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Questions to ask when hiring a real estate agent

Posted on Nov 4, 2021 in:
  • Homeowners
  • Buy

Q. I’m ready to take the plunge on buying a home in the Seattle area. How can I find a real estate agent who is right for the job?

A. Real estate agents help you find the home that fits your budget and lifestyle. They guide you through each step in the purchase process, educate you on the market, identify viable listings, connect you with relevant professionals and make offers on your behalf. Whether you find agents online or through referrals, you’ll want to interview three to five to give yourself a range of options.

Seattle’s housing market is one of the hottest and most competitive in the nation. Navigating it requires patience and dedication — so, you don’t want to waste time with an agent who isn’t a good fit. Here are a few questions to ask of prospective agents.

Are they licensed? Buying in a tight market is tough. You need a real estate agent you can trust, and a gut check isn’t enough. Make sure any agent you consider is currently licensed and has a clean record by visiting You’ll also learn if they’ve received formal complaints or been subject to disciplinary action.

How seriously do they take risk? If what the agent says sounds too good to be true about a property or neighborhood, it probably is. Agents should be realistic and upfront about the rewards — and the risks — involved in buying a home. Do they willingly share the upsides, downsides and unknowns of your possible home purchase?

Are they experienced? It’s easy to read about an agent’s experience, but it’s still worth asking about it directly to see if they have the chops and expertise to help you buy the type of home you’re looking for, in your market, at your price range. They should be able to provide details and specific examples about their related experience.

Do they listen to you? If your agent keeps trying to push you into homes outside your requirements, they may not be paying attention or, worse, trying to sell you a home you don’t really want. Clearly communicate what you’re looking for, and if they steer you away from that, it may be time to seek a new agent.

What do past clients say? It’s good to venture beyond online reviews. Any established agent will give you a list of clients they’ve sold homes to in the last year or two if you ask. It’s good to hear directly from someone who bought in the same market at the same price range what their experience was like. Also, references from people you know — and trust — are never a bad thing.

Do they have capacity to support you? It’s essential the agent has the resources, staffing and capacity to meet your needs. The more clients an agent has, the more logistical support they need to manage them. If they have a lot of clients and a small team, they may be overstretched and unable to offer you their undivided attention.

Is there a personal connection? You’ll want to interview agents to get a sense of how they’ll actually work with you. In this market, you’re investing a lot of time and trust in your agent — it’s essential that their philosophy and style complement yours. That chemistry will allow them to understand your needs and find you the most suitable options.

Do you know what you want? If you have strong ideas about what kind of home you want to live in, where you want to live, your price range and where you see yourself in five to 10 years, you’ll have an easier time finding out if you and an agent match up. And will help you toward finding the home of your dreams.    

James Slone is a writer at the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s more than 2,600 members, write to


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