Buying or selling a home is a BIG deal, often with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. It’s also a complicated process full of financial minutiae and legal technicalities. That’s why most people choose to use a real estate agent, as they should. But you don’t want any old agent or the first one who comes along. You need a good agent who can look out for your interests and get you a good deal. And you find the right agent by asking the right questions. With that in mind, we offer these 5 important questions you should ask your Baltimore real estate agent.
1. How long have you been full time in my market?
First of all, you need to know that your [market-city] real estate agent has been doing this thing and making a living full-time for at least four years. You also need to make sure she has experience in your market.
Sure, you may find a beginner or a part-timer who is an absolute phenomenon, but you can’t know that until the end of the transaction. It’s better to rely on years of experience – there’s just too much at stake for you to risk it on an agent without a track record. “An agent with four years of experience has learned things you can only learn on the job as a full-time real estate professional. If you find someone who’s been working in your market for 10 years or more, that’s even better. You know you have someone with a track record of success.”
Keep in mind, too, that it matters where the agent acquired her experience. “An agent who’s established in your home market knows how much houses have been selling for during the past few years, which schools are the best, and all the other quirks.”
2. What’s your annual rate of closings?
Next, you need to find out about the agent’s track record of closings. Experience without a high percentage/number of closings doesn’t mean much. So ask a potential Baltimore real estate agent point blank, “How many homes do you close each year?” And here, according to industry experts, is what you’re looking for: “someone who closes more homes than 90% of the agents in your market – in most markets, that means at least 35 closings per year.”
3. How will you communicate, and will you be accessible?
Next, you need to ask a Baltimore real estate agent about communication. Even if she has a lot of experience and a high closing rate, if she isn’t accessible and willing to communicate by your preferred method, then she isn’t the one.
Deals can materialize quickly, and you may have to act fast. So if you can’t contact your agent, that’s a big problem. Your agent should be willing to communicate via your preferred method – phone, email, text message, or whatever – and should also be accessible and reachable.
4. What will you do to help me buy/sell in a competitive market?
Now, this is an absolutely crucial question that you need to ask a potential Baltimore real estate agent. In a competitive market, whether you’re buying or selling, you need an aggressive agent who can act quickly and decisively and has an aggressive marketing strategy in mind.
This is what the pros say you should be looking for. “You need someone who really knows what they’re doing. . . . If you’re looking to buy, you’ll want someone who knows the community inside and out – and is an expert negotiator. If you’re selling, you want to know how accurate their pricing is. Find out their sale-to-list ratio, which you get by dividing the final sale price by the asking price. The closer this number is to 100%, the better. If it’s well over100%, that means they’re getting more than asking price for the homes they sell.”
5. What do you do concerning client expectations?
A final thing you should ask a Baltimore real estate agent about is how she manages client expectations. What you absolutely don’t want is an agent who builds up your expectations to or allows them to reach unrealistic levels. That’s a sure recipe for disappointment and frustration.
Again, here’s what the industry experts have to say about this: “When it comes to buying or selling a home, you want a realist to guide you – not a pie-in-the-sky optimist. Ask them about this and listen hard. Are they all sunshine and rainbows? Will they tell you that your house will sell for $300,000 when similar houses in the neighborhood are bringing $225,000? Do they promise you’ll be in a new house next week when the market is super-hot and houses are harder to buy? Being positive is great. But make sure they’re going to keep you grounded and set reachable goals.”
Where to Look for an Agent
So now that you know the important questions you should ask your Baltimore real estate agent, where do you start your search? If you really do want an agent with a demonstrable track record and who is willing to communicate and will guide you through the whole complicated process of buying or selling a house, we have the agents you’re looking for.