Choosing the Right Agent

Selling a home isn’t something most people do very often. Consequently, when it comes to finding an agent to work with, they don’t have much a frame of reference. Defaulting to an agent who happens to be a friend of a friend or your neighbor’s sister may not seem like such a bad idea. And it may not be, as long as you put that person through the same paces you would any other professional like your attorney, your doctor or your financial advisor. After all, you’ll be hiring someone to manage the transition of your most valuable asset. It’s up to you to make sure you hire an agent who won’t just list your home—but one who’ll sell it.

The first thing to do is make sure you’re working with a Realtor, because not all agents are. Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors and must run their businesses according to its standards and code of ethics. Agents who aren’t Realtors sometimes lack both. Why take the chance?

Now, let’s look at the three main skills you’ll need on your side to get that result: marketing, negotiation and experience. Let’s face it, you can’t negotiate an offer unless your property’s been marketed effectively. So the first thing to do is look for an agent who’ll provide you with a complete marketing plan specifically for your home. A generic approach won’t get the job done nearly as effectively. That plan should answer these questions and more:

  • Who’s the likely buyer?
  • How will you get my home ready? (assessment, repairs, staging, photo/video)
  • How will get the word out to brokerage community, the public, my neighbors?
  • What part will technology play in getting the house in front of the right people?
  • Tell me your success stories and show me your references.
Critical to keeping your stress at bay throughout the selling process is trusting your agent to always put your interests first and someone who also has experience and knowledge of local negotiating practices and buyer behavior that comes with experience – someone who’s consistently selling homes in today’s market. Not a dabbler who does three or four sales a year.

One to way to explore an agent’s track record is to

  • Ask for their numbers. You want an agent who knows how to price, so always ask how quickly their listings sell relative to the rest of the local market and for what percentage of the sale price. Ask them if they’ve ever failed to sell a listing or lost a listing to another agent and, if they did, ask about the circumstances. It’s normal for this to happen occasionally across an agent’s career. But a consistent pattern is usually an indicator of poor pricing or customer dissatisfaction.
  • Find a truth teller. As well as looking for an agent whose pricing recommendations you can trust, you need someone who respects you enough to tell you what you need to hear, not just what you may want to hear. Clear and frank conversations about what your home is worth, how it compares to similar homes on the market, supported market data and experience will get your home sold more quickly and with a lot less drama.

So Ask the following questions Before You Make a Hiring Decision

Download a printable questionnaire

1. How many homes have you sold in the last year? Did you represent the buyer or the seller in those transactions?

2. What are your average “days on market” for a listing?

3. What is your list to sale price ratio?

4. What’s your success ratio–from contract written to settlement?

5. What types of reports do you provide?

6. Do you have any specific expertise beyond normal real estate experience? What professional designations have you earned?

7. Do you foresee any special challenges selling my property?

8. Will you do a virtual tour/create a web site for my property?

9. How will you market my home? Who makes those marketing decisions? Who pays for the marketing of my property?

10. Will you stage my property?

11. Who do you envision as fitting the “buyer profile” for my property?

12. Please explain the “Seller Property Condition Disclosure Statement” and what it means for both the buyer and the seller.