As people rush from inspection to inspection, or homeowners stress about getting ‘sale ready’, the importance of having a good real estate agent on your side can’t be underestimated. Because no matter whether you’re selling your home or buying a new one, the agent will be your key contact and go-to-person. So, to help you choose the right agent to sell your home, or get the right information when buying a home, we’ve prepared a list of questions to ask real estate agents.
Buying a home
While many folks are wary about the trustworthiness of real estate agents, ask the right questions and they could be your best source of tips and need-to-knows. And let’s face it, when you’re making a purchase this big, it pays to have as much information as you can.
Why are the owners selling?
Asking why the owner is selling gives you an insight into their motivations and how quickly they need to sell the house, which can be an invaluable negotiating tool. If they’re moving to another state for work or have bought another house, there will be a greater urgency to sell than someone looking to upgrade to a bigger home.
Understanding the seller’s situation and offering a flexible settlement period can also help your bid get over the line. Some real estate agents may be reticent to talk about these details, which is why it pays to be friendly and conversational.
Can I have a recent property sales report?
No one will know the local market better than the real estate agent. So, ask them for a recent sales report showing what similar properties in the area have sold for in the last three months. It will help you see if a property is priced fairly, or what you can expect to pay at auction, and give you the information you need to negotiate a good price.
How long has the property been on the market?
Properties that stay on the market for an extended period can often be overpriced. However, it could also present an opportunity. If it’s on the market for 60 days or more, sellers may be prepared to adjust their expectations and accept lower offers.
Be wary though, because another reason it may not be selling is because there is a major defect. Never buy without a building and pest inspection and if the house was passed–in at auction, you may want to dig around to find out why.
What do the owners love about the property and the neighbourhood?
This is a question that can tell you more about a home than appearance alone. The agent may have to check with the owners, but that will only increase rapport. Ask about the owners’ favourite features, places to relax and nearby hotspots. It’s also important to get a feel for the people you’ll be sharing the street or unit block with. Is there a family feel with lots of kids, or is it a quieter neighbourhood? Are the neighbours friendly? These kinds of questions will help you understand the home and get a feel if this is a place you’d like to live.
What can you tell me about the suburb?
Most agents will know the area well and can give you tips about the great dog park down the road, the local schools and where the nearest shops are. They may also be able to give you more insight on the street itself and help you compare one suburb to the next.
How much do the sellers expect? Are they willing to negotiate?
Depending on the market and location, houses can often sell below the asking price. So don’t be afraid to ask the agent about previous offers, what the owners are realistically expecting to get and what the lowest price the owners would accept is. Most agents will give you at least a subtle indication of expectations.
Have the owners done any recent renovations or major building work?
To get a feel for a property’s true worth, you’ll need to know if there have been any extensive renovations. It’s also worth asking if there are any known issues with the property, land or property boundaries. A building inspector should pick these up, but most real estate agents will act in good faith if asked.
Will the vendor accept an extended cooling off period or deposit bond?
Unless you waive your right to a cooling off period (like if you buy at an auction, for example), cooling off periods vary between 2 to 5 days across Australia. To give you more time to organise a building inspection or get finances finalised, it’s worth asking the agent if the owner would be prepared to allow more time.
If you don’t have the cash ready for a 10% deposit, then you might be able to negotiate a deposit bond. However, you need to check with the agent if the vendor will accept this, as the bond basically acts as an insurance policy for the vendor and none of the deposit will actually change hands until settlement.
Selling your home
There are lots of agents out there, who all present well and have great stories to tell. Which can make choosing one difficult. The best way to get a feel for how they work and who will work best for you, is to ask them the hard questions. Narrow your list down to between 3 to 5 agents, then fire a few tricky ones at them.
How long have you been working in real estate for?
You don’t want some brash fly-by-nighter. An experienced agent who has completed a number of successful sales can offer an enormous amount of expertise and sales knowhow. It’s not about age either. It’s more about finding someone who knows the local area, has a sales record that shows they understand buyers, and is hungry and motivated to get you the best price possible.
What properties have you sold in the area?
Knowing an agent has a proven track record in the area and finding out the sales prices they’ve been able to achieve can make your decision easier. You want someone who not only understands the dynamics of your suburb, but who specialises in homes similar in size, price and type to yours. Ask if they will supply you with a list of previous clients as a reference. Check too if they have a database of clients that have missed out on homes previously. These could be the people waiting to step through your door.
What price do you think we can get?
Of course you’re going to ask about the price. It’s probably one of your first questions. But it’s the follow-up questions that are really important. After the agent gives you their value, ask what they’re basing that figure on. They should be able to support it with comparable homes they’ve sold, sales in the area and market trends. You want someone that’s optimistic and keen to maximise your profit. But you don’t want to pick the agent who falsely, and illegally, inflates the price to get your business.
What are your fees and what do they include?
Ask if they charge a commission, what it is and whether they’re willing to negotiate on that. Commissions vary, but on average they are about 2 – 2.5% of the sale price. Some agencies now charge a flat fee instead, but you’ll need to ask what that includes. Overall you need to be clear about the costs and fees each agent charges and do the maths. You don’t necessarily need to choose the cheapest, but you certainly don’t want to be paying many thousands more than you need.
What marketing tools will you use?
Your agent should have a sales strategy ready. And don’t be satisfied with just online and newspaper property advertising. It’s essential yes, but there’s also social media, editorial content, emails and local area flyers. A database of interested buyers is also very important. Ask too if they pay the marketing costs or if it’s your responsibility. If you’re paying the advertising, you should be able to negotiate a lower fee or commission.
Is there anything we should do to our house to make it easier to sell?
Ask the agent how you could make potential buyers fall in love with your place. If they know what buyers are looking for, they should be able to suggest a few things off the top of their heads, from cosmetic changes to little renovations, that could add to your chances of selling for the best price possible.
How should we sell our home?
There are many different ways to sell your home, from auction and private treaty, to expressions of interest or written bids. Ask your potential agents which would be right for you and why. The answers will give you an insight into their knowhow and sales strategy.
Chat with our home loan specialists
Thinking of buying a home? Our home loan specialists are here to help. We can talk you through the process, calculate how much you could borrow and what your repayments would be and, should you be ready, help organise home loan pre-approval.
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