Real Estate Roundtable: What to Ask Your Agent

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How well do you know the market? Who’s going to be showing my house? At what price should I list? Our panel of experts explain what buyers and sellers need to ask.

Buyers, before you meet with a prospective broker, you should simply go online and research the broker. Then ask, how knowledgeable are you on the market? Can you educate me on areas available in my potential price range? How do you differ from the competition?

The same applies to sellers–research your broker’s recent sales and current listings. Pricing and exposure are the essential elements for selling a property. Therefore, sellers should ask: What is the right price to sell my property? How will you market my property? What should I do to prepare my property for sale/showing: repair/renovations, addressing potential inspection issues and staging? — Enzo Morabito, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Buyers should ask their broker for testimonials from past buyers to see how they work with clients. They should make sure everyone is on the same page, and finally, they should ask what benefit they get from working with that particular broker. 

Sellers should be asking what exactly their broker will do for them to sell their house, how they will do it (to make sure they follow through) and for a thorough CMA (comparative market analysis) showing that the broker truly understands the market on their particular property. — Doug Sabo, Nest Seekers International

The buyer should ask, why should I buy in this market and which areas in my budget will bring the best return when I want to sell? How well do you know these areas? What additional expenses will I have to budget for, such as transfer costs? Can you recommend an attorney and inspector?

Sellers should ask what kinds of things they should do to sell their houses in this market, such as repairs, decluttering, depersonalizing, and improving curb appeal. Finally, they should ask what price will get the most traction for their house in this market. — Martha Gundersen, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

The truth is, three questions are the tip of the iceberg. A prospective buyer should ask a million questions or more. A good broker’s greatest asset is the ability to listen carefully. The more questions a customer asks, the better their broker can help them on their search. When your broker acts annoyed when you ask “too many questions,” it’s time to find a different broker!

As for sellers, two questions come to mind. Now that so many agents have formed teams, before you choose a team, the seller should ask specifically “Who will really be showing my house?”

A seller should no longer be asking, “What can I get for my house?” A buyer should be asking, “At what price should we be listing my house to get it sold?” You don’t call a broker to list your house, you call a broker to sell your house! The days of list, pray, wait are over. The best thing a person can do when selling a house is get it in their rearview mirror. — Ann Ciardullo, Sotheby’s International

The one question that is asked of most agents concerns pricing. What can I sell it for and what can I buy it for? Sounds simple, but like all things, it depends. Is it a rising market–more demand than supply–or a decreasing market, more supply than demand. My recommendation to sellers is to lead the market and not to follow it. If the market is rising, price your home above the last comparative sale. The opposite is true for a down market. Price your home below the last comparative sale. Our market today is over-supplied. I have seen sellers who priced their homes at what their neighbors sold for two years ago and then have to lower it over and over as the market decreases. — Alan Schnurman, Saunders & Associates

Every buyer should ask their broker about their experience–how long have they been a broker in the Hamptons–and knowledge. A broker should talk to a buyer about the market, specifically the market they’re interested in, and tell them what’s available and what has sold. Also, not a question, but rather a gut feeling: Do you feel good about this broker? You’ll be spending a good amount of time with him/her, so it would be best if you liked who they are and how they do their business.

Every seller should ask their broker the same three questions, along with: How much time and attention will you be giving my listing? Does your firm have a marketing department and/or professional photographers? The web has certainly leveled the playing field for exposure, but how that information is formulated and projected is important. Most of all, sellers should make sure their brokers have negotiation skills. It’s the last thing to develop in any broker, yet so very important. — Judi Desiderio, Town & Country Real Estate

The three questions every buyer should ask their broker are as follows: How experienced are you? How knowledgeable of the area are you? How good are you at negotiations?

The three questions every seller should ask their broker: How experienced are you? What’s your philosophy on pricing? How good are you at negotiations? — John Christopher, Sotheby’s International

Buyers should ask their broker three simple things. How long have you worked in Hamptons real estate? Do you work full time as a broker or only part time? Do you have patience?

Every seller should ask their broker three more complex things. Why should I hire you and your firm above the others? How dedicated are you to finding the right deal and getting to closing? How much time can I expect you to spend on my listing weekly? — Mary Slattery, The Corcoran Group