"Talk with the rest, then list with the best."
10 Questions to Ask the Agents You Interview

If you're like most people preparing to list a house for sale, you plan to "interview" three or more real estate agents. Here are ten questions to consider asking the agents you speak with.

You may want to preface the questions this way: "A relative of ours, who is a real estate agent in a different area, has emailed us a list of ten questions she suggests we ask all agents we interview. We hope that's OK with you." That usually makes most people feel more comfortable reading the questions off the list.

You might want to print out the questions only on a piece of paper and make one copy to use for each agent you are interviewing. Put the agent's name at the top of the page and note down the agent's answers after each question. Any agent who wants to list your house is not going to refuse to answer questions.

1. How much are you going to charge me for listing my house? Here's a quick point of reference: For a house with a market value of $1M (one million dollars), now at the low end for many Silicon Valley Area neighborhoods, a one-percent savings in listing commission is equivalent to 10,000 after-tax dollars. Pacific Century Realty is the only true full-service brokerage in the area offering listing commissions as low as one percent (1%).* Think about how long it takes you to earn ten thousand after-tax dollars. Think carefully about giving up any more than you have to.

2. How much will you charge me if you also end up representing the buyer(s)? Pacific Century Realty's fee for representing the buyer may be as low as only 1%.* And we have a special program to legitimately increase the likelihood that we do represent the buyer. Do the math: 1% + 1%, for a total of 2% … or a traditional total commission of 5 or 6%. The traditional brokerages can't afford to compete with us, while the discount alternatives available offer nowhere near the quality or level of service we do.

3. Can you show me testimonials from satisfied customers? Testimonials and references speak volumes about the quality of service a brokerage provides. Third-party endorsements naturally mean more than what we say about ourselves. Most agents typically have no more than a handful of tenuously credible testimonials on their websites, typically anonymous, using initials only. We have yet to see another company with as many testimonials posted to its website as Pacific Century Realty. We can show you more than a hundred if you want to see them! (You can also find a growing number of reviews online at Yelp.)

4. Can you show me references from other real estate professionals, outside your company? Remember that a large part of your listing agent's success in finding the best buyer for your house will depend on his or her relationships with other area real estate agents and his or her standing in the real estate community. Agents representing buyers frequently have choices, in terms of recommendations they can make to their clients ... and these agents naturally prefer doing business with people they trust and respect. It's not always the highest offer that is recommended by the listing agent to the seller(s).

5. Will I be working directly with you (the presenting agent) or will you be handing me off to lower-level assistants? Many so-called top producers do not plan to have much contact with you after you have signed the listing agreement. And they need to get that "full" commission, in order to pay all the members of their staff. At Pacific Century Realty, we cater to clients who want the benefit of working directly with an experienced agent, with an effective cost-cutting system that passes the savings along to the consumer.

6. Do you work evenings, weekends and holidays or are you at least available (on call) by telephone or email during those times? Many "successful" agents consider it an intrusion into their personal lives if clients call them outside traditional business hours. At Pacific Century Realty, we realize that people who have job responsibilities during business hours will NEED to communicate at other times. We find the opportunity to take time off during regular business hours, instead, or when we recess entirely, for vacation.

7. If there is an unexpected change in my circumstances and I want to terminate the listing before the contractual expiration date—without selling—will you allow me to do that, without penalty? Any adult knows from experience that life sometimes throws us "curve balls." It's  reassuring to know that if that should happen during your listing period, before you have entered into a contract to sell, that your listing agent and brokerage will do for you what they would want to see done for a member of their own family caught in the same situation: release them from the obligation, without imposing any penalty. This has on rare occasion happened with clients in the past. And when it did, we had no hesitation about doing for them what we would want done for ourselves in the same scenario—releasing them without penalty from the agreement.

8. How many times have clients either canceled or asked to cancel a listing with you, because they were dissatisfied with your services? Here's a little secret that most self-proclaimed "top producers" who use high-pressure tactics do not want you to know: they get a lot of cancellations, on both sides (buyers and sellers). Brow-beating and bullying only go so far. A certain number of people are going to respond by walking away, as soon as they feel they have the opportunity. You are not guaranteed an honest answer to the question, of course ... but the length of the pause that comes before the answer and the accompanying facial expression(s) may be revealing.

9. Which languages other than English can you offer, to capture interest from among non-English speaking prospects? It's well-known that the single largest demographic of active buyers and sellers in the market today speak Chinese. Most of them are immigrants, more comfortable in their native language than English (as is also the case with many of the agents representing them!). At Pacific Century Realty, we speak their language (Cantonese and Mandarin, both major dialects, in addition to Vietnamese). That's an important additional edge for reeling in buyers for your property.

10. Do you have a system for capturing the name and phone number of everyone who calls to inquire about a listing? What happens to most prospects who express an interest in a listing? They grab a flyer from either inside the house or the literature box outside ... and then they disappear. At Pacific Century Realty, we harness a unique technology that captures the name and phone number of everyone who calls to inquire about a listing (we don't attach a literature box to the yard sign), even if the number is Caller ID "blocked." Why is that important? Because it makes it possible for us to (legitimately) follow up with a phone call to each and everyone who has expressed an interest in the property. Real estate sales is very much a "numbers game." The more interested prospects you can engage in conversation about the property, the more likely you are to find a buyer who will offer a price that the seller will be happy with.

10 Bonus Questions

You also have the option of sending these questions to agents by email. That way, you will save yourself the time and trouble of meeting with the ones who are unwilling or unable to provide satisfactory answers.

1. Will you create a free dedicated property address Website (123MainStreet.com), to promote my property? Nowadays, a dedicated single-property address Website is an important tool for marketing a listing, a tool that can often make a critical difference. It should not just be a URL that redirects to an agent's Website. And, ideally, it should be more than just images with captions, which is typical. The copy (text) should be professionally written, in a way that readily captures a reader's interest and attention. It should concisely communicate how the property is special and what makes it desirable. The writer must understand and reach out to the target audience for that particular property. And there should be as many attractive photos as possible. Here are six examples of the Websites we’ve created:

10903CanyonVistaDr.com (Cupertino), 1598MortonAve.com (Los Altos), 2006CarolAve.com (Mountain View),
549JacksonDr.com (Palo Alto), 2345RupertDr.com (San Jose) & 498VineAve.com (Sunnyvale)

2. Will you use a lighted/illuminated yard sign, so it will stand out and be clearly seen after dusk
(unlike all the others in the vicinity, if appropriate)? Why should your yard sign only be seen during daylight hours? Think how much more effective it would be if it were highly visible after dusk, especially when all the other yard signs are not. The traditional full-commission brokerages cannot offer this new technology, because they all delegate their yard sign placement to sign-post companies that do not want to bother with lighting. At Pacific Century Realty, we care too much about our signage to hand off the job to someone else, who is rushing to finish the work as quickly as possible—and will not do any maintenance (sometimes batteries need to be replaced).

3. Will you utilize an online disclosure packet system, on my dedicated property address Website, to make it easy for prospective buyers and their agents to prepare offers on my property (so they can obtain disclosure documents immediately, without having to contact you first)? Put yourself in the place of a buyers' agent who is pressed for time to offer on a property. All other things being equal, will you be inclined to recommend that your buyers pursue an interest in the listing that makes your job easier, enabling you to download all the documents instantly, regardless of time of day, as opposed to ones that oblige you to play "phone tag" with the listing agent—or wait for the agent to respond to your email?

4. Do you utilize DocuSign or another digital esigning system that would allow me to review and sign documents at my convenience through email, rather than meeting with you in person to put ink to paper? So much time and energy can be saved by signing documents digitally that you probably do not want to be obliged to arrange in-person meetings with your agent, regardless of how much you may happen to like that person. Make sure your agent is going to use the benefits of new technology in your favor—and is experienced at doing so.

5. Will you give me a free $25,000 Seller Protection Plan (insurance policy), to protect me for six months from claims made against me by buyers? Historically, most claims by buyers against sellers will be made during the first six months following the purchase. Wouldn't it be nice if you had $25,000 of protection in the event that a buyer comes after you with a claim of some sort? At Pacific Century, we think so. So we have arranged this coverage for each and every listing client, automatically.* Another example of how we actually provide MORE for LESS. 

6. Does the company you use for environmental disclosure reports (beyond the forms that sellers are required to complete themselves) include a C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) Report, at no additional charge? As a seller, any assurances that you can offer a buyer with regard to your property tend to work to your advantage. A C.L.U.E. report assures buyers when there have been no homeowner’s insurance claims on a property. They know they will not have problems purchasing homeowner's insurance at reasonable rates. Typically, there is an additional cost for such a report. With our disclosure report partner, you get it at no additional charge.

7. Will that company accept payment through escrow, at no additional charge and will it waive payment entirely, in the event that my property is not sold? We make it our business to ferret out for all facets of your transaction service providers who offer the highest level of service on the most favorable terms. It is ironic but it is true: our clients actually get MORE for LESS.

8. Will that company provide me with a new updated complete set of reports at no additional charge, if we need to re-open escrow at a later time, because the original escrow did not work out? Peace of mind. Protection. "Risk reversal." Are you beginning to see the pattern here? At Pacific Century Realty, it is NOT "business as usual."

9. Do you have an online system that allows me to see survey feedback in the form of "picture graphs" at any time, from agents who have shown the house? One of the main frustrations encountered by sellers is the frustration of not knowing how their property is being perceived. We have solved this problem, with a special Internet-based feedback system, that shows you, in real time, how people visiting your house are responding to it. It's all presented in easy-to-understand "picture graph" format, for you to access any time you want to log in and monitor survey feedback.

10. Do you have a system for recording information on every agent who shows a house, so that you can send updates to all of them at the same time, with the push of a button? A good listing typically attracts dozens of "showing agents." Some of them leave their cards. Others don't. Either way, at Pacific Century Realty, we have an advanced system for capturing and inputting all their information into a special database just for your property. Any updates can be immediately broadcast to all showing agents, with just the push of a button. When we meet, we can give you a demonstration.

Angie’s List Questions

The consumer review website Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com) recommends the following five questions, which are for the most part included in the lists above:

1. How long have you been in business?
2. Do you have references?
3. What are your fees?
4. What is your marketing strategy for listing my home?
5. How much advance review time and explanation will you give me with important documentation during the process?*

*The “correct” answer to the fifth question is, “As much time as you need!”

If you find another brokerage that gives you satisfactory answers to all the questions above, go ahead and list with that company! If not, drop us a line to let us know that you've already "talked with the rest" and are ready to "list with the best" (if together, we decide that we're a good fit, that is).

Finally, a word to the wise:

Many sellers make the mistake of listing their house with the agent who quotes them the highest estimate of value for their property ... as if quoting that figure is somehow going to translate into a sale for that same amount. Keep in mind that real estate agents do not set property values. The free market sets property values.

To be sure, an agent who is on-the-ball, working hard and working smart, tends to procure better deals for clients. But that's a different matter.

For most properties, market value—or at least a range of market value—is relatively easy to calculate.

The only time it would be a good idea to list your property with the agent who inflates its value for the purpose of pleasing you, to get the listing, is if that agent is going to be the one to actually buy the property.

"Talk with the rest, then list with the best." Email us at info@pacific-century.com, for your free listing consultation, after you have familiarized yourself with our system and read our reviews on Yelp.

*Terms and conditions apply. The highest level of discounts by necessity applies only to properties within a certain price range.
Inquire for details in advance of your transaction. Offers subject to change or cancellation without further notice.

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