Buying or selling a home should not be taken lightly, as your home is most likely the biggest asset in your life. You want that realtor who can do the job and has your best interest in mind. With more than 5000 realtors in Calgary, it is important to ask the right questions to pick the right realtor.
Are you a full-time or part-time realtor?
In our opinion, this is one of the most important questions. About 50% of the realtors in Calgary only do 1 or 2 transactions per year. That is not enough to gain experience in an industry where rules and market conditions constantly change. Many agents have jobs on the side. You cannot afford to be with a realtor who loses focus on selling or buying your home because s/he spends time at another job.
What are your negotiation skills?
Perhaps the most important assets of a realtor are the negotiating skills and experience. What is the background of the realtor? What may indicate that this agent is good at negotiating?
Tanja’s experience as a lawyer in The Netherlands is a great negotiation asset
What is your marketing plan to sell the home?
A serious realtor will have some marketing plan, and it should start with professional photography. However, this marketing plan in real estate is often very overrated. There is a clear difference between the marketing of your home and the marketing of a realtor. Read more about the differences in marketing your home versus marketing the realtor.
How do you communicate as a realtor?
Do you pick up the phone yourself or does your assistant? A complaint we hear sometimes is that people only get to see their realtor once. After that, the assistants take over. Read more about the communication between you and the realtor.
What professional designations do you have?
Ongoing education is important in real estate, and the Calgary Real Estate Board offers many different courses. A good example is the professional designation CCS, the Certified Condominium Specialist. Besides complete programs, the CREB offers many different seminars to improve the knowledge of the realtor in general.
Can you give references?
You may ask for references to call. Nearly any realtor website has testimonial pages. You also may check out the Google reviews. However, do keep in mind that in this day and age the social media aspect of things is not always a reflection of the truth. Read the story about the shed in Dulwich.
Do you serve both buyers and sellers?
This means that a realtor has knowledge of both sides of real estate. Buyers teach us what they like and dislike, which helps us to make a better home evaluation for a seller.
What are your realtor fees?Realtor fees are not standard and can be negotiated. But beware of the agent lowering fees right at your kitchen table. Being a good negotiator is one of the greatest assets of a realtor. If a realtor gives in too easily, the same could happen with negotiations on your home. It is also important to understand the fee structure between selling and buying agent.
What not to ask a realtor
In many interviews, certain questions require you to consider the responses from a broader perspective. Don’t necessarily refrain from asking these questions, but bear in mind that realtors’ answers will be affected by many variables.
How long have you been in the business?
This question comes up often. The fact is that a realtor who works 30 years in real estate does not necessarily do a better job than the newer agent.
What is your track record of transactions?
This is a valid question. However, a track record should not necessarily determine the choice of realtor. Presenting an extensive track record is difficult for new realtors and easy for the veteran realtors. However, the newbie may have more motivation to sell than the veteran.
Also, be aware that real estate teams are allowed to compile their transactions all under one name. This means that the team owner can advertise s/he does hundreds of transactions, while this is cultivated by many team members together.
Are you specialized in something?
The public often refers to specializations in for example:
- A style of home, like condos or single-family homes. To our knowledge there are very few realtors in Calgary who specialize in a particular segment. Some agents may do more business in condos than single family homes. But most likely this pattern grew more naturally than by choice.
- An area. This is considered the “area-specialist”. We see the area specialist’s name often on bus benches. However, the reality is that this specialty was really something in the ‘80’s. Today, the internet gives us all the needed information and has bumped out the area specialist.
- Price segment. The higher segment is obviously popular because it brings in higher commissions. Many agents like to market themselves within this luxury segment. However, with today’s internet technology, any good realtor can sell any high-end property.
What Is your list-to-price ratio and average number of days on the market?
This question is very legitimate but is not a tell-all. Realtors don’t always have control over all circumstances. Price is definitely the most important factor for a successful sale. But not all sellers want to list at the suggested price. Usually, a home stays longer on the market, and eventually sells for less if the original list price was too high. Selling a house with tenants still living in it is another good example. Tenants are not always cooperative and don’t always make the home look good. There are many more examples like this that can skew the numbers. Besides, these numbers are easy to spin as they are nearly impossible to verify for the public.
Do you already have a seller for my home?
It is our opinion, by experience, that the chance of getting a buyer out of the ‘pocket’ of a realtor is very slim. Yet, this tactic is often used by realtors to get a listing. Think of the flyers in your mailbox saying, ‘We have a buyer for your home’. Selling your home via the MLS, on the open market, most likely brings more value than a ‘pocket listing’.
Do you have a guarantee that my home will sell?
This question often refers to the ’90 days guaranteed sold or we will buy it’ plan. This program almost never comes to fruition. The stipulations are so difficult that sellers seldom, if ever, agree with it, ever. Eventually, we dare to say, this offer is not a tactic but a ploy and a marketing tool.
Besides these questions, there are other things to take into consideration when choosing a realtor. How does the realtor come across? Does s/he have a good presentation? What does the market evaluation look like? Does the home pricing make sense? Does the realtor explain things well?
Do you feel comfortable with the personality of this realtor? You will be in close contact for some time to come. Not to joke, but besides advisor, the realtor may become your therapist, too. So, make sure you trust and like the realtor you choose! Whom do you trust in giving you the best advice based on experience?
Online presence may be fluffed
We must be careful believing anything we see on the internet. Do you remember, in 2017, this restaurant became one of the best restaurants in London, on TripAdvisor? Its name was The Shed at Dulwich. It is a fun read. In short, a journalist started photographing plates of food in his shed. Then he asked his friends to write reviews. Shortly after, he was voted a top restaurant in London on Trip Advisor! The restaurant did not exist; it was just a shed in Dulwich, and the result of one creative journalist.
Google reviews, likes on Facebook and Instagram can all be bought. Thousands of likes? Too many good reviews? Just keep The Shed at Dulwich in mind when Googling for background information.
Official license tracker for realtors
Lastly, you can make sure that an agent is legit and licensed by checking the licensee Search of RECA, the Real Estate Council of Alberta. The RECA also publishes cases against realtors at the Decisions and Appeals Section.
How to cut through the ‘baloney’ when interviewing a realtor? The article “the marketing of a realtor” gives you some insights!