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Real estate agent interviews: 10 questions to ask

Profile photo of Johanna Seton
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Johanna is one of the co-CEOs of OpenAgent. She has over 8 years of experience in the real estate industry through her work at OpenAgent and holds a class 2 real estate license in NSW. Previously, Johanna worked at hipages.com.au, Australia's largest trade marketplace, where she built her experience understanding renovations and home improvements for 7+ years.

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So, you have done your research and decided the best real estate agent to sell your home is one of two or three shortlisted candidates. You might be thinking, OK now how do I choose one to sell my biggest asset?

Here are 10 questions to ask when you are interviewing a real estate agent. It is always best to ask the same questions to all agents that you are interviewing so you can compare your thoughts based on all the facts.

Question 1: How long have you been a real estate agent?

In any real estate market there are some agents who have more experience than others. This isn’t the only factor you should be considering, but it is definitely important. Part of what you are paying for when you hire a great real estate agent is someone who has “seen it all” and knows how to read people and situations.

A real estate agent who has been selling properties for many years will have a lot of experience negotiating prices and terms on behalf of their clients. You want to find someone who can help you through the process and offer you the benefit of his or her years of experience.

On the other hand, you are balancing this with the energy, enthusiasm and hunger that can come from an agent newer to the industry. Sometimes less experienced agents work the hardest to get you a great outcome.

Question 2: What properties similar to mine have you sold in the last 6 months?

If you used the OpenAgent search to research agents you will already have a very good idea of the recent sales of the agents you are interviewing. You will know who is selling a lot of homes like yours that are nearby to yours. This should help you make sure you have the right people on your short-list to start with.

But once you know you have the right agents you are interviewing, it is worth noting that every property is a little bit different. Perhaps your property has a big backyard or is in a particularly special street? If you are interviewing an agent who has been recently selling properties like yours, nearby to yours, in the last 6 months then there is a good chance he or she already has some suitable buyers in mind. Perhaps someone who really needs that extra study or granny flat? Ask them if they have any buyers in mind that recently missed out on a property like yours.

Question 3: What is the sentiment in the market for properties like mine?

A good real estate agent who has a lot of experience as well as recent experience in your area should be able to give you an intelligent and considered answer to this question. Follow up with a few additional questions to gather extra details:

  • How many people are coming out to Open Homes at the moment? How does that compare to this time last year?
  • What is the current auction clearance rate in the market? Is that up or down?
  • Is it harder to get listings or to sell properties at the moment? (Note: If it is harder to get listings that suggests it is a “sellers market” if it is harder to sell properties then it is a “buyers market”)

Asking these kinds of questions will give you a good sense of the real estate agent’s depth of understanding and knowledge of the market. It will also show that you do your research and that you are a savvy seller. This will be important when you get to the ‘business end’ of the discussion!

researching agents

Question 4: What would your past clients say your strengths are – how would they see you as different to other agents in the area?

All agents are different. That is why there is no perfect single answer to the question: Who is the ideal real estate agent to sell my property?

Beyond their pure track record, there are a number of different factors that come into the question of who is the right real estate agent for you:

  • Personality and rapport: Do you get along well with this real estate agent? Do you feel comfortable with them in your home and showing others around your home?
  • Trust: Is this real estate agent someone who you believe, who you feel you can trust to tell you the truth about your property and what buyers are saying?
  • Individual needs: Does this real estate agent deal well with your particular needs? Some agents are perfect for young couples, others are brilliant with older people – there is no perfect answer.

So, you need to find out what others are saying about this real estate agent. If they say “I go the extra mile to make the process easy for my clients” that will resonate with some people, whereas others like the sound of “I give people regular updates and communicate better than others”.

Question 5: What would you emphasise in selling my house?

Another way of asking this question is: “What is the 30 second pitch for my house?”

Real estate agents will meet a lot of people and have the chance to tell them about your property. You want to hear how they would describe the selling points of your home, to see if you are happy with the way they would market it to prospective buyers.

There is a good chance that if you find their sales pitch compelling, so will prospective buyers.

Question 6: What type of sale process do you recommend and why?

There are different ways to go about selling a property. And different methods work for different types of properties in different markets.

The top real estate agents will be able to clearly explain which method is best for you and why that is. This should be based on real facts, such as what works for your specific type of property and also your own.

The most common ways to market a property are:

  • Fixed Price: The property is advertised at a fixed price e.g. $500,000
  • Offers Over: E.g. “Offers over $450,000”
  • Tender: Private bids are requested, often with a 10% deposit
  • By Negotiation: When a buyer is interested in making an offer, the real estate agent asks them to submit a contract or may negotiate verbally
  • Auction: The Agent sets an auction date and designs a marketing campaign in the lead up to that date (usually this lasts 4-6 weeks). The sale happens publically and an auctioneer runs the process.

There are often good reasons to choose one of these methods over another, so it is important to understand why each agent recommends a particular method for you and your property.

Beach side street

Question 7: What marketing and advertising would you recommend as part of that process?

It is typical in Australia for real estate agents to propose a marketing and advertising plan for your property. This usually involves a significant upfront cash outlay for you, the seller, and is therefore a crucial part of the overall package.

Like with sales methods, there is no one right answer for the best kind of marketing plan. It depends on the property you are trying to sell and the market you are operating in. The biggest driver is where potential buyers of your property are looking for real estate listings.

Most marketing plans will involve some combination of:

  • Advertising in digital channels (such as realestate.com.au; domain.com.au; and many others). This advertising might be “standard” or “premium”;
  • Professional photography;
  • Signage on your property;
  • Real estate agency catalogues;
  • Local flyers/mail-box drops;
  • Mail/email marketing to their buyers lists;
  • Local newspapers / classifieds

Comparing marketing plans is another reason why we always recommend speaking to at least two real estate agents. You need to compare the different approaches and consider which is most likely to attract the right kind of buyer for your property. Make sure you probe this discussion a little bit, ask:

  • Which parts of the marketing are really necessary (“Can I still get a good outcome without the newspaper advertisements?”)
  • What marketing plan did they use on the property similar to mine sold last month?
  • Do they track where the enquiries come from (digital vs newspaper)? If so, what percentage of enquiries in my area come from each channel?

Question 8: Using that sales method and marketing plan, what sale price do you think is achievable?

This is the question you probably are MOST interested in the answer to! We recommend asking it towards the end of the interview. This is because it gives you a chance to show the real estate agent you are serious and you have done your research.

Warning: There is a dodgy practice amongst the not-so-good real estate agents to try to “buy the listing”. That means to quote a high price even though they know it is not achievable, just to get your property on the market.

The most important thing is to ask for examples that they are basing their estimate on. You should also ask for a range: “if everything goes perfectly, what price could you expect; and what is the low end of the range, if this was a fire sale?”. Once you have an estimated range from two or three real estate agents, you should have a good sense of what the market will pay for your property at that point in time.

Flower Garden Suburban Neighborhood

Question 9: How long would you expect my property to be on the market before getting offers in that price range?

This will more than likely be a range. But it will give you a good idea of their expectations, and you can compare to the average time on the market to understand how quickly this agent is likely to get results.

Typically, the best time to sell a property is within the first few weeks on the market, when the property is “new” to buyers. The last thing you want is a home on the market for many months – all of a sudden buyers start to wonder “why hasn’t that sold yet?”.

Question 10: What commission do you charge?

Now, if it hasn’t come up already, you will need to ask directly the commission the agent charges for their services.

A great real estate agent will be able to confidently justify their price if it is above cheaper alternatives. In our experience, you will be better off with the perfect real estate agent rather than the cheapest real estate agent. Why do we say that? Well if you look at the high-end and low-end estimates of the real estate agents you will quickly realise that the difference in price far outweighs differences between commission structures. The key instead is choosing an agent who is capable of delivering and who will work hard to get you a price in the upper end of the range.

Are you interested in finding out who should be on your shortlist of real estate agents to interview? Our online search tool intelligently compares and ranks real estate agents. All active real estate agents in Australia are considered. Agents cannot pay to appear in our search results, they have to earn their ranking by being the top sellers and delighting their clients. Start searching for experienced, high performing real estate agents here.