What Makes Mike Tick? What’s In It For YOU?

21 Questions to ask a Realtor


  • I see one of the most popular blogs you have written is 21 questions to ask a realtor. Why did you write this?
  • Most people select an agent based on a non-real estate relationship. I recently talked to a hard-money lender who had foreclosed on a local property. He said he had a friend from out of town who would sell the property at a discounted commission. My response was: “If he is truly a friend, he will recommend you list the property with a local expert who will get you the best price and least risk and stress rather than saving a few bucks on commission.”

How would you answer your own questions?

  1. Who do you work for? Most agents will say, “ABC Realty” or XYZ Real Estate. I say, “I work for my clients, the company I associate with works for me. You have to look at who is writing the check. Who is paying me?
  2. Will he be genuinely focused on your property? Agents spend most of their time looking for more business. I once had an officer manager who just signed up listings, put them in contract, then relied on the other agents, loan brokers and escrow officers to get the deal done. This made him a lot of money. But did it really serve his clients’ best interests?
  • I don’t work with a lot of listings or buyers. I also have bought and sold lots of property for myself When I represent someone else, I tend to get the thinking my customer.
  1. Does he have sales skills? An agent will rarely talk directly to the other principle. The only sales skills will be in talking to you, the client, into compromising or accepting less service than you need or deserve. I like my clients to make wise decisions based on information.
  2. Does he have a good solid real estate education to protect your best interests? Education comes in 2 ways: academic and experience. Current academic real education comes from online courses, most of which are in marketing and sales with little to do with protecting and serving the client. Mine brokers courses came from actual University of San Francisco coursework, such as Real Estate Law, Contract Law, Appraisal, etc. My experience is not just lengthy, but wide in variation, giving my clients a large resource of solutions and ideas to maximize their profits.
  3. Is his education current on recent marketing and legal aspects to protect you?
  • The Board of Real Estate requires 45 hours continuing credits every four years to maintain a real estate license in California. Any education most agents get on top of that is all about marketing and sales, and getting clients to do what we want. The last time I did this, I did it online in 53 minutes. This is shameful.
  1. How does he maintain his education?
  • ARTICLES I have written for real estate insider magazines for the past few decades and have been interviewed on radio stations. This takes lots of research and understanding of the topics. I also own property. Staying at the cutting edge of real estate issues is not just a passion, but protects my real estate, and is a huge resource for my clients.
  • What is his experience?
  • Experience comes from years of working in the industry but also varies over locations, and different markets.
  • What do you mean by different markets? There is a National Market, California Market, Bay Area Market, Marin Market, City Market, Neighborhood markets. Your house’s value will fluctuate reflecting all of these markets. And then you have residential markets, commercial markets.
  • How can location experience make a difference in an agent’s performance?
  • There are so many little differences between counties, cities, neighborhoods … and many of these can be overlooked by an out-of-town agent. And these little mistakes can be costly for a seller or buyer. Or worse, cause legal problems.
  • Can you give me an example?
  • Sure, just on closing instructions, who pays the title insurance varies from county to county. Mandatory city inspections vary from city to city. If an agent doesn’t know the requirements of a sewer inspection, the seller may get held responsible for not just the inspection but repairs even after close of escrow.
  1. Will his company provide support and be flexible for your needs?
  • This is a conflict of interest I have run into a few times over the years. The company I worked for would get very successful. The bigger they got, the more procedures they placed upon us agents. It would get to the point the procedures were in conflict with my client’s best interests –I call it regulation strangulation. I always go back to question number 1 to “Who do I work for?” I choose based on who will support MY CLIENTS interests. I need a company who is flexible to let me do what I need for my clients.
  1. Are testimonial and referral letters available?
  • Since my testimonials are pretty out-standing, and I have quite a lot of them, I can’t really shoot down this one. But I would look to see what they say. Are they just glorifying the agent or do they relate actual experiences?
  1. Does he have a written marketing schedule customized to your needs?
  • Most local agents use the same “put the property on MLS on Tuesday, brokers open weds or thurs, brokers open on Sunday. Look at offers Monday or Tuesday. The problem comes in if the schedule doesn’t fit, or prove to be successful.
  • I use a spread sheet. I sit down and go over the schedule with the sellers to make it fit into their schedule. Leaving time to deal with problems doesn’t get on marketing schedules.
  • What do you mean?
  • EXAMPLE San Jose Property, agent had all the right features on his “Getting Your House Sold in Five Days” program. On the Friday before, a slightly over-priced offer came in before offers were to be looked at, and he signed another listing who wanted an open house on Saturday. Then a nasty letter came in from a neighbor about a tree and a fence issues. This eliminated our open house on Saturday. Then on the Sunday open house he told buyers we already had an over-asking price offer and that there was a pending issue with neighbors over a tree and fence. This scared off the other buyers eliminating our chance for multiple offers to bid price up even more. He just didn’t know how to handle 2 listings. The tree and fence issues just overloaded him.
  1. Is he capable of getting your property staged? Staging used to be a method of arranging current furniture to make the house presentable to buyers at minimal cost to the seller. The process was “Clutter, Clean, Color.” Now staging hasn’t gotten to be “remove all your furniture, paint a certain color, bring in new furniture and decorations.” Its great if you have an empty house and several thousand dollars extra cash. But there are several levels of staging to meet different budgets.
  2. Is he internet savvy with his own website? When websites first became popular, I had my website ranking, organically, on top of even the local major companies. I got lots of leads. But maintaining this site and ranking took so much time I didn’t have time to serve my clients. Now my websites and internet presence is to display my listings in a custom manner not necessarily offered by MLS templates, and provide information to all to help them make informed decisions.
  3. Will his web site provide information and expose buyers to your property? That’s an easy one. Just look at their website. Most agents simply use their companies’ template site. Others mostly use sites to glorify themselves. But do they actually provide you information to help you make wise decisions or market your property?
  4. Will his websites get your property on the top real estate search engines? Nearly all property search websites pull data directly from the MLS. Other search engines have no accountability for accuracy and will maintain defunct and inaccurate data just to boast they have more listings. Sites like Zillow and Trulia have been a curse to the consumer filling them with inaccurate data and delusions of confidence in their knowledge.
  5. Will there be a custom PropertyAddress.com website? The objective of this is to get information on your property to directly to buyers. This saves the agent time. But, it eliminates the agent having a chance to talk with buyers. My objective of marketing is to get qualified buyers to look at the house, not give them the ability to pass judgement on your house based on limited data.
  6. Will there be a flyer box on the sign? Again – no chance for agent to consult with buyers. Most buyers don’t get everything they want. It’s all about compromise. A good agent may show the house does in deed offer what the buyer needs. I found with flyer boxes, the calls almost disappeared. This saved me a lot of time, but did not serve my clients need to sell the house at the best price.
  7. Are samples of his marketing efforts provided? Most content in listing packages is aimed at impressing sellers. I would want to see examples of real MLS listings, craigslist ads and flyers. How does he write ad copy? Does he use agent slang or chopped words to save space? – can be confusing. The purpose of ad copy is to entice buyers to look at the house, not flood them with information.
  8. Does he have an assistant or escrow coordinator or will he personally handle your transaction? Friends and clients call me a “control freak.” I look it as you pay me a lot of money to manage your real estate transaction. How can an assistant do a better job than someone who knows and understands your situation? Disclosures are an excellent example. Assistants (and frankly most agents to save time) will email disclosures to clients to fill out themselves. I insist on sitting down in person, or at least going over each statement on the phone. Disclosures can save or hang you. Making these statements wisely justifies a “control freak” as a seasoned guide.
  9. Will he have a team of a buyer agent, selling agent, maybe marketing? If you have an agent who runs a team, you are probably better off with a team member. The agent you signed with is what the industry calls the “Rain Maker” and out charming and signing up the next customer. But wasn’t it the experience and savy of your Rain Maker who you hired?
  • Me, I am a control freak. You are paying for ME. I am hands-on with all my deals as if they were my own properties.
  1. Is there a SERVICE GUARANTEE? Guarantee or what? The agent will give you back all the commission you didn’t pay him? My favorite version of this is “If I don’t sell your house, I will buy it myself.” Of course the agent picks the list price, the guaranteed sales price includes a discount.”
  2. What is the biggest mistake sellers make when chosing an agent?
  • Creating a “who can get me the most money” bidding war.