Just about everyone has a friend who is a real estate agent. When it comes time to buy (or sell) your home, is your friend the right person to help you through the process? Buying and selling a home is too important to leave to chance. The right realtor can be instrumental in making the process go smoothly, and help you ensure you have your bases covered.

10 Essential Questions to Ask When Choosing a Realtor:

  1. What area do you cover? When checking a realtor’s website, many will tout the state(s) they are licensed in, but no one knows every corner of the state. Choose an agent who is familiar with the neighborhood where you plan to buy or sell. They will have a better understanding of the neighborhood, the schools, the shopping and will be able to answer your questions.
  2. What is your ratio of buyers/sellers? Is your real estate agent more comfortable with the buying or selling process? (Each presents its own unique challenges.) If you are selling your house and buying a new home, will one agent be able to assist with both transactions? While having a specialty can be helpful, you will want to look for someone well versed in both sides of the sale.
  3. How many clients are you currently working with? In other words, will you have time to assist me with my sale or home search? Don’t be scared away if the number is high. Many times, the most efficient realtors are the ones balancing multiple clients at once.
  4. Do you have references? Speaking of clients, it may be a good idea to check in with previous clients about their interaction with the realtor. Did they make the process smooth and simple? Were they able to handle unique scenarios that arose? Would they recommend this realtor to their friends?
  5. Do you have a recommended vendor list? From painters to carpet cleaners and general contractors, your realtor should be able to provide recommendations if you need to have work done throughout the sale. These recommendations are valuable because they have likely successfully worked with them in the past.
  6. Do you work as part of a team? If your realtor has a support team, you have a wider range of professionals at your fingertips. However, be sure to clarify your communication expectations up front — will you be working with the realtor specifically, or will it be common to receive communications from other people on the team? Be sure you are comfortable with the arrangement.
  7. How long have you been selling real estate? Experience matters when it comes to real estate, but don’t discount a junior agent. They may be working as part of a team (see previous question!) and have much more experienced professionals waiting in the wings to help with more complex sales.
  8. How do you plan to market the home? If you are looking to sell a home, your realtor should have a marketing strategy for your neighborhood and home’s price point. Not all strategies work in every situation — will they be flexible if your home is on the market for longer than you anticipate?
  9. How do your realtor fees work? Typically, 6 percent of the home’s sale value will go toward realtor fees and be split between the buying and listing agent. Everything is negotiable when you are signing a contract but understand expectations before signing the dotted line.
  10. How long do typical listings stay on the market? If this number is abnormally high, ask the realtor why. They may indicate that they cultivate relationships with buyers and bring in higher sales numbers, which is a good thing for a seller.

Choosing a realtor can be a big step. Taking the time to interview a few people before making your choice can pay off in the end. Whether you are buying or selling, you will likely be spending significant time with this person until you close on your home — make sure you have confidence and chemistry from the start. And when the home buying or selling process is complete, be sure to contact your Farm Bureau agent and ensure you have the right homeowners insurance in place.