Finding the right real estate agent to sell your home – especially in a market as competitive as Chicago – is no easy task. The best person for the job should have experience selling homes like yours in your area, but you also want to find an agent who you connect with on a more personal level in order to build trust.

That said, hiring a real estate agent to help you with your transaction requires due diligence from the get-go, and there are questions that every Chicago seller should be asking during the agent vetting process. According to some of Chicago’s top real estate agents here are five things you should be asking your potential listing agent.

[Read: 4 Ways to Sell Your Chicago Home Fast.]

What experience do you have selling homes in my neighborhood? The Chicago real estate market varies from neighborhood to neighborhood, and it wouldn't be wise to assume that someone looking to buy a condo on the Near North Side would respond to the same sales tactics as someone hunting for a bungalow in South Shore. Hiring an agent who is familiar with the area where you live will go a long way when it comes to securing an offer that's above your asking price.

“I think it’s important that you select an agent that has experience,” said Helaine Cohen, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group. “Real estate is local. Some agents are better at selling condos versus single-family homes.”

Will you need to stage certain rooms, hire a professional photographer or take drone footage? Or is the market so hot right now that those extra expenses won’t be necessary? Those are all questions an agent who has worked in your neighborhood will be able to answer.

Are you a full-time agent? Knowledge and experience can go a long way, but if the agent doesn't have time to put those tools to use for you, then you’re right back to square one.

Arthur Cirignani, managing broker at Chicago Realty Partners, recommends hiring an agent that’s on the job full-time, rather than selecting someone who is juggling the sale of your home with another job.

“Sellers want to have their agent focus in on their properties on a full-time basis,” Cirignani says. “Are you available? When that phone call comes in, are you able to pick up the phone or get back to that person in a short period of time?”

Cirignani believes that sellers should hire agents who are available to field calls and actively market the home to prospective buyers. Additionally, a good listing agent will be available when potential buyers are, which can often vary from person to person, which means having the flexibility to work at any time of day can go a long way toward closing a sale.

[Read: 5 Ways to Guarantee a Higher Offer on Your Home in Chicago's South Side.]

What’s the sale going to cost me? When selling a home, it’s easy to focus your attention on how much money you’re going to bring in from a sale. However, your agent's fees – plus the cost of any renovations, staging services or professional photography – are going to affect your bottom line.

Tessi Davis, a broker associate with CONLON/Christie's International Real Estate, recommends having a conversation with your agent about these costs early on to ensure that you know exactly what you’re in for as you embark on the journey of selling a property. “That’s important to understand when trying to figure out what they need to sell for,” she says. “That’s a huge, unknown factor.”

That conversation will usually start with the commission rate. Not all sellers are aware that they will be paying the commission rate of not only their agent, but the buyer's agent, as well. That commission for both is generally set at a rate between 5 and 7 percent total, but is often negotiable.

There are also all the standard fees like transfer stamps, taxes, title insurance, attorney fees and so on. Davis recommends asking your prospective real estate agents for a sheet with a range of fees up front, as she feels it’s “good to understand where your money is going.”

What do you recommend for a listing price? While many sellers have an idea of what their property is worth, they are often not the most qualified people to set the asking price. Homeowners can form an emotional attachment to certain aspects of their home, or may feel their upgrades are worth more than they actually are.

Cohen feels it’s best to leave this decision to the people who make these decisions for a living. “The agent is the expert who knows the [comparable sales],” she says. “A good agent will set realistic expectation depending on market conditions and the history of other homes that have sold.”

It wouldn't be out of line to expect an agent to do a complete analysis of not just your property, but your entire neighborhood in order to narrow in on a correct listing price, Cohen notes. The tools that real estate agents have at their fingertips often give them the ability to do this more quickly and effectively than a homeowner.

[Read: 4 Real Estate Trends to Know Before You Sell Your Chicago Home.]

How will you market my property? There’s no one way to reach a buyer. To put yourself in the best position to sell your home, hire an agent who will attempt to get your home in front of as many home seekers as possible.

“You’re casting a wide net, looking for as many potential buyers as possible,” Cohen explains. “It’s important to market to the buyers, and it's also important to market to other agents because they bring buyers.”

Simply putting a home on the multiple listing service is likely not enough to get a property sold. Successful agents are now marketing using direct mail, print advertising and online platforms.

Cirignani recommends asking your potential listing agent if they plan on putting together a full-color brochure and if they will create a virtual tour. He also thinks it’s important to ask what social media channels the agent plans to use. “In this world we’re in right now, you have to be pushing the buttons,” he says. “There’s a certain segment of society that’s always on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.”

Looking for a real estate agent in Chicago? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you to the person who's most qualified for the job.

Tags: real estate, housing market, existing home sales, Chicago, home prices, housing


Alex Mayster is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter.