Not long ago I came across a Pinterest picture with a list of things to ask when interviewing a real estate agent.  I got the feeling these questions were conjured up by someone who was burned one too many times by a REALTOR®, but the more I looked around on Google, the more I saw some crazy or not-helpful-at-all questions (like “What is your List-Price-to-Sales-Price Ratio?”  Really?  What real estate agent would be prepared to answer that?!).  So naturally, I decided to come up with my own list!  Here’s a short and sweet version of “Ask This, Not That” when looking for your next Boise, ID REALTOR®.

ask the right questions

Question #1:

Ask This: How many transactions have you personally handled in the last year?

Not That: How many years of experience do you have?

An agent can easily fudge this question.  Let’s say an agent has been licensed for ten years… that sounds like a whole lot of experience!  But what if she has only sold a couple homes during that time?  There are several scenarios like this one where an agent’s number of licensed years does not equate to real experience.  On the other hand, if the REALTOR® honestly answers that they have only closed one or two transactions in the last year, don’t write them off quite yet as they may have a perfectly good reason, like a family emergency or moving into a different market.  But if it’s because they are a newbie, you may want to steer clear.

Question #2:

Ask This: Do you have another job?

Not That: Do you sell real estate full-time or part-time?

“Full-time” means different things to different agents.  A REALTOR® may consider herself full-time because she shows up at her Boise real estate office at 9 AM, Monday through Friday, and does nothing but wait for the phone to ring until 5:00 – she’s putting in the hours, right?  I knew an agent who had an office at one of those new construction communities, and yes, she was there at least 40 hours a week, taking people through model homes and showing off the neighborhood, but she considered every “field” agent (e.g., one who did not have an on-site office) to be “part-time,” an inaccurate (and snobby) perception.

Also, a part-time agent who only works, say 15 hours a week, can still accrue quite a bit of experience.  They are also less likely to pass you off to an assistant and give you more personal attention since they aren’t overloaded with their 40-50 hour/week mass of clients.  In my experience, I have seen a lot of mistakes made and a lot of balls dropped by assistants.  I choose to be a part-time agent to avoid hiring an assistant who may jeopardize my transactions or my relationships with my clients.  Plus, it’s just a lot easier on my family!

real estate humor
Ummmmm, NO.  If Billy’s mom wasn’t already crazy when she agreed to take on 11 listings, she certainly is now.  And Billy has run off and is doing drugs somewhere and his mom doesn’t even know he’s missing.

Unless the agent has a good reason (“good” meaning one that YOU are comfortable with), you probably want to avoid one who has another full-time job.  It’s a clear indicator that her real estate business (and clients) are not a priority.

Question #3:

Ask This: Describe a situation when a client got upset with you.

Not That: Was there ever a time when a client was upset with you?

The open-ended question makes this lesson a bit obvious, but the point I’m trying to make is: ANY agent who has ANY decent amount of experience has DEFINITELY had a client get upset with them (myself included).  If you ask the “not that” question, an agent is inclined to give you a non-committal answer of “Not really,” or “Once, a long time ago, and I can’t remember any of the details,” or if they are really sales-y, “Nope, all my clients love me!”  And if they really can’t think of a time when a client was upset with them, they don’t have enough experience to be your Boise, ID REALTOR®.

I believe it was Maya Angelou who said, “When a person shows you who they are, believe them.”  Really listen to the agent’s answer on this one as it not only reflects her character, but also gives you insight on how she perceives and treats her clients.  Is she dismissive of the question?  Of her client’s feelings?  Is she justifying/deflecting her responsibility, or taking ownership?  Did she give you a bogus or vague example?  Sure, it may not be a comfortable question for an agent to answer, but it’s okay to press her for more details – this is an interview, and you’re the boss!

The last questions for your next Boise, ID REALTOR® you’ll have to come up with on your own.  As it is rare for a homebuyer or seller to have NOT been burned by a previous real estate agent (after all, only 1 in 5 are any good), make sure you’re not going to hire “the same agent with a different face.”  Asking pointed, open-ended questions should not only give you some answers (and hopefully some peace in knowing you’re not going to have another bad experience), but it also opens up the conversation to articulate your expectations.  For example:

  • If your last agent never returned your calls or didn’t seem to have a sense of urgency in communicating with you, you could ask something like, “How often do you usually update your clients?”  With this question, the REALTOR® automatically knows constant communication is important to you, and she may be more likely to keep you updated on a regular basis.
  • If you don’t think your last agent marketed your house well, ask things like, “Will you have professional photos taken of my home?  Do you think I need to stage?  Who pays for that?  Will you do open houses?” and anything else you specifically want to know or expect.
  • If your last agent never seemed to be available, ask, “How quickly could we see a house if something pops on the market?  Will you be attending the home inspection?  Are you planning on going on vacation anytime soon, and will I be able to contact you?”

In the end, you’re the only one who can determine if you’re comfortable with the answers you receive!  After weighing the responses, you’ll really just have to trust your gut when choosing your next Boise, ID REALTOR®.  I’d love the opportunity to meet you and answer these questions!


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