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In Massachusetts, a real estate agent may be a selling agent, a buying agent, or, with the written consent of both parties, a dual agent.

The standard commission in the greater Boston area is 5%. The seller and listing agent decide what percentage of this commission they will offer to the buyer’s agent, if any, and that percentage must be disclosed in the Multiple Listing Service. Adobe Stock

With average prices for both single-family homes and condos in the Boston area hitting record highs in May, according to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors (GBAR), it’s likely that buying or selling a home will be one of the biggest financial transactions of your life. So it’s important to protect yourself to ensure you’re making the right decisions – and one of the best ways to do that is by hiring a qualified local real estate agent.

However, since there are more than 10,000 agents who are members of the GBAR, and even more local agents who are not members, vetting the agents you are considering is crucial. Here are five questions a buyer or seller should ask before choosing an agent.

1. Who do you represent?? In Massachusetts, a real estate agent may be a selling agent, a buying agent, or, with the written consent of both parties, a dual agent. “I don’t deal with dual agencies,” said Debby Belt, a senior associate at Hammond Residential Real Estate in Chestnut Hill. “When I represent a seller, I only represent the seller as I don’t think a broker can act as a fiduciary for two parties and do a good job and ethically represent both sides of a transaction.” Belt said she often refers a buyer another agent if he is to represent both parties, or suggest that a real estate attorney draft an offer on his behalf. “I find transactions run smoother when there’s another agent involved,” she said. “A salesperson must understand this difference.”

2. what do you charge? According to Felicia Captain, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Wellesley, the standard commission in the greater Boston area is 5%, payable to the listed agent. She said the seller and listing agent would decide what percentage of that commission they would offer to the buyer’s agent, if any, and that percentage must be disclosed in the multiple listing service. However, the commission may vary. In a more complicated transaction, such as a real estate sale, where the agent is asked to arrange for the removal of the deceased owner’s personal belongings, he or she may be able to charge more. Additionally, it is well known in the industry that commissions can be negotiated by the seller.

3. What will you do to market my home? “Any agent can just put a listing on the MLS,” said Morgan Franklin, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Realty in Boston. “But a great sales agent can identify a home’s unique selling points and use those to maximize a cohesive story that can be told through marketing to potential buyers and buyers’ agents.” Franklin said the agents should use social media, including video tours of the home publish. He suggested that sellers interview agents about the types of videos they create and their social media strategy to ensure they have the experience and large following to maximize exposure.

4. How familiar are you with this area?? Knowledge of the local market – and connections to other local agents – can be crucial, especially in a competitive market. A local agent will know at what price other properties have sold for, whether a bidding war is to be expected, and how much overbid a buyer needs to bid in order to be successful. Of course, all real estate is local, but sometimes the status of the local market depends on whether a home is in a particular neighborhood or even a particular block. Eric Rollo, managing partner and broker at The Agency in Boston, said sellers should ask themselves whether the agent they are considering has sold properties nearby or has a strong connection to the neighborhood or community. “Even if the agent is newer and may not have sold a ton in the area yet, if they are well connected locally, they could be a valuable asset,” he said.

5. Will you help me prepare my house for sale?? “Inexperienced realtors often give sellers a hard time giving feedback on their property,” said Ryan J. Glass, vice president of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston. “Sellers should hire an agent who is direct and has no trouble handling difficult conversations. We are in a market where sellers need to properly prepare their property. If an agent does not have tips on how to improve the property prior to listing, it could be a sign that the agent is inexperienced.”

Robyn A. Friedman has been writing about real estate and the home market for more than two decades. Follow her @robynafriedman.

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