"Talk with the rest, then list with the best."
10 Questions to Ask the Agents You Interview
If you're like most people preparing to list a house for sale, you plan to "interview" more than one real estate agent. Here are ten questions to ask the agents you speak with.
You may want to preface the questions this way: "A relative of ours out-of-state who is a real estate agent has emailed us a list of ten questions she suggests we ask all agents we interview. We hope that's OK with you." That usually makes most people feel more comfortable reading the questions off the list.
You might want to print out the questions only on a piece of paper and make one copy to use for each agent you are interviewing. Put the agent's name at the top of the page and note down the agent's answers after each question. Any agent who wants to list your house is not going to refuse to answer questions.
1. How much are you going to charge me for listing my house? Here's a quick point of reference: On a million-dollar house, now fairly average for many Bay-Area neighborhoods, a one-percent savings in listing commission is equivalent to 10,000 after-tax dollars. Pacific Century Realty is the only full-service brokerage in the area offering listing commissions as low as one percent (1%).* Think about how long it takes you to earn ten thousand after-tax dollars. Think carefully about giving up any more than you have to.
2. How much will you charge me if you also end up representing the buyer(s)? Our fee for representing the buyer may be as low as only 1%.* And we have a special program to legally increase the likelihood that we do represent the buyer. Do the math: 1% + 1%, for a total of 2% … or a traditional total commission of 5 or 6%. The traditional brokerages can't afford to compete with us, while the discount alternatives available offer nowhere near the quality or level of service we do.
3. Can you show me testimonials from satisfied customers? Testimonials and references speak volumes about the quality of service a brokerage provides. Third-party endorsements naturally mean more than what we say about ourselves. Most agents typically have no more than a handful of tenuously credible testimonials on their Websites, typically anonymous, using initials only. We have yet to see another company with as many testimonials posted to its website as Pacific Century Realty. We can show you more than a hundred if you want to see them!
4. Can you show me references from other real estate professionals, outside your company? Remember that a large part of your listing agent's success in finding the best buyer for your house will depend on his or her relationships with other area real estate agents and his or her standing in the real estate community. Agents representing buyers frequently have choices, in terms of recommendations they can make to their clients ... and these agents naturally prefer doing business with people they trust and respect. It's not always the highest offer that is recommended. (Find references from colleagues on our testimonials page.)
5. Will I be working directly with you (the presenting agent) or will you be handing me off to lower-level assistants? Many so-called top producers do not plan to have much contact with you after you have signed the listing agreement. And they need to get that "full" commission, in order to pay all the members of their staff. At Pacific Century Realty, we cater to clients who want the benefit of working directly with an experienced agent, with an effective cost-cutting system that passes the savings along to the consumer.
6. Do you work evenings, weekends and holidays or are you at least available (on call) by telephone during those times? Many "successful" agents consider it an intrusion into their personal lives if clients call them outside traditional business hours. At Pacific Century Realty, we realize that people who have job responsibilities during business hours will NEED to communicate at other times. We find the opportunity to take time off during regular business hours, instead, or when we recess entirely, for vacation.
7. Does your listing agreement include a "fire-me-anytime" clause? In other words, can you terminate the listing contract any time you choose to, without penalty, if you feel the listing agent is not doing the kind of job for you that you want done? Do you really want to be stuck in a listing contract for several months with someone who turns out not to be doing a good job for you? At Pacific Century Realty, we have no reservations about including a no-nonsense "fire-us-anytime" clause in every listing agreement. We're confident it will be obvious to you that you could not find a better company to represent you.
8. How many times have clients either canceled or asked to cancel a listing with you, because they were dissatisfied with your services? Here's a little secret that most self-proclaimed "top producers" who use high-pressure tactics do not want you to know: they get a lot of cancellations, on both sides (buyers and sellers). Brow-beating and bullying only go so far. A certain number of people are going to respond by walking away, as soon as they feel they have the opportunity. You are not guaranteed an honest answer to the question, of course ... but the length of the pause that comes before the answer and the accompanying facial expression(s) may be revealing.
9. Which languages other than English can you offer, to capture interest from among non-English speaking prospects? It's well-known that the single largest demographic of active buyers and sellers in the market today speak Chinese. Most of them are immigrants, more comfortable in their native language than English (as is also the case with many of the agents representing them!). At Pacific Century Realty, we speak their language (Cantonese as well as Mandarin, both major dialects). That's an important additional edge for reeling in buyers for your property. (At this time, we also offer Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.)
10. Do you have a system for capturing the name and phone number of everyone who calls to inquire about a listing? What happens to most prospects who express an interest in a listing? They grab a flyer from either inside the house or the literature box outside ... and then they disappear. At Pacific Century Realty, we harness a unique technology that captures the name and phone number of everyone who calls to inquire about a listing (we don't attach a literature box to the yard sign), even if the number is Caller ID "blocked." Why is that important? Because it makes it possible for us to (legitimately) follow up with a phone call to each and everyone who has expressed an interest in the property. Real estate sales is very much a "numbers game." The more interested prospects you can engage in conversation about the property, the more likely you are to find a buyer who will offer a price that the seller will be happy with.
15 Bonus Questions
You also have the option of sending these questions to agents by email. That way, you will save yourself the time and trouble of meeting with the ones who are unwilling or unable to provide satisfactory answers. Answering 25 simple questions is not an imposition for someone who wants to be your listing agent.
1. Will you create a free dedicated property address Website (123MainStreet.com), to promote my property? Nowadays, a dedicated single-property address Website is an important tool for marketing a listing, a tool that can often make a critical difference. It should not just be a URL that redirects to an agent's Website. The copy (text) should be professionally written, in a way that readily captures a reader's interest and attention. It should concisely communicate how the property is special and what makes it desirable. The writer must understand and reach out to the target audience for that particular property. And there should be as many good photos as possible. Be sure to actually read through the promotional material an agent has created for other properties, to see how professionally written and compelling it is. Ask yourself whether that's the way you would like your property to be represented. Five examples of Websites we have created: 1305BelshawDr.com, 1043HighSt.com, 4835TuscanyCir.com, 19131SilverFoxPl.com & 3389TrynaDr.com.
2. Will you use a lighted/illuminated yard sign, so it will stand out and be clearly seen after dusk (unlike all the others in the vicinity)? Why should your yard sign only be seen during daylight hours? Think how much more effective it would be if it were highly visible after dusk, especially when all the other yard signs are not. The traditional full-commission brokerages cannot offer this new technology, because they all delegate their yard sign placement to sign-post companies that do not want to bother with lighting. At Pacific Century Realty, we care too much about our signage to hand off the job to someone else, who is rushing to finish the work as quickly as possible.
3. Will you utilize an online disclosure packet system, on my dedicated property address Website, to make it easy for prospective buyers and their agents to prepare offers on my property (so they don’t have to drive to your office during business hours)? Put yourself in the place of a buyers' agent who is pressed for time to offer on a property. All other things being equal, will you be inclined to go with the listing that makes your job easier, enabling you to download all the documents in the comfort of your own office, on your own schedule, or the one that obliges you to drive across town fighting rush-hour traffic, when you don't have the time for that?
4. Will you arrange the home and termite inspection with the same company, to save me additional time and money? Why do 99 percent of all listing agents arrange for home and termite inspections with different companies, which almost always results in two different appointment times, as well as higher fees than if the two tasks were consolidated, performed by a single competent service provider? "Because that's the way we've always done it and that's the way everybody else does it." At Pacific Century, we don't consider that a valid reason. We have figured out better ways of doing things, for the benefit of our clients.
5. Will the property inspection company you arrange for me be an unbiased "inspection-only" company or will they also be contractors, who would stand to benefit from a larger list of issues and recommendations for corrective action? It's just a small minority of inspection companies that are unbiased inspection-only. We regularly see make-work property "inspectors" add on thousands of dollars in "necessary" work, which they then aggressively seek to get paid for doing. Not only can this cost the seller lots of additional money. This approach has also scared off many a potential buyer.
Otherwise stated, who do you think is in a better position to do an impartial report: an inspector who is paid only for doing inspections or a contractor who makes most of his money from the jobs he bids on, through his inspections? You are likely to save money with an unbiased inspector who has no "hidden agenda," in drumming up contracting jobs for himself. Thousands of dollars, quite possibly. (Remember that once an inspection report is issued, it becomes part of the public record and must be disclosed to all interested parties.)
6. Will you give me a free $25,000 Seller Protection Plan (insurance policy), to protect me for six months from claims made against me by buyers? Historically, most claims by buyers against sellers will be made during the first six months following the purchase. Wouldn't it be nice if you had $25,000 of protection in the event that a buyer comes after you with a claim of some sort? At Pacific Century, we think so. So we have arranged this coverage for each and every listing client, automatically.* Yet another example of how we actually provide MORE for LESS.
7. Does the company you use for disclosure reports (beyond the forms that sellers are required to complete themselves) include a C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) Report, at no additional charge? As a seller, any assurances that you can offer a buyer with regard to your property tend to work to your advantage. A C.L.U.E. report assures buyers when there have been no homeowner’s insurance claims on a property. They know they will not have problems purchasing homeowner's insurance at reasonable rates. Typically, there is an additional cost for such a report. With our disclosure report partner, you get it at no additional charge.
8. Will that company accept payment through escrow, at no additional charge and will it waive payment entirely, in the event that my property is not sold? We make it our business to seek out for all facets of your transaction service providers who offer the highest level of service on the most favorable terms. It is ironic but it is true: our clients actually get MORE for LESS.
9. Will that company provide me with a new updated complete set of reports at no additional charge, if we need to re-open escrow at a later time, because the original escrow did not work out? Peace of mind. Protection. "Risk Reversal." Are you beginning to see the pattern here? At Pacific Century Realty, it is NOT "business as usual."
10. Do you have an online system that allows me to see survey feedback in the form of "picture graphs" at any time, from agents who have shown the house? One of the main frustrations encountered by sellers is the frustration of not knowing how their property is being perceived. We have solved this problem, with a special Internet-based "HomeFeedback" system, that shows you, in real time, how people visiting your house are responding to it. It's all presented in easy-to-understand "picture graph" format, for you to access any time you want to log in and monitor survey feedback.
11. Do you have a system for recording information on every agent who shows a house, so that you can send updates to all of them at the same time, with the push of a button? A good listing typically attracts a large number of "showing agents." Some of them leave their cards. Others don't. Either way, at Pacific Century Realty, we have an advanced system for capturing and inputting all their information into a special database just for your property. Any updates can be immediately broadcast to all showing agents, with just the push of a button. When we meet, we can give you a demonstration.
12. Where else on the Internet will you promote my listing, other than the standard MLS, Realtor.com and so on? In the San Francisco Bay Area especially, the Internet is now the place where buyers go to look for properties. If your listing is not being promoted across the full spectrum of the hottest high-traffic portals, your listing agent is not doing justice to your listing. At Pacific Century Realty, we will show you a list of more than 25 hot, high-traffic portals to which we post our listings. As far as we know, we're the only ones out there with that kind of Internet marketing savvy, which not only does not cost you more but actually costs you less.
13. Will you also create a professionally recorded video presentation for my property and put it on YouTube? Did you know that YouTube is the third most visited site, globally, after Yahoo! and Google? eBay's rank is #18, AOL is #21, Amazon.com is #28, Craigslist.org is #47 and Realtor.com is #976! So would you want your listing just to show up on Realtor.com or would you also like it to be on YouTube (also linked to MySpace and Facebook, position numbers 6 and 8)?
14. Will I get exposure in print, through my local Homes & Land magazine? Though the Internet trumps print these days, the best place for a listing to get exposure in print is now in Homes & Land. Because it's a traditional print publication that comes out on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, production deadlines can affect placement of your listing. A knowledgeable listing agent should be aware of this and mention it in discussing promotion in this publication.
15. Do you have a large database of buyers and buyer's agents, who will receive instant notification about my new listing? Another "secret weapon" that a company with a high-tech edge can leverage for listing clients is their substantial buyer database, carefully compiled and maintained over the years. The power of this asset is multiplied when combined with a system to instantly notify other agents in the area whose clients are looking for properties similar to yours. At Pacific Century Realty, we've got it all. And do you think the fact that we can help buyers save on financing and closing costs is helpful? You bet it is!
If you find a brokerage that gives you satisfactory answers to all the 25 questions above, go ahead and list with that company! If not, drop us a line to let us know that you've already "talked with the rest" and are ready to "list with the best" (if together, we decide that we're a good fit, that is).
Finally, a word to the wise:
Many sellers make the mistake of listing their house with the agent who quotes them the highest estimate of value for their property, as if quoting that figure is somehow going to translate into a sale for that same amount. Keep in mind that real estate agents do not set property values. The free market sets property values.
To be sure, an agent who is on-the-ball, working hard and working smart, tends to procure better deals for clients. But that's a different matter.
For most properties, market value -- or at least a relatively narrow range of market value -- is relatively easy to calculate.
The only time it would be a good idea to list your property with the agent who inflates its value for the purpose of pleasing you, to get the listing, is if that agent is going to be the one to actually buy the property.
"Talk with the rest, then list with the best." Call us at (888) 4PC-RLTY (888-472-7589) or email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org, for your free listing consultation.
*Terms and conditions apply.
The highest level of discounts by necessity applies only to properties within a certain price range.
Not all items on the list will necessarily apply to all property listings.
Inquire for details in advance of your transaction.
All offers subject to change or cancellation without further notice.
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