting the job done”, something that a less seasoned or new agent will not have. I guarantee that an agent’s reputation will either hinder, or help, you in selling your houses.
These “Top Producers” will not lie or over-price the property, whereas a new agent might due to his, or her, need for business or lack of experience. It isn’t uncommon for a new agent to over-price a listing to justify his, or her, commission to a seller and have that listing sit on the market. Although you are trained to guide him, or her, to list your property for the correct amount, this inexperienced agent has already over-priced homes so much that unfortunately his, or her, peers will not show your listings as often.

One more note, arrange to have the selling agent receive a greater portion of the commission. Most commissions are split equally between the listing and selling sides. However, it is your option and you should request a different split. I would suggest at the very least that you pay to the selling agent 3.5% commission and 2.5% to the listing agent. The reason that you will benefit by a higher selling side commission is the selling agent may be more inclined to recommend your property to his, or her, buyer when everything about the property is equal to another property where the commission is less. Let’s face it pricing concessions sell property.
Real Estate Commission Split Guide
3.5% to 4% to the Selling Agent
2.5% to 2% to the Listing Agent
You may also want to consider offering a “Close on Time” and “Full Offer” bonus to the selling agent if escrow closes according to the contract and the contract is for listing price. I suggest an extra $750.00. The extra $750.00 paid is a great enhancement and will put money in your checking account faster.
When you pick the agent that you are going to be doing business with I would want them to be a “Top 10 Producer”. Here is why.
• They can afford you.
• They have the infrastructure necessary to do multiple deals efficiently and without procrastination.
• They have access to and they do a ton of advertising which you could piggy back on… They typically buy full page ads and can sell/give you a small corner to promote your business, not to mention that they can advertise your resells more than by just using the MLS alone.
• They always want to double end the transaction, which means you have buyers agents “Pushing” your property.
• They know the difference between escrows started and escrows closed. Most new agents don’t.
• They are a source of funds when you need them for a concurrent close… The top ten typically make a 1,000,000 a year in earned commissions and most are extremely frugal. Having someone attached to the outcome is very nice.
• The perks they receive from the vendors will reduce your costs… i.e. free inspections, quick turnaround time etc.
• They won’t steal your deals or steal your business model. They are happy right where they are.
• They tend to see the big picture more.
• THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY; they have a reputation for getting the job done. Other agents know this and know when they enter a deal it will close. No BS
I have found that there are factors or characteristics that I want my agent to have, they are.
• Can the Agent do the Job at hand?
• Will they reduce their commission on the listing side and offer more to the Selling side?
• Will the field my referrals aggressively?
• Will they feed me the Expired list so we can co-market?
• Are they one of the Top Agent in their field? I would want top 10?
• Is their advertising Budget large enough to consistently run Ads?
• Are they respected amongst their peers and looked at as a “Gets the job done” Agent?
• Are they willing to and do they understand Investors Strategy?
• Do they have sufficient Buyers agent employed to double the transaction?
• Are their vendors willing to service my needs as aggressively as theirs?
One more caution, although I have owned a flat fee listing company it is not my recommendation that you use this type of service during all market cycles.

This was cut from a reply in the marketing forum and the rest of it is there…

Good Luck

You have a good list of questions. The main thing is that they’re active in marketing the property. I’d want to know how they gather showing feedback and if they follow up on each visit with a personal call.

In this market, you have to know why the home isn’t selling and what buyers/agents think. I took over a spec build listing that was on the market for 7 months and wasn’t selling. First thing I told the investors is that it’s not the price. I got it staged, repositioned it, and marketed like crazy. It’s been been about 5 weeks and we went under contract yesterday.

I snagged that buyer because I followed up with a personal call when the agent showed it. We pre-negotiated and took care of their concerns, so they made an offer (took 3 weeks for them to decide).

As a former agent and Realtor consultant turned REI I agree with REIfornewbies’s list. If an agent stammers around or doesn’t know the answers to these questions then they aren’t keeping up w/the market. When I was an agent I went to my listing apts. w/ all my statistics in a listing packet for my clients, these stats were taken directly from my Local Board of Realtors. Then I compared them to the “average agents” stats also taken from my Board of Realtors. I’m a firm believer in statistics, they don’t lie! Also make sure the agent has good recent comps to back up their pricing strategy, taking in account how quickly you want to move the property. Don’t even think about listing with an agent that overprices…a good agent doesn’t have time or $ to waste marketing an overpriced listing thats not going to sell or appraise! A good agent lists to Sell!

I do disagree however with 5% dual agency:

I quote “Ask the agents what percentage of their own listings are sold by themselves, meaning they find the buyer. The industry average is 5% of the time the listing agent finds the buyer. If the agent tells you a number significantly higher, beware unless you are in a really small town with few competing agents.”

I think this all depends on your market. My REI partner/Realtor sells a whooping 30-40% of his own listings. The key? He works 12+ hrs a day every day, can get the deal closed, and targets the same price range for listings and buyers. No Realtor in this town can out work him. You could really be cutting out a great agent using this 5% average.
Also as for using a national company, I don’t think it matters. I can’t stress enough It’s Not the company, it’s your agent! I have hung my RE license at both National & private firms in the past. I seldomly ever got a good lead from my company ad’s at the National firm. They were usually crappy unmotivated leads. A private firm will spend $ on ad’s that work best for their current local market. My agent rocks and he is at a private firm.
All in all I think the most important thing is that they are full-time, motivated, and backing everything up with good stats. Hope this helps.


I am inline with the others with everything, but you should also find out this.

I am a licensed agent myself and an investor.

The question and area of focus that may supersede every other question is “How much are you making” and “How much are you selling”

Think about this logically for a moment.

Agent X has the best marketing plan in town
Agent X offers you a great commission
if you are a buyer, agent X and you get along great

It all looks good and sounds good by typical standards right?

…But what you don’t know…

Agent X has been unable to make any money in the past couple of months because the housing market has fallen apart completely.

Agent X is barely scraping by and unable to pay any of her bills.

For buyers: You and Agent X are out looking at homes and you think you found the home of your dreams, but the price seems a bit steep. Now you are relying on Agent X to advise you on pricing and putting together the best possible offer for you.

Agent X now needs to decide does she push you along advising you to maybe spend a little more than you should so she can pay her house payment…or does she tell you the truth that the house is over priced and miss another house payment.

For Sellers: You and agent x are getting along great, she brings you an offer on your home that is sub par but you are looking to her to advise you on whether or not to take the offer.

Agent X can pay her mortgage by advising you to take a lower offer than what you could actually get, or she could not pay her mortgage and tell you to wait until something better comes along.

It goes without saying that in 90% of cases people will choose to take care of their own needs rather than yours.

Yes the Realtor code of ethics says this is not legal, but who can really say that they did anything unethical.

If you are at all familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you would see that Esteem needs (achievement, status, responsibility and reputation) are all near the top of the list, just under self actualization.

For a person to worry about their esteem needs they must first have their Safety needs, psychological needs, and belonging needs met first. Feeding your family and paying your mortgage would fall into the safety needs category and having a happy family would fall into the belonging category.

I’ll end with…

Which bear would you rather go hiking with, the starving one, or the bear who just ate an elk?

Just my 2 cents.