How to Select a Real Estate Professional – Questions to Ask


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Real estate, like any industry, is full of good and bad practitioners (although I would argue that the range is very large in real estate, simply because the barrier to entry is so low in most states). Here are some questions you can ask to increase the chances of ending up with a quality professional:

What percentage of your total business comes from repeat clients?

This is one of the most important questions to ask. The point: the higher the percentage of repeat business, usually, the better the agent.

Do you guarantee your services?

It is my belief that any agent that won’t provide a guarantee is the kind of person whose highest priority is serving themselves, not serving you. The industry is FULL of agents that lock you up contractually – usually in the form of a long listing contract - and then disappear. Any agent operating under a “guaranteed services” promise MUST deliver for you each and every day (and what I mean by “guaranteed services” is when agents allow their clients to stop working with them at any time for any reason whatsoever).

May I have a detailed list of your sales within the last few years?

Most agents tell you how much real estate they've sold recently without a lot of prompting. This is logical, as past success is frequently a good predictor of future success. Ask for a detailed report that lists the individual transactions that support the total that they mentioned. Once you obtain this report, do the following:

  • See if the total sales per this report equal the sales they disclose in their advertising, if applicable. If it does not, then you should be very wary of the integrity of this agent

  • Randomly select five or six transactions from the report, contact those people and ask if the agent performed satisfactorily and if they’d recommend the agent to their friends and family

  • Ask the agent to highlight all of the transactions involving a repeat client. Contact several of those people to confirm that they really are repeat clients and ask the same questions as per above

  • If the agent provides you a list of references, do not call those references (the agent would not provide you info about people that are going to say anything negative)

    If the agent refuses to provide such a list of past sales, this should call into question the integrity of that person. Any agent should be happy to provide solid, objective evidence of any claim that they may make that can be quantified

    (Assuming you have access to a PC) Would you please walk me through the process of preparing the Comparative Market Analysis that you prepared for my home?

    Many of the top-producers in the industry are nothing more than “listing presentation specialists" that know how to charm you with a great listing presentation. But the reality is that most of these agents have no idea how to even navigate their way around the MLS, which is the source of virtually all the “comparables" data that every Realtor uses. A good agent will be able to walk you through, step by step, the process of preparing a “CMA" (Comparative Market Analysis), which is the tool that agents use to determine the market value of any home. If the agent cannot do this, the red flags should go up that this agent is not a real professional. Marketing specialists rely on others to do their research for them, because they lack the knowledge to do this incredibly vital, fundamental part of the process themselves.

    How many hours per week do you typically work?

    And then proceed directly to the next question. . .

    How many listings do you have at the moment?

    Most of the “marketing specialists" carry large inventories of listings. Many carry 30, 40 or even 50 listings at a time. Let's assume that the Realtor indicated that they work 50 hours per week, and that they currently have 30 listings. Do the math: that means that they are spending, on average, 1.67 hours per week attempting to sell each of their listings! And that assumes that they are working with no buyers, which are major time commitments in and of themselves! Trust us when we tell you that you cannot properly service a listing in under two hours per week. Sadly, many within the general population are impressed when an agent tells you about the massive volume of business that they do. What you should keep in mind is that many hours go into each and every successful real estate transaction. When you do too much business, by definition, the quality of the service provided suffers.

    I hope these questions help you find the right professional to represent you in your next purchase or sale. For a more detailed discussion of this topic, please visit the Professional One website . Good luck!

    Michael McClure is the founder of Professional One Real Estate, a brokerage located in Plymouth, Michigan. After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in accounting, McClure worked as a Certified Public Accountant for Price Waterhouse for nearly a decade. After leaving accounting in 1991, he began selling real estate. To date, he and his partner, RE/MAX Hall of Fame Member Phyllis Lemon, have cumulative lifetime sales of approximately $500M. McClure also volunteers on the Professional Standards Committee (a self-governing body of the local association of realtors that acts in a judge-and-jury-like fashion regarding ethics complaints and arbitration disputes) of Western Wayne Oakland County Association of Realtors. He sat for and passed the State of Michigan's Associate Real Estate Broker's examination in December 1996. McClure and his team have developed one of Metro Detroit’s top ranking real estate websites

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