I came across an advertisement in this week’s Boston Courant, that made me think.

The ad was from Rob Cohen, a very successful Back Bay real estate agent, who works for Century 21, on Boylston Street.

Rob suggests you ask a real estate agent “8 Tough Questions” before hiring him or her to sell your home for you.

Here are the 8 questions (some aren’t that tough, Rob!) with my opinion on whether or not they matter.

(Again, these are eight questions to ask an agent SELLING your home, not a buyer’s agent.)

ASK HIM OR HER THESE 8 TOUGH QUESTIONS TO START

1) Do you have a degree in business or at last an extensive business background?

Me: Doesn’t matter. C’mon. A sixth grade education is more than enough. You’re talking adding and subtracting. I’m all for education, but I don’t think you need any business background in order to be a good sales agent.

2) Do you have any advanced Real Estate designations to exhibit your commitment?

Me: Getting real estate designations is a waste of time and money, in my opinion. The information covered in these classes are stuff any good agent should already know. You do not need a “Certified Residential Sales” agent to sell your home. If your agent takes the required continuing education classes, offered by the local Realtor board, that’s more than enough.

3) Do you have proof of your past successful sales performance as a listing agent?

Me: Extremely important. I wouldn’t sell my house without an experienced agent. I realize this rules out anyone just starting out, but, really, it’s your biggest investment, are you going to take a chance on a novice agent?! I might be willing to hire someone who has limited experience with selling real estate, if the person has at least been working in real estate, with buyers, two to three years, and has a proven track record.

4) What do you personally, in addition to your company, typically spend to market and advertise a home for sale?

Me: Um, zero? That’s probably not a very good answer. In the old days, like the year before last, an agent didn’t need to spend any money on getting a house sold. Some still did, but I think most didn’t. Homes sold at the first open house. Things are different now. This is a tough question – lots of agents will say that their companies pay for all the advertising. You might think that’s good enough. If not, I’d expect the agent to spend maybe 10% of his or her share of the commission on marketing your home.

5) Do you write the ads and photograph the home yourself or use a professional?

Me: Most larger companies have in-house copywriters and photographers. The agent can get by with taking digital photos of your home, by himself or herself, but hopefully the agent is also going to have your home photographed by a videographer. And, check the ad copy before it’s put in the paper. If your agent can’t spell, you’ll be livid when you see typos.

6) Do you personally accompany all showings and how are inquiries on my property handled?

Here’s how showings work in Boston. Suppose you are selling your home. You hire a sales agent. Anytime a potential buyer wants to see your home, the buyer will have his or her real estate agent contact your agent, to set up the appointment. So, at showings, there’ll be your agent, the buyer’s agent, and the potential buyer. (This is different from in the suburbs, where everything’s on a lockbox, and buyers go to your property without the seller’s agent being there.)

However, sometimes a sales agent will send someone else in his or her place, either an assistant or someone else from his or her office. One very successful agent in Boston does this, and it annoys the hell out of me (although I don’t think my clients have been bothered by it, at all). This agent sends someone from his “team” to do the showings.

You know what, if I’m your client and I’ve asked you to market and sell my home, I’m asking you, not your team. There’s no “u” in team, buddy.

7) Do you have the staying power to market my home if the market softens?

Um, I guess so? How’s that for an answer. What’s my alternative, give you back the listing? A better question to ask is, are you, the seller, willing to put a realistic price on your property, in order to get it sold?

8) What is your experience in skillful negotiating, knowing where, when and what to bargain?

Oh, I think that’s over-rated. We’re not really going to negotiate, a lot. Please. I’m not a used car salesman. We’re selling a home. I’m a seller and I have a price in mind. I’m a buyer and I have a price in mind. We’ll either find a way to agree on that price, or we won’t have a deal. This question kind of bugs me, but I’m not sure why. It makes it sound sleazy, like once side is trying to “get” the other.

So, is this helpful to anyone?

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Updated: January 2018

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