What experience do you have?
An agent's experience is more than just how many years he's been in the business. Other details can give you more insight into his success. One factor that speaks volumes about a seller's agent is his list-price-to-selling-price ratio. You get this ratio by comparing the original list price of the property to the price at which it eventually sold. A good agent will come prepared with this number. The rule of thumb is to choose an agent with a ratio as close to 100 percent as possible, which means that his home's final sale prices have been close to the listing prices.
However, after you hear the number -- even if it's impressively high -- you still might want to inquire into the reasons behind it. Perhaps the agent usually has a house sit on the market for a long period of time to get the best price. Depending on your situation, you may or may not have the luxury of time on your side. A low number could reveal that the agent pushes sales too quickly. Although logic tells you that an agent is interested in a higher price to get higher commission, time is sometimes more valuable to him. In the agent's mind, he'd be better off spending that time selling other houses.
Another aspect of a real estate agent's experience you shouldn't overlook is the types of property he's sold in the past. Perhaps all of his experience is in selling condos -- but you have a large estate. Or, an agent may specialize in commercial -- rather than residential -- property. Appropriate advertising methods and knowledge of the market will vary greatly depending on the kind of property you're selling, and his expertise may not be strong for your particular needs.
If you're a homebuyer, finding an agent with expertise in a particular locale will be a big asset to your search. A qualified buyer's agent will be able to take your present and future needs into account to find you the neighborhood and property that fits you best. For instance, if you have children you'll probably want to find a neighborhood with good schools.
Now that we've looked into his past, let's peer into the future to see how your potential agent will work with you.