If you are a smart consumer — and I’m betting you are, that’s what brought you to these pages — you’re going to interview a handful of potential real estate agents before deciding which you’ll hire to sell your home.

Heck, even if you’re not the one buying or selling, people are prone to do it. I’ve been grilled worse by parents of my sellers than some prom dates are when coming to pick up their teenage daughter!

And just as you are sizing up the potential for a good fit, rest assured that any good real estate agent will likely be interviewing you, too. In fact, be wary of agents who don’t ask you questions and probe for your motivation. You wouldn’t work with any agent off the street, and good ones are just as selective about their clients, too.

But I digress, that’s another post for another day.

Right now, I’d like to focus on what essential questions you should be asking your prospective listing agent, and why. Here goes.

1) Is this your full-time job?

No, maintaining another job shouldn’t necessarily cut a potential real estate agent out of the running. Lots of realtors moonlight, it’s the nature of an all-commission business. But you need to be aware whether real estate is only a part-time gig for them prior to committing. Someone who also puts in long, dedicated hours elsewhere may be harder to reach, and could miss out on opportunities to show your house.

2) Which neighborhoods do you primarily work in? 

If the agent traditionally works in areas far from your home, it may mean that he or she is not as familiar with the market in your area. In my opinion, an agent needs to be fluent in the community they’re trading in. This applies to the buying side, as well.

3) Do you work on your own or as part of a team?

If the agent you are interviewing heads up a large office, it may be that he or she will not be the one doing business with you the entire time. If that’s the case, you should know upfront exactly what extent the agent will be involved, and you should be able to meet the other salespeople who will be assisting you. Some consumers are made to believe that the team means someone is always there for you. Often, it’s the very opposite. You’ve hired the big name, but are getting the junior agent on your property.

4) What makes you different from the competition?

There are at least 50,000 agents in Toronto. If they can’t tell you why they are better than the others — slash sell themselves — then how exactly are they going to sell your property? Right?

5) How much volume have you sold this year? 

Most agents do not sell more than three houses in a year. If they’ve sold less than two, I’d call that a red flag.

6) How many clients are you currently representing?

There is no magic number to look for here — just use your common sense. If the number is very high or very low, it might also be a red flag. After all, while you are looking for someone with a thriving business, you also need them to have time to devote to your home sale.

7) How will you market my home?

There is a lot more to marketing a house than putting up a sign on the lawn. In addition to MLS, on how many websites will your agent list your home? Moreover, where will he or she look for buyers? A good marketing plan can be what makes the difference between a quick sale and a home that hangs around on the market.

8) What do I need to do to prepare my home for sale? What kind of costs can I expect?

Simply put, some agents will do everything. On the other hand, some will not. Find out if they expect you to incur the costs of staging, moving your furniture, painting and prep… or if they have a team to do it and let you relax.

9) How much do you charge? 

Any agent in Toronto worth their salt is going to charge 5%, plus HST. 2.5% goes to the listing brokerage, and 2.5% to the cooperating brokerage. If you are hell bent on getting a deal and quickly negotiating them down, ask yourself how effective that agent is going to be at negotiating the sale of your house with another agent. Yes, there are discount agents who will work for less. However, you get what you pay for.

10) How will you communicate with me?

Getting an email once a week is not sufficient. Working with the client care manager because they are too busy is not acceptable. Find out where you will sit on their priority list and how often you’ll have access to them.

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