Day 10- Selecting a Listing Agent

10 Oct

Welcome back to the 31 Days to Sell Your Home series!  You can catch up on the whole series here.

Today we are going to talk about listing agents.  The listing agent is another crucial component to selling your home.  There are so many real estate agents in the market now, selecting the right person can be quite overwhelming.  It certainly was for us.  No one ever told us what to look for in a listing agent (or buyer’s agent for that matter), what they are supposed to do for you, etc.  So when the first listing agent came a calling, we were totally blown away. 

First, we will start with how to find brokers to interview.  A good place to start is with the larger, well-known real estate agencies in your area.  Larger companies have more resources and advanced technologies to help sell your home.  They also have bigger budgets for marketing, which means more exposure and better selling materials for your house.  Additionally, the large network of agents (who happen to be representing home  – just what you are looking for) in this intercompany network can be a big advantage for a quick sell.  You can research specific agents on their website (recommended) or you can call the general number and let the company set you up with an agent.   Smaller, boutique agencies have their place in the world too of course.  With a smaller agency you should get more attention, which is definitely a good thing. 

Next is the interview process.  This is a very important stage in the hiring process because this is where you really learn what an agent has to offer and why you should pick him/her over the competition.  Here are 10 “must-ask” questions:

1.  How long have you been a real estate agent?  When you are looking for a listing agent (as opposed to a buyer’s agent), experience is much more important due to the need to evaluate competition, set pricing, market the property to other brokers, etc.  At least five years is recommended.

2.  What is your fee?  Don’t judge an agent too quickly by their fee.  The lowest fee is not always best as there is a reason why there fee is so low.  There are also some ways you can get discounts on your fee- we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

3.  How many homes have you listed this year and how many of those have you sold?  This is an important stat to know. Be sure you don’t just get a percentage- get the actual number of houses listed and sold so that you can compare (an agent may have 100% but they may have only had one house to list and sell this year) to other agents.  This stat gives you an idea of their success rate.  Obviously the closer to 100%, the better. 

4.  What is your list price-to-sales price ratio?  This will tell you how accurate they are on pricing houses.  Since the list price of your house can make or break the selling process (too high and you won’t get the necessary traffic) this is a vital skill.

4.  Tell me more about your company?    The point of this question is to find out how long they have been in business, how many agents they have, what resources the company has, etc.

5.  What is your marketing plan for our house?  The strategy should include things like printing color brochures, online marketing, weekly print advertising, direct mail/email, broker previews, professional photos for the MLS listing, open houses (although these are typically  not very successful), lockbox (if desired), monitoring of lockbox access, etc. etc. etc.

6.  What is your process for showing houses?  All agents do this differently.  For us, it was important to find an agent that would abide by our rules of no one viewing the house without calling first and a 1 hour notice before showings because we have dogs in the house (this didn’t end up mattering since the first prospective purchases bought it). 

8. Do you have any references or letters of reference?  It never hurts to speak to a couple of past clients.  I’m sure they will give glowing remarks (or the agent wouldn’t be using them as a reference), but you can still learn from their experience.  You can ask the reference for stats about their own sale, what marketing the agent did, etc.

9.  What are the contract cancellation terms?  You should be able to get out of your contract at any time.  Get a copy of the listing agreement.  Review the agreement to ensure there are no hidden fees or provisions that will keep you from getting out of the contract if the agent isn’t meeting your needs.

10.  When will you start?  Some agents have a heavy load of listings and buyers.  If you are in a hurry to sell, you should make that clear to the agent and make sure they have the time to get started right away. 

11.  Lastly, here are my expectations (tell them your expectations as they relate to any marketing not mentioned, showing process, communications, etc). Will you be able to meet those expectations?  I think it is important to be upfront about what you are looking for/expectations.  It gives the agent a fair opportunity to know what you want from him/her so they can better serve you.  Communication is a big one for me- if I send an email, I expect a return email pretty quickly.  I hate to be kept waiting, especially when I’m stressed out from selling my house! 

In sum, you want to find a listing agent that is experienced, educated, personable,, assertive, tech savvy (internet and smart phones are a must), and  a good communicator.   Tomorrow we will talk a little about broker fees and pricing strategies.

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