The real estate market throughout the country is slowing down but Charleston didn’t get the memo. This is partly because while the rest of the country is adjusting to the higher interest rates, Charleston is actually experiencing a bit of a housing shortage. This is great news for sellers and a bit anxiety-inducing for buyers.
Whether you're in the market to buy or trying to sell, it's important to find the right real estate agent. The reality is, not every agent can fit perfectly with every client. There are tens of thousands of real estate agents in the country. Some will work better with you than others, depending on your priorities. Knowing what questions to ask can really help you discern who will be the best agent for you. Before you hire a real estate agent, make sure you ask these questions!
What do you do differently than other agents?
One of the best ways to tell what sets a potential agent apart from the pack is to ask them. You can tell a lot about what kind of professional they are depending on this answer.
A good salesman should know exactly what their niche is and why it’s valuable to their customers. A really good salesman will be able to tell you why it’s valuable to you, specifically. By asking the agent what sets them apart, you give them a chance to do two things: tell you why they might be a good fit for you when compared to the competition and tell you what makes them a stand-out agent in today's market.
Can you provide references?
This is a vital question to ask whether you’re buying or selling. While everything the agent is telling you may sound wonderful, you need to hear testimony that isn’t part of a sales pitch.
A good agent will expect this question and have the references ready for you (or, at least, be able to email you them later). Call these references and ask them questions about their experiences. Ask about the agent’s success, how they communicated, and how they worked with the previous customers. This can give you valuable insight into whether or not this is the right agent for you.
How Many Clients Do You Currently Have?
This question will let you know exactly how committed the agent is to your goals and your concerns. If they’re juggling 30 different clients at once, even if they’re working with a large firm, your priorities might not be their priorities.
There’s no magic number for this, as the exact number of clients each agent or firm can handle will be different. Try and gauge whether the number seems exceptionally high for the size of the agency, or whether it’s way too low. It takes a bit of educated judgment, but that can be aided with this follow up question:
How will we communicate?
Knowing how the agent typically communicates with his or her clients typically gives a good indication of how much time and effort the agent puts towards each client’s needs. When coupled with the above question, you’ll get a good picture on just how important this project is to them.
Additionally, whether you’re a buyer or seller, this question can give a lot of insight as to whether you and the agent will work together well. A seller will typically want to be kept up to date with every showing, open house, and interested buyer. Whereas someone looking for their dream home might not want to hear about every new house that comes on the market.
What is your specialized area?
This question is a bit more straightforward, though it’s often overlooked. Each agent will have certain areas and neighborhoods that they know better than the rest. Some will know Downtown Charleston like the back of their hand, while others would be able to draw you a map of Mount Pleasant with their eyes closed. Whether they’re involved in the community, they’re from that area, or they just make it their business to know, that expertise can be your greatest asset when buying or selling a home.
If you're moving from within the city, you might not have as many questions about the surrounding areas. That said, those moving from out of town should learn about the school districts, commuting from certain areas, cost of living, transportation options, weather, etc.
Do you have any Recommended Vendors?
This question is a little more important for buyers than it is for sellers. Agents with vendor lists for certain areas are usually much more involved in that area. They can give you information on the best stores, restaurants, and entertainment, and really give you insight as to what life could look like in a specific area. They can also provide you with referrals for inspectors, home maintenance, and the best lender in Charleston.
As a seller, you might want to ask this if you need to update or remodel your home before you sell it. A real estate agent will typically know the most cost-effective, reliable contractors in the area.
Can I see any documents I may have to sign?
This may go without needing to be said, but never sign something the first time you see it. Ask for all the necessary paperwork upfront and give yourself a few days to review. As a buyer or a seller, a good real estate agent should be happy to provide you with copies of any and all paperwork you might need to sign. Ask for this as soon as possible so you have as much time to go over is as you may need.
What haven’t I asked yet?
Like I stated earlier, a good real estate agent understands that your success is their success. They’ll want to help you know all you need to know to pick them, and give them a great testimonial. If you’ve led them through the process of answering the rest of these questions, then they’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for and why, and be able to fill in any blanks that you may not have thought of, or that may be specific to their area of expertise.
We all want the same thing: to get the most out of our investments. This is where your real estate agent comes in. A great agent can be crucial to landing you the perfect deal, whether you’re selling your home or buying a new one. Your success is their success, so the best in the business make it their priority to help you.