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Questions to ask prospective real estate agents

By Peter Ewanchuk

A home purchase is often the biggest investment a person will make. Real estate agents are there to help, but how do you know which one is right for you? Here are 15 questions you can ask as you narrow down your search for the real estate professional you need to buy or sell a house.

  • Do you have referrals? Every agent should be able to provide a list of referrals to potential clients. Be wary if an agent can’t offer a handful of client names to call to give you insight into the agent’s professionalism from start to finish.
  • How long have you been an agent? Getting an experienced agent who knows the ins and outs of the business is always good. If the agent is a rookie, ask them if they can call on more experienced agents or a real estate broker in his office if issues arise.
  • Do you work full-time? If your dream house comes on the market, you want your agent to know about it and immediately notify you to arrange a visit. If an agent only works part-time, the perfect home could be gone before they are back on duty.
  • What type of clients are you currently representing? Everyone has a price range they are looking to buy into. If the agent predominately deals with multi-million dollar homes and you want something more modest, chances are they will not give your home search the attention it deserves.
  • What are your fees? There is no standard commission for real estate or mortgage brokerage services in Alberta, but wise consumers know the cheapest deal isn’t always the best choice. Before choosing a licensed real estate professional, you should compare the services and fees of various agents. Traditionally, realtor fees are seven per cent on the first $100,000 of a house and three per cent on the remainder of the price. That commission is split between the buyer and seller’s realtors, helping them cover marketing and listing costs, as well as pay for their time.
  • What professionals are you associated with? One of the benefits of working with a real estate agent is having access to their network of professionals in the home industry. Experienced agents should be able to recommend a real estate lawyer, a mortgage advisor, an insurance agent, a home stager, house cleaners, moving companies and a home inspector.
  • What neighbourhoods do you specialize in? Communities in Edmonton and beyond can be vastly different. One may have plenty of young families, parks and schools, while another could be made up of homes dominated by retirees. Each will draw a different type of buyer. The right agent will guide you to the area that suits your lifestyle in terms of home prices, schools, safety, public transportation and cultural amenities.
  • How will you help me prepare my home to sell? If you are selling your home, a competent real estate agent should be able to walk through your house and suggest how to boost the sale price. A new coat of paint is always a positive step, as well as reducing furniture or clutter. But be wary of agents suggesting large remodelling projects since you are unlikely to recoup that money unless your home is in dire need of a new kitchen or bathroom.
  • How will you keep in contact with me? Some people prefer to communicate through text messages while others use email or the phone. You need to find out what methods the agent relies on. A combination probably works best. And if you have a preference – you may find phone calls annoying and obtrusive – let the agent know at the start to avoid tension down the road.
  • How often will we be in touch? Those looking for a property in a fast-moving market typically want to see listings every few days. If you are not in a rush to buy or sell, the messages from the agent can be less frequent.
  • Do you do open houses? Not all real estate agents use open houses. There are various reasons for that, including the chance of theft and that they are responsible for every person entering your home during the time allocated. In addition, some condominiums or townhomes do not permit open houses, for the sake of other residents. On the other hand, some real estate agents love holding open houses as that allows them to meet potential clients.
  • How do you arrive at a listing price? Many factors come into play when determining a property’s value, such as location, square footage and the home’s features. If the agent suggests an asking price that is too high, the home may languish on the market A low asking price may result in you not receiving as much for the home as you deserve. Your real estate agent should be able to show you that they have experience pricing homes correctly.
  • Will I be working with you directly or your team members? Many people want to deal with just one real estate agent when they are buying or selling a home. The advantage of working with a team of agents is that someone will always be available and may be able to bring more resources to the table. Find the approach that works for you.
  • How quickly can you arrange a home viewing? In a hot market, homes sell quickly — sometimes even the same day they are offered for sale. If you see a new listing that you love, how quickly can your agent take you on a tour? If it is not in a day or two of the home hitting the market, you could miss out.
  • How will you market my home? A “for sale” sign on the lawn is a small part of a home-selling strategy. Be sure the home is listed on the Multiple Listings System. In addition ask about social media marketing, online virtual tours, print or web advertising and home staging. The more eyes that see your property for sale, the better.

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When it comes to the legal issues involved in buying and selling a home, the team at Demas Schaefer is here to help clients across northern Alberta. Contact us for a free consultation.

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