Halloween and Fall Train Rides in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Halloween and hayrides go hand in hand, but if you really want to up your game this year, take a trip on a Halloween train! From spooky to scenic, these fall train rides offer a unique bit of fall fun for the whole family: Passengers can take a seat in a vintage caboose, travel through gorgeous fall foliage, visit a pumpkin patch, and even trick-or-treat onboard. After the ride, round out the day with autumn activities like corn mazes, crafts, and a costume party.

Book your tickets now to ensure you don’t miss out on one of these seasonal NJ railway adventures. Most trains have limited capacity and other safety protocols this season, but be sure to click through to each train’s individual website for details and requirements.

Fall Train Rides in New Jersey

Corn Maze Train
Phillipsburg
Weekends through September 27
All aboard the historic passenger coach for a ride to Snyder Farm to the corn maze. Face masks are required, and the rides run at reduced capacity.
The Great Pumpkin Train
Phillipsburg
Saturdays and Sundays from Saturday, October 3– Sunday, November 1
Throughout the month of October, visitors can take the train to pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch while enjoying the beautiful scenery. In addition, families can extend the fun by purchasing add-ons such as the Corn Maze and the Mine Train for an additional fee.
Haunted Express Night Time Rides
Wall
Fridays and Saturdays starting in October (2020 Dates TBA)
Take a ghostly nighttime ride and a walk through the haunted woods of Allaire State Park, an annual tradition for decades.
Pumpkin Trains
Flemington
Saturdays and Sundays from Saturday, October 3–Sunday, October 25
All-aboard the train at Flemington Station for a trip to Everitt Farms’ at Pumpkin Junction. Allow about 2.5 hours for your visit. Your train ticket includes a round-trip train ride, plus admission to a 6-acre corn maze, a tractor-pulled wagon ride, and other fall activities.

Fall Train Rides in Pennsylvania

Trick-or-Treat Train
New Hope
Select dates from Friday, October 9 – Sunday, October 31
Climb aboard the train at New Hope & Ivyland Railroad for a 45-minute trick-or-treat train ride. Kids are encouraged to dress in their favorite Halloween costumes and trick-or-treat around the New Hope train station for candy and assorted toys.

Hope you have fun! 

The Best Pumpkin Picking Patches And Farms In NJ

It’s that time of year for all things pumpkin—lattes, decor, food, and of course, one of our favorites— pumpkin picking in NJ. Along with hayrides (tame and scary), cutting a fresh pumpkin from its stem can give you all the fall feels. And this year, it’s one of the best ways to celebrate the season since it’s outside, making a pumpkin patch a prime spot to practice social distancing. To get the latest COVID-19 guidelines as well as the pumpkin picking schedules (which vary with each farm), be sure to call ahead or click on the farm’s website. Are your littles ready for pumpkin picking? Scroll down to find a family-friendly pumpkin patch near you.

Here is the best pumpkin picking in NJ this fall:

Atlantic County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

R and J Farm
Take a hayride to the pumpkin patch, and then put your pumpkins to the side and make your way through the corn maze. Note: The Cornfield of Terror is closed for the 2020 Fall Season.
Open daily starting September 19
September 19, 20, 26 & 27 11AM – 6PM, September 21-30, 12PM -6PM
Monday – Thursday 12PM – 6PM, Fridays 12PM – 8PM, Weekends 10:30AM – 8PM, October 31 10:30AM – 4PM
723 W. Herschel St.
Galloway, NJ 08215 

609-593-6180

Sahl’s Father Son Farm
From pumpkin picking in NJ and hayrides to an animal farm and corn maze, your littles will have a fall day of fun here.
Open September 26 on Thursday and Friday from 4PM – 7PM, and Saturdays from 10AM – 7PM
420 West Pestalozzi Street
Galloway, NJ 08215
609-965-9300

Bergen County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Abma’s Farm
Hayrides and pumpkin picking have been redesigned with social distancing in mind—that means hayrides, pumpkin picking, and scarecrow making are ticketed events, purchased ahead of time online.
Open daily September 28 – October 31, Monday – Friday 1PM – 5PM, Saturday 9AM – 5:30PM
W700 Lawlins Road
Wyckoff, NJ 07481
201-891-0278

Demarest Farms
Named one of the best places to pick pumpkins in New Jersey, this place includes pumpkin picking, tractor rides, farm market shopping, and more. This season, reserve your picking spot online before you go.
Farm open daily from 8AM – 6:30PM
Pumpkin picking starts approximately September 19
244 Wierimus Rd.
Hillsdale, NJ 07642

201-666-0472

Depiero’s Country Farm
Enjoy the pumpkin patch and sip on fresh-pressed and hot apple cider.
Open daily from 8AM – 6PM
Pumpkin picking available September through October
156 Summit Avenue,

Montvale, NJ 07645
(201) 930-8678

Secor Farms
This year, while the hayride and maze are canceled, you can walk to the decorated pumpkin patch to find the best pumpkin to take home. Also enjoy fresh-pressed apple cider, homemade apple cider donuts, and more.
Open daily from 9AM – 5PM
Pumpkins available from September 14 through October 31
85 Airmont Ave.,
Mahwah, NJ 07430
201-529-2595

Burlington County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Johnson’s Corner Farm
If you’re looking for both apple and pumpkin picking in NJ, look no further than Johnson’s, where you can take a  hayride to the fields. And be sure to check out their Fall Festival Weekends, where you can enjoy live music, a corn maze, gem mining, food tents, and more.
Open daily from 8AM – 7PM
Pumpkin picking hayrides starting September 12 through November 1, Weekdays from 10AM – 5PM on the hour, Weekends from 10AM – 5PM continuous
133 Church Rd.
Medford, NJ 08055

609-654-8643

Johnson’s Locust Hall Farm
Johnson’s Locust Hall Farm will celebrate their Fall Harvest weekends throughout September and October with Live Music and a fall feast menu created by Sensational Host Catering. This year, they’re offering a drive-through experience where you can drive along their “Park N’ Pick” Route and make stops at the Pumpkin Patch, Apple Orchard, Sunflower Field, and Corn Maze. Reservations areseven days a week, so be sure to book ahead of time on their website.
Open weekdays from 9AM – 12PM, weekends from 9AM – 3PM
Pumpkin picking available starting in October
2691 Monmouth Rd
Jobstown, NJ 08041
609-353-9000

Essex County- Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Fairfield Farms
Fall is the best time of the year at Fairfield Farms, with activities like hayrides, a child-friendly corn maze, an obstacle course, a rope maze, a pumpkin slingshot, and of course, pick your own pumpkins.
Open Monday through Thursday, 11AM – 7PM, and Friday through Sunday 8AM – 6PM
Hayrides weekends start at 10AM, Weekdays 1PM-5PM
177 Big Piece Rd.
Fairfield, NJ 07004
973-227-1011

Gloucester County- Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Mood’s Farm Market
Get your flannels on and head out on a patch to pick your very own pumpkin. And don’t forget to bring shears and a container.
Open Monday through Saturday from 8AM – 7PM
Saturdays from 11AM – 4PM
Pumpkin picking available in October
901 Bridgeton Pike
Mullica Hill, NJ 08062

856-478-2500

Hunterdon County- Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Melick’s Town Farm
Bring the family for a ride to the pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkins for jack-o-lantern making and fall decorations.
Open daily from 9AM – 6PM
Pumpkin Picking available every weekend in October
472 County Road 513
Califon, NJ 07830
908-439-2318

Schaefer Farms
Set in the heart of Hunterdon County, have fun picking pumpkins with the family, seeing the adorable farm animals, getting lost in the corn maze, eating delicious food, and more. Then at night, the Halloween-themed Farm of Horrors opens October 3.
Pumpkin Picking available on weekends beginning September 26 through October
Open Monday through Saturday, 9:30AM – 6PM, Sunday 10AM – 5PM
1051 County Route 523
Flemington, NJ 08822
908-782-2705

Mercer County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Terhune Orchards
Enjoy barnyard fun at this family-favorite farm in New Jersey this fall. Pick from over 15 varieties of pumpkins in September and October—just check ahead for picking availability.
Pumpkin picking available September through October
Open Monday through Friday 9PM – 6PM, and Saturday & Sunday, 9AM – 5PM
330 Cold Soil Road (pick your own pumpkins location)
Princeton, NJ
609-924-2310

Lee Turkey Farm
Once you sign up to be a Lee Farm Picking Club member (the fee is $2 to join and can be used all season), you can pick all the pumpkins your kids find and then head to the corn maze, saying hi to the turkeys along the way.
Open Monday through Saturday from 9AM – 6PM, and Sunday from 2PM – 6PM
Pumpkin Picking available September through October
201 Hickory Corner Road
East Windsor, NJ 08520
609-448-0629

Oasis Family Farm
Oasis Family Farm is excellent for littles to pick pumpkins and then hit the Fun Zone, where they can play, climb, and explore.
Pumpkin Picking available from September 26 through November 1
Open daily, 12PM – 7PM
Oasis Family Farm
3 Circle Drive
Robbinsville, NJ 08691
609-259-7300

Middlesex County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

VonThun’s Country Farm Market
“Your one-stop-shop for fall fun,” Von Thun’s is still offering all the favorite fall activities with COVID-19 guidelines. So you can have a safe fall day with the fam picking pumpkins, apples, taking hayrides, going through the corn maze, riding pedal karts, and more. If you’re picking apples, head to their Walk-To Patch, but if you’re just in the mood for pumpkins, head to the Main Patch with a hayride.
Open Monday through Friday from 10AM – 6:30PM, and Saturday & Sunday 9AM – 6PM
Fall Festival Weekends from September 19 through November 1, 10AM – 5PM
519 Ridge Rd
South Brunswick, NJ 08852
732-329-8656

Giamarese Farm & Orchard
This season, there will be pumpkin picking, a hayride, and corn maze with social distancing guidelines, but check-in for updates on when those will be operating on their Facebook page.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10AM – 6PM, and Sunday from 10AM – 3PM
Pumpkin picking in October
155 Fresh Ponds Road
East Brunswick, NJ 08816 

732-821-9494

Cheesequake Farms
According to Cheesequake Farm, fall and Halloween are “pumpkin time” and one of the most exciting times of the year. Take a fun hayride to find pumpkins of every shape, size, and color throughout their fields and at their farm market.
Beginning October 7
Open daily from 9AM – 6PM
2095 US 9, Old Bridge, NJ 08857
732-721-5728

191 NJ-34, Matawan, NJ 07747
732-583-6780

Monmouth County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Battleview Orchards
Pick your pumpkins for the fall season and be sure to catch a hayride on the weekends starting on September 29.
Open Monday through Sunday from 9AM – 6PM
Pumpkin Picking available September 22 – October 30
91 Wemrock Rd, Freehold, NJ 07728
(732) 462-0756

A. Casola Farm
Get ready for pumpkin picking and fall fun at this family-run farm offering hayrides, a petting zoo, pony rides, a corn maze, and more.
Open daily from 9AM – 5PM
Pumpkin Picking and Fall Fest starting September 12
Holmdel, NJ 
732-332-1533

Happy Day Farm
If you’re looking for some of the best pumpkin patches in NJ, look no further than Happy Day Farm. Your whole family will have a blast picking pumpkins, with their patch open all week long and then a fun Fall Festival every weekend (plus Fridays in October.) You and your littles will love all the fun activities like the feeding zoo, corn maze, hay mountain, pedal carts, tractor rides, and more. Plus, don’t forget to bring your camera, mama, there are a ton of great insta-worthy photo-ops for the cutest fall photos.
Pumpkin Picking available daily from 10AM – 5PM from September 12 through October 25
and Fall Festival on weekends from September 12 through October 25
Daily 10AM – 5PM
106 Iron Ore Road (tickets for fall festival online only)
Manalapan, New Jersey 07726

732-977-3607

Red Wagon Farm Market
The largest pick-your-own pumpkin patch in New Jersey, there are over 100 kinds of pumpkins to pick from, including “Giant Prize Winner” pumpkins, all that you can pick right off the vine.
Saturdays and Sundays, 10AM – 5:45PM
Pumpkin picking available September 19 through October
437 State Rte 33
Manalapan, NJ 07726

danskeba@yahoo.com

Wemrock Orchard
Pick your own pumpkins, take a hayride through their fall-themed farm, and explore the giant corn maze that takes up over 5 acres of land.
Open daily from 9AM – 5PM
Pumpkin picking available September through Halloween
100 Wemrock Rd
Freehold Township, NJ 07728

732-431-2668

Morris County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Alstede Farms
Head to Alstede Farms pumpkin picking in Chester, NJ. You’ll have a family day of fall fun, complete with picking your own pumpkins to decorate your home for fall. Choose from a variety of different pumpkins from orange and white, to munchkins, to gourds and squash.
Open daily from 9AM – 6PM
1 Alstede Farms Lane
Chester, NJ 07930 

908-879-7189

Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill
Get lost amongst the vines as you search for the perfect pumpkin to pick and then head to their farm store (located inside their 1950’s barn!) for delicious apple cider and fresh donuts.
Open Thursdays through Sundays from 10AM-5PM, open Columbus Day
104 State Park Rd
Chester Township, NJ 07930
908-879-6593

Ort Farms
Known as “the most spacious farm in Morris County,” Ort Farms is home to all the fun fall activities you expect during the season. Soak in the changing fall foliage, enjoy a hayride to the pumpkin patch, and search for your perfect pumpkins. Plus, with so many other activities and a Fall Festival happening all week long (starting September 19), you’ll want to make more than one trip.
Open Monday through Saturday from 8AM-7PM, Sunday from 8AM-6PM
25 Bartley Road
Long Valley, NJ 07853
908-876-3351

Stony Hill Farms
This New Jersey pumpkin patch is open until October growing gigantic pumpkins for all to pick and enjoy. Just be sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time online.
Open daily from 10AM-5PM
Pumpkin picking available from Late September through October
15 North Rd,
Chester, NJ 07930

908-879-2908

Wightman Farms
Head over for a day of Autumn Harvest fun at Wightman Farms on weekends where you can pick your own pumpkin from their field, along with a ton of other fall activities, and even apple picking.
Open daily from 8AM-6PM
Autumn Harvest Fest on weekends, from 9AM-5PM

1111 Mt Kemble Ave
Morristown, NJ 07960

973-425-9819

Ocean County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Argos Farm
According to Argos Farm, “fall fun begins with a family adventure into the pumpkin patch to find the perfect pumpkin,” and we could not agree more. With a huge selection from giant pumpkins to tiny ones, tall to fat, you’ll be able to pick your pumpkins right off the vines. Plus, don’t miss out on all the fun around the farm like the corn maze, wagon rides, farm market, tug of war, and more—just check ahead to see what’s happening when.
Pumpkin picking available weekends starting September 19 through November 1, 10AM – 6PM
Monday – Friday starting September 23 through October 30, 1PM-6PM
1250 Lacey Rd
Forked River, NJ 08731

609-693-3513

Passaic County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Farms View
Enjoy fresh cider and donuts as you take a fun family hayride to pick your own pumpkins in the patch.
Open Monday through Saturday from 9AM – 6PM, and Sunday from 9AM – 1PM
Pumpkin picking and hayrides available from September 28 through October 31
945 Black Oak Ridge Road
Wayne, NJ 07470 

973-839-1212

Sussex County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Sussex County Strawberry Farm
Take a hayride to pick from various pumpkins like Sugar, Jack O’Lantern, White Lumina, Mini, and Gourds. After you’re done, you can also pick up fresh local apples, corn, and mums, and enjoy fresh local cider.
Open Monday through Saturday 9AM-5PM, Sunday 10AM-5PM
Pumpkin Picking available starting in October
565 Route 206 North
Andover, New Jersey, 07821 

973-579-5055

Warren County – Pumpkin Picking in NJ

Donaldson Farms
A long time family tradition at Donaldson Farms, take a pumpkin picking hayride to the patch (and the apple orchard, too.) On weekdays, you can grab your own wheelbarrow and walk to the fields to the pumpkins and even Indian Corn.
Open daily from 9AM – 5PM
Pumpkin PIcking available from September 26 through November 1
Hayrides available on weekends from 10AM – 5PM
358 Allen Road
Hackettstown, NJ 07840
908-852-9122

VonThun Farms
VonThun’s second location is also offering all the favorite fall activities with COVID-19 guidelines. That means you can have a safe fall day with the fam picking pumpkins, apples, taking hayrides, going through the corn maze, riding pedal karts, and more.
Open Monday through Friday from 10AM – 6:30PM, and Saturday & Sunday 9AM – 6PM
Fall Festival Weekends from September 19 through November 1, 10AM – 5PM
438 Route 57 West
Washington, NJ 07882
908-689-3761

Farms Closed for 2020 Pumpkin Picking in NJ
Atlantic County
Butterhof’s Shady Brook Farm—no pick your own for 2020
Open daily from 10AM – 4PM
Egg Harbor City, NJ
609-965-1285

 

Burlington County
Indian Acres Tree Farm—As of now, not open. Please call ahead for more details.
111 Tuckerton Rd.,
Medford, NJ 08055
609-953-0087

 

Camden County
Springdale Farms—TBD for pumpkins this season
Open daily from 8AM -7PM
1638 South Springdale Road
Cherry Hill, NJ, 08003
856-424-8674

 

Middlesex County
Stults Farm–no pick your own
Open Monday – Friday, 11AM – 6PM, Weekends 10AM-5PM
146 Cranbury Neck Rd,
Cranbury, NJ 08512
(609) 799-2523

How Much Does It Cost to Paint a House

Your home will look nicer, and painting may add value, too!

If you’re starting to feel like your home could use a facelift, painting can be one of the most cost-efficient ways to freshen the look—and it might even be a good way to improve the value of your home. Depending on how you approach the work, however, the cost can vary widely. Here are some of the factors to consider, and how to decide whether it is the right move for you.

Cost of Painting the Exterior
According to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of $2,832 to paint the exterior of your home, though that price can range from $1,710 to $3,975. There are also several factors that can influence how much it costs to paint the exterior of your home.

  • The material of your home: Painting wood and vinyl siding cost about $1 per square foot less than painting stucco or brick.
  • Size of your home: As you might expect, the bigger your house, the more paint it will take to cover the exterior. You will also pay more in labor costs.
  • Type of paint used: There is an enormous range of paint quality, and high-end brands may cost twice as much as lower-grade paints. While it does not much matter whether you use an oil-based or latex-based paint, your choice of finish can affect the price. In general, paint with matte finish costs less than high-gloss paint.
  • Who does the work: Labor can easily be your biggest expense? Typically, paint pros charge between $25 and $75 per hour. Typically, though, contractors will offer a flat rate bid for the project.

Cost of Painting the Interior
Interior paint costs are driven by many of the same factors, including the size of the home, which rooms you focus on, and the type of paint you use. The condition of your walls matters, too. If yours have major stains or uneven surfaces, you may need one or more coats of primer to ensure smooth coverage, which can add to the total cost. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of painting the interior of a home is $1,776. It can range from $964 to $2,739 for an entire home, while an individual room may run you somewhere between $200 and $1,000.

NOTE: One thing to keep in mind as you choose paint for the interior is that a matte finish, though less expensive, is harder to clean. So, if you have children and/or pets, you may want to spring for the higher-cost gloss finish so that it is easier to clean and looks nice longer.

While not many homeowners are willing and able to tackle exterior paint jobs, painting the inside of your home can make a good do-it-yourself home improvement project, and you will save a substantial amount of money on labor costs. Just make sure you have the tools and the time to tackle the job properly.

Pros of Painting Your House
Painting your home can be a hassle, but offers some advantages compared to other home improvement options.

  • It is relatively easy to manage costs.
  • You may enjoy living in a fresher-looking space.
  • It is among the most cost-effective ways to make your home sell faster on a budget.

Cons of Painting Your House

  • While painting your home can be cost-effective if you are not careful it could set you back.
  • The wrong color can actually reduce the value of your home.
  • If you do not accurately estimate square footage and labor costs, it may prove more expensive than you thought.
  • If you can only afford lower-quality paint, you may need to re-do the job in a few years.

Will Painting Increase Your Home’s Value?
Home improvement projects that increase curb appeal—that is, the look of your home—have among the biggest payoffs in terms of return on investment. With that said, there is a good chance that you will recoup the money you spend on painting if you plan to sell in the next year or two, while the paint job still looks new. But color choice matters. A 2019 Zillow analysis found that houses painted yellow sold for about $3,500 less than expected.  The study also found that bold colors are out, while “warm modernism and organic accents” are the current trends.

Accents matter too. Zillow found that a black door can help boost your home’s sale value by up to more than $6,000. But do not take that as a hint to paint the entire house that color. The study found that palette contrasts in general, such as kitchens with different upper and lower cabinet colors, helped owners nab a higher sale price.

The Bottom Line

If you’re wondering how much it costs to paint a house, the answer ultimately depends on the size of your home, the type and quality of paint, who does the work, and if you’re tackling both the interior and exterior. Save money by doing it yourself, looking for paint sales at large improvement stores, and choosing the right colors so that you can hopefully add value to your home.

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How to Interview a Real Estate Agent

Things You Should Know Before You Sign an Agreement

Smart consumers will interview several potential real estate agents before they settle on which one they want to work with, and good agents are selective about their clients, too. Just as you’re sizing up a good fit, the real estate agent will likely be interviewing you as well. Be wary of agents who don’t ask you questions and probe for your motivation.

The interview stage of the relationship is important for everyone involved. You can interview the agent over the phone, or get together at his office for the first meeting. But don’t expect a top-producing agent to meet you at your home before you’ve made a selection.

You’ll also want to confine the questions you’ll ask your realtor to certain areas, but be sure to hit on these 10 areas if they’re important. You don’t want to overlook critical issues.

How Long Have You Been in the Business?

The standard joke is that there’s nothing wrong with a new agent that a little experience can’t fix, but that’s not to say that freshly-licensed agents can’t be good ones. Much depends on the level of their training and whether they have access to competent mentors.

A newer agent might have more time to concentrate on you unless he’s holding down another job. You can ask about this as well.

That said, there’s no bar exam for real estate agents, and no school offers a degree in how to handle problems in a transaction. Agents learn on the job. The more sales an agent has completed, the more he knows.1 It’s even possible that he’s taken courses and attended seminars, and it’s OK to ask about this, too.

What’s Your Average List-Price-To-Sales-Price Ratio?

An agent’s average ratio depends on the market. A good buyer’s agent should be able to negotiate a sales price that’s lower than the list price, at least if you take sizzling sellers’ markets out of the equation. A competent listing agent should have a track record for negotiating sales prices that are very close to list prices.

Listing agents should have higher ratios that are closer to 100%, while buyer’s agents’ ratios should fall below 99%.2 Keep in mind that sometimes market value has no bearing on the asking price, and ratios are meaningless in this case. Don’t put too much emphasis on them.

You might also want to find out just where most of these homes were located. Is the agent familiar with the neighborhood you’re interested in or where your property is located? This area-knowledge can be an important consideration.

What’s Your Best Marketing Plan or Strategy for My Needs?

You’ll want to know how the agent plans to search for your new home if you’re a buyer, and how many homes she thinks you’re likely to see before you find the one you want. Will you be competing against other buyers? How does the agent handle multiple offers?

As a seller, you’ll want to know exactly how the agent will market your home. Is a direct mail campaign appropriate? Where and how often does she advertise? What kind of photography does she offer? Does she market online? What steps will she take to prepare your home for sale?

Ask if there’s anything about your home that might detract from its potential for sale. Perhaps, you could remedy and avert the problem.

Can You Provide References?

You might not need references if the agent has tons of reviews online, and some experienced agents might feel insulted if you ask for them, but a new agent most likely won’t.

Even brand new agents should have references from previous employers. Ask to see them and find out whether any of the individuals are related to the agent. Find out if you can call the references with any additional questions.

What Are the Top Three Things That Separate You From Your Competition?

A good agent won’t hesitate to answer this question and should be ready to fire off several reasons why he’s best suited for the job. Everyone has their standards, but most consumers say they’re looking for agents who say that they’re honest, trustworthy, assertive, and excellent negotiators.

He might tell you that he’s always available by phone or e-mail, or that he’s a good communicator. He might indicate that he’s friendly and able to maintain his sense of humor under trying circumstances—and there will be some.

It all comes down to the characteristics and qualifications that you value most.

Can I Review Documents Ahead of Time?

A good real estate agent will make important forms available to you for preview before you’re required to sign them. Ask for these documents upfront, if at all possible. And, make sure during the interview stage that an agent is agreeable to this.

As a buyer, ask for copies of the buyer’s broker agreement. Is it exclusive or non-exclusive?3 Ask for copies of agency disclosures, any purchase agreements, and buyer disclosures.

You’ll also want to see the agency disclosure if you’re the seller.4 Ask for a copy of the listing agreement as well, and of your seller disclosure.

How Will You Help Me Find Other Professionals?

Your agent should be able and more than willing to supply you with a written list of vendors such as mortgage brokers, home inspectors, and title companies.5 Let her explain who she works with and why she chooses these particular professionals.

Ask for an explanation if you see the term “affiliated” anywhere. This designation could mean that the agent and her broker are receiving compensation from that particular vendor. If so, you could be paying a premium for the service.

How Much Do You Charge?

Don’t ask if the fee is negotiable because all real estate fees are negotiable. Agents typically charge from 1% to 6% to represent one side of a transaction, either the seller or the buyer. A listing agent might charge 3.5% for herself and another 3.5% for the buyer’s agent for a total of 7%.6

The adage that you get what you pay for is also true in real estate. Top agents tend to charge more.

What Kind of Guarantee Do You Offer?

Will the agent let you cancel the listing or buying agreement if you sign only to realize later that you’re unhappy with the arrangement? Will the agent stand behind their service to you? What is their company’s policy about canceled agreements? Has anybody ever canceled an agreement with her before?

What Haven’t I Asked You That You Think I Should Know?

Pay close attention to how the real estate agent answers this question. There’s often something else you might need to know, something you forgot to mention. You want an agent who will take the time to answer this one and make sure you feel comfortable and secure with her knowledge and experience. She should know how to listen, how to counsel you, and how to ask the right questions to find out what she needs to know to serve you better.

The Bottom Line

Not all real estate agents will welcome an opportunity to be interviewed, and top agents probably won’t want to fill out a survey. Try to limit your questions to the most important issues for you and your needs. And, don’t interview agents from the same company.

BY ELIZABETH WEINTRAUB Updated May 22, 2020