The Real.Est List
Selling? Here's how to interview a real estate agent
(Adapted from BrickUnderground's How to Sell a NYC Apartment)
When you're picking an agent to sell your apartment, keep in mind that many agents exaggerate the amount they expect your apartment to fetch in order to convince you to hire them. But if you fall for a high-baller, you are setting yourself up for months of price cuts and the attendant frustrations of keeping your place in showing condition and making yourself scarce at a moment’s notice.
One way to screen out high-ballers is to develop an accurate sense of what your apartment is worth. Research comparable sales in your building and neighborhood on StreetEasy.com to make sure your expectations (and the agent's assessment) are reasonable. (You may also be able to look up the agent's track record via StreetEasy's Shop for a Broker tool.)
Then ask some probing questions, such as:
- How many listings do you currently have? There is no magic answer, but make sure you understand what’s really going on in their business. Lots of listings raises the question of whether the broker has the resources to service more clients. No listings may mean the agent is not successful; or it may mean they just closed three deals the month before or tend to work mostly with buyers. Listings can also give you insight into the markets the agent is most familiar with. For example, if they have four listings in the Bronx but no others, and you’re in the West Village, you might be concerned.
- How long have you been working in real estate brokerage? Be wary of hiring anyone with less than two years experience unless they are a junior member of a larger team with lots of experience.
- Do you have any other listings in my building or any listings comparable to mine? Similar listings is a positive, because the agent can easily push buyers your way.
- What education do you have that prepared you for a career in real estate? New York City is not Iowa. A multi-million dollar property is likely to be best represented by a highly educated person. You should expect at least a college education; there are lots of brokers with law degrees, MBAs, masters in real estate development and more. These people not only tend to be highly competent agents, but they also tend to relate better to Manhattan buyers.
- Do you have an assistant or team? You want to know whether the agent has the infrastructure to service your listing. What if they’re busy? What if the agent has to work with a buyer on a Sunday and you need them to run your open house? What if they have multiple listings to service? A team, a partner, and/or an assistant is preferable because one agent can’t do it all if they’re actually a busy agent.
- What happens if you’re unavailable and a buyer or their broker calls for a showing? Do they have a call service or assistant? What are your agents showing hours (will they do before and/or after business hours, do they take Saturdays off)? Again, there’s no magic answer but you should be aware of what your agent can and will accommodate in order to make informed decisions.
- May I see your marketing plan for my apartment? Some but not all agents will give you a marketing plan before the exclusive listing agreement is signed. At a minimum, ask, “Assuming I sign with you will you provide me with a copy of your marketing plan so I can follow the plan as time goes on?” If they say no, they may not really have a formal plan.
You can find some more advice on interviewing a real estate agent here.