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How will you keep me informed?

Your agent should be easily accessible on his cell phone and through e-mail.

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In most relationships, communication is key. Your partnership with your real estate agent is no different. You need to know, up front, how he will keep you in the loop. This means finding out several factors like what kinds of news he'll update you on, the frequency of updates and how the agent will communicate them. Will your listing agent let you know about every interested buyer, no matter how serious?

If you're a buyer, there are a number of details to handle, even after a seller has accepted your offer. This includes home inspection, reinspection, mortgage paperwork, title search, title insurance, repairs and other items. Will you get a weekly update, or just on an as-needed basis? Will it be with a phone call, an email or both? You may have your own preferences, and the agent may or may not accommodate them.

Ask for details about how accessible the agent will be for you, since you'll have questions and concerns throughout the selling or buying process. Find out what business hours he keeps and -- at the risk of sounding like a stalker -- if you can call him outside of those hours on his cell or home phone. Whether he answers e-mails in a timely fashion will also become important down the line. Hopefully, he'll have positive responses to these questions, but it's always smart to verify them when you check his references.

Our final question might sting a little -- it's time to turn the tables and ask the agent to deliver some bad news.

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