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8 Questions to Ask Your Agent if You’re House Hunting in Sandy

You’ve decided that anywhere north of I-215 is not for you. No, only east of I-15 and north of Draper will do. In other words, you want quick access to Big and Little Cottonwood—maybe with a view of Salt Lake Valley unfolding westward beneath you. If your heart’s set on Sandy and you’re not in the mood to scour listings yourself, then you’re gonna need a real estate agent. Not the family friend. Or the bored neighbor up the street. If you’re going the traditional MLS route, you need a realtor that’s tenacious, vivacious, and has their finger on the pulse of Sandy’s changing market. Most importantly, you need one that you can trust to represent your interests, not protect their commission.

After all, the right real estate agent is going to do almost all of the work. They’ll list your existing home, offer staging advice, show it, negotiate with buyers (or their agents), and handle contracts addendums and disclosures. Then enter the fray on your behalf as you search for the perfect home in Sandy.

But how do you know if they’re adept or inept? Ask potential real estate agents these 8 questions before you hire them to find out.

1. Are you a full-time agent?

There are over 2 million active real estate agents in the United States. That means 1 out of every 165 people in this great nation is an agent. With that many people vying for your business using a “folded-arms-cocked-hip” headshot, you know that some (if not most) of those smiling suits are not successful. Many of them, in fact, are part-time or only do a couple transactions per year. You don’t want a part-timer. You want a grizzled veteran who’s seen buyer’s markets, seller’s markets, and survived a bubble pop or two.

If that sounds about right, then just ask potential agents if they’re full-time or not. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It’s the best way to gauge their level of experience and commitment. They’ll need both to devote the skill, time, and energy it requires to buy or sell a house.

2. Do you have referrals from past clients?

If a real estate agent has ever done more than sit back and wait for clients to fall into their lap, then they should be happy to refer you to past clients. We highly recommend asking them to do so. Before you sign their exclusive contract, most real estate agents will tell you that they have a successful track record. But what does that actually mean? That every home they listed eventually sold? That their buyer’s eventually found a new home in Brighton High School’s boundaries? Either of those are simply a matter of time.

What you want to know is how the people they were hired to represent felt about the experience. Were they responsive when their clients reached out or would those clients only hear back 5 hours or even 24 hours later? Did they come up with inventive ways to make offers more appealing? Were they effective negotiators? You can choose to believe the agent when they say yes to all of the above, but better to just verify with someone they worked with in the past.

Were those clients happy with their experience? What did they like? What didn’t they like? That’ll give you a ton of useful information.

3. How long have you been a real estate agent in Sandy?

How long someone has been a real estate agent isn’t a guaranteed way of evaluating their quality of care. After all, some new agents work overtime for their clients while many old agents do the bare minimum. But it at least gives you an idea of how familiar they are with the area and the market overall. The types of contracts and loans they have experience with.

So, ask them how long they’ve been working as a real estate agent in Sandy and then follow up as they reply. Is everything along Bengal Boulevard good for young couples or is Alta View better? How about Dimple Dell? Hidden Oaks? Which neighborhoods have you seen turn over or change since you started?

4. How much do you charge?

A trustworthy real estate agent will be able to answer this without missing a beat (3% of the overall purchase price). One problem—an untrustworthy one will be able to as well. Agents are adamant that 6% is coming out of every deal to be split between the buyer’s and seller’s representation. Both will be honest and straightforward about how much commission they expect to make off the sale of your home, but only the trustworthy agent will be willing to negotiate with you (primarily on the buyer’s side).

Worst case, if your potential agent doesn’t give you a straight answer when you ask this question you need to look elsewhere. You don’t have time for that kind of nonsense.

5. Do you work with a team?

To be clear, there are awesome real estate agents that work with a team and there are awesome real estate agents that fly solo. This question has less to do with quality and more to do with logistics. Who should you contact if you have questions? Who will be returning your calls? Who will be interacting with sellers?

So, while this won’t tell you whether or not you should work with the agent, it will give you an idea of what you should expect and whether their process will be a good fit for you.

6. What’s your marketing plan?

If you’re a first-time buyer, then you can skip to the end. If not, then you know that before you can buy you’ve got to sell. And the marketing phase of that home-selling process is crucial—especially now that inflation and high interest rates have pushed us into a buyer’s market. Six months ago, a seller’s agent could list a home and kick up their feet while buyers kicked down the door. Now homes are sitting on the market for months at a time. How your agent markets your home will determine (at least partly) how much interest you get from buyers, how many offers you receive, and even how much you sell for.

So, ask the agent what their marketing plan looks like. If they’re not lazy it’ll at least involve several showings and an open house (or two) in addition to professional photos on the MLS listing. If they’re good, it’ll also involve listing in classifieds and on a few other aggregator sites. If they’re great, they’ll actively run ads online for your property and will stage the home. Pay attention to the experience they’ll offer at showings and the open house as well. It gives truly great agents an opportunity to shine.

7. How do you determine selling price?

Every agent approaches pricing a home a little differently. Once they’ve run comps and determined the true value of your home, they can:

  • Price your home a bit higher
  • Price your home a little lower
  • Price it right on the nose

Some like to try and initiate a feeding frenzy by pricing a little low. Others adhere to the philosophy that it’s better to anchor your price high and accept lower offers than possibly end up leaving money on the table. For some reason nobody ever prices it like Goldilocks—just right. Whatever their school of thought, your agent should price your home in a way that makes sense for what you need and not what they want. Your timetable is a huge factor in all this, so ask them how they do things and make sure they have your best interest in mind.

8. Will you also represent the buyer?

Due to the way real estate commissions are traditionally split, it’s extremely advantageous for real estate agents to represent both the buyer and the seller. Doing so also represents a big, fat conflict of interest.

Here’s why (apologies for the math but it’s important):

Let’s say you’re buying a home near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. By some miracle, you’ve managed to get it for the average purchase price in Utah right now—$540,000 as of June 2022. Both the buyers agent and listing agent stand to make $16,200 each by getting a 3% commission. If you don’t have a buyer’s agent, then that $16,200 is up for grabs. Of course, you could stipulate that it go to the seller in order to make your offer stronger, but you’ll probably get pushback (even if you fill out all the contracts yourself and handle every nuance of the back and forth). Why? Human nature. And the fact that some agents just assume any commission belongs to them even if they did nothing to deserve it.

So instead, you allow the seller’s agent to represent you. That’s a good move, because even if your offer is not quite as good as someone else’s, the agent stands to make substantially more if they persuade their buyers to go with you. Imagine that someone else offers $600,000 but they have an agent. The seller will make a lot more with the bigger offer (shocker). But the commission on it will only be $2K more than your $540K proposal, which would net an agent representing both sides $32,400!! Ask any agent anywhere and they’ll say that’s not how they work and no agent would ever dream of doing such a thing…but as the unrepresented purchasers of many homes, we can definitively say that’s malarky. It won’t happen every time, but it’s a weird alignment of incentives regardless and should be avoided.

In fact, we appreciate it when real estate agents reject our offers to have them represent us and instead refer us to someone in their brokerage. True mark of integrity there.

Final Thoughts

Finding a trustworthy real estate agent with lots of experience is easier said than done. But, by asking the above questions, you’ll get a great idea of whether or not you want to work with a given agent. Pay attention to their answers, ask follow-up questions, and make the decision that feels right for you.

If you want to skip the headache of finding an agent altogether, give us a call at 801.515-4343 and we can make you a fair cash offer on your existing home! Then read our article about how to find your home without an agent to give all your offers a 3% boost over other buyers in the Sandy area.

Happy hunting!