5 steps to picking the right agent to sell your home
Interview more than one agent before you choose one — and be sure to ask the right questions.
© David Sacks/Getty Images
If you're selling a home, a good real-estate agent will help you set the right price, market the home professionally, qualify the buyers and expertly negotiate and finalize the deal.
A great agent has long experience with recent sales and can walk a tightrope, balancing optimism with realism and diplomacy with brutal honesty. You'll pay big bucks for an agent's service — an average of 5.3% of the sale price in 2011, according to Real Trends, a real-estate consulting company. So you owe it to yourself to interview more than one agent. (Bing: What makes real-estate agents mad?)
1. Round up good prospects
To identify prospective agents, you can ask for referrals from neighbors or friends or use the search tools on the websites of the National Association of Realtors or the Council of Residential Specialists.
Try to limit your search to agents with credentials that match your needs. For example, on the CRS website, you can search for agents who specialize in the sale of single-family houses, condos and luxury or resort homes, as well as short sales (selling a home for less than the owner owes on a mortgage) and assisting seniors.
- On our blog, 'Listed': Realtors rally to 'protect the American Dream'
Leigh Brown, an agent with Re/Max in Charlotte, N.C., says you want someone who is on his game. Although many half-hearted agents left the business after the housing bust, she says some of those who remain live under a black cloud, having lost a lot of income and confidence. Not only will you feel that lack of passion, but it may alienate prospective buyers. You want someone who will work assertively on your behalf but won't come on too aggressively, like a used-car salesman. That will turn off the buyers' agents, too.
- MSN Money: 5 mistakes home sellers make
2. Ask tough questions
You want an agent who is "intimately and passionately" familiar with your neighborhood, says agent Cotty Lowry of Keller Williams in Minneapolis. But, Lowry says, the agent with a lot of signs in your neighborhood may not be your best choice, either. "If a prospective agent has little constructive input about price and condition for you, be curious: Do they want to help you sell your house or do they just want to put a sign in your yard to bring in buyers?" he says.
Article continues below
Each agent you interview should offer a comparative market analysis (a comparison of recent and pending sales of homes similar to yours) and know enough about the neighborhood and recent sales to explain why you should list your home for more or less than the neighbor down the street who sold last season. Don't fall for the agent who glibly promises the quickest sale for the highest price.
3. Find out who the agent is working for
Most states require agents to disclose their "agency" relationships to you early on. But you'll benefit if you ask prospective agents whose financial interest they will serve throughout the sales process — and hire an agent who will serve as your agent only. If an agent insists on dual agency (meaning that the agent lists your home for sale but may also bring in the buyer, thus pocketing the entire commission instead of splitting it with the buyer's agent) or designated agency (your agent and the buyer's agent work for the same brokerage firm), feel free to negotiate the commission down by a point or two.
A lot of money is at stake. And the situation is an inherent conflict of interest, Brown says, because "the buyer wants the lowest price and the seller wants the highest price." She points out that an agent in that boat could "browbeat" sellers into taking a deal that's not best for them, or the agent may fail to present multiple offers equally to protect a buyer client.
4. Make sure your agent has backup
Lowry says that it's important for an agent to have at least one assistant; many agents have a team of specialists to help them. Advertising a home is "not just the Sunday paper anymore," he says. "All the various outlets — many online — require feeding and nurturing, collecting quantifiable analytics and forwarding the info to sellers." At the same time, you don't want to communicate through the assistants all the time; you want an agent with whom you can talk directly. To quell your inevitable anxiety, find out how frequently you'll receive updates from the agent.
5. Sign the right contract
Ask each agent how long the listing contract would last. The slower the market, the longer the contract an agent is likely to demand. However, three to six months is typical. For slower-selling high-end homes (say, those over $1 million), agents may want a year, says Francie House, an agent with Windermere in Seattle. Agents don't want to risk losing the listing after they've spent a few thousand dollars on marketing and staging.
<a href="http://www.streamlineluxuryproperties.com/">Streamline Properties</a>
It removes the hassle of calling different agents and the awkwardness of negotiating commission with them. Your information remains private until you pick an agent to interview.
This startup is picked up by the Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130429-912590.html and Inman News. Check it out.
Websites assisting buyers and sellers such as http://findmeagents.com will only gain traction and maybe soon enough the whole traditional way of doing real estate transactions would change as well...
Thank you for these great steps they are really influential. In addition of what you have written,
A real professional agent must have an experience that let him close more than 2 properties in a year. An additional step you can take is to do a small research about this agent from a relative or a friend but that’s only for knowing the impression of this agent on others.
Based on your comments, nobody should get paid on commission for doing anything. Get a grip. It costs an agent money to sell a house, the higher price the house, the more money spent. Negotiating a commission takes in account how much you figure in as expense. Do you think business runs on air. Maybe you didn't get the point, commissions are negotiable , not fixed.
To hell with the realtors, sell the house on your own if your in no hurry, repeated realtor commissions is what helped get us into the housing mess in the first place.
What in the World are you talking about??
Why don't you go and be a REALTOR for a day, before you write all this nonsence, you are giving the wrong information about "Choosing a Real Estate Agent", go and get a life , write about how to sell HOT DOGS or something.
What do you know about Commissions?? Listings for 3 month's???, do you think this is a little game that we have going on, you MORON,,,,
Oh,,, and about bringing 1% or 2% of the REALTOR'S commission down, WHY DON'T YOU GIVE UP 1-2% of your salary and donate it to a Church, or to whomever you want.
As far as we are concern, THANK'S TO REALTORS, this market is moving,,,,,working 24/7 without even knowing if the deal is going to close or not, because Short Sales and Foreclosures are NOT warratied.
You know, a little more RESPECT to REALTORS would be appreciated.
Thank you and I wish you have something better to write next time.
Enjoy your weekend!
Real Estate Experts
Why is it that so many people who have never SOLD Real Estate have so many opinions about it?? Everyone seems to think that they are experts just because they bought their own house. Participation in one or two transactions in your life does NOT make you an expert!
My experience as a Realtor includes 32 years of selling and leasing Real Estate, and I only work 7 days a week. I work hard for my clients, both buyers and sellers. I work as their representative, and the price does not matter to me one bit. I do not calculate my commission in advance; the only time I calculate a commission is when I am taking it to the bank! For 9 out of 10 Realtors, the sale is either a Go or a NO Go. We either get paid for making the sale work, or we don't get paid period. So worrying about a few hundreds dollars extra is silly; you either make the sale work or you didn't get paid anything. We focus on negotiating a Win-Win situation for both the buyer and the seller. That is the ONLY way a Realtor is going to be successful for very long in this crazy business. You don't get rich by selling Real Estate; you might make some real money by buying real estate, but that is for investors, not Realtors. We are facilitators. We help people move into or out of the properties they love. Every buyer and every seller is emotionally involved with their house. It is our job the find the right buyer for every house, and the right house for every buyer.
But you are right about one thing: we should not get paid the same percentage on every transaction. I work just as hard to sell a $90,000 house as I do to sell a $250,000 house. And sometimes I work harder to lease a $1,000 house! But I don't gauge my efforts on what I am getting paid; I put everything I have into every transaction, and try to get the best deal for the person I am working for. Every one of my clients deserves my best effort; that is my fiduciary responsibility to them. If the price of a house were lowered from $150,000 to $145,000, do you really think that the missing $150 in commission would make a difference to the average Realtor?? The whole point is we don't get paid anything if that house doesn't sell. So the choices are $4350 or Nothing! And please don't think that agents are getting rich. Out of that 3% that we receive, we have to pay our overhead expenses, our office fees (or Broker split), and the advertising on the property. There's not much left over on most days!
~Please people, quit writing blogs on subjects that you are not experts on. ...And if you really think that Realtors are getting paid too much, please get a license and give it a try. (80% of the people who get a license are out of the business in 2 years or less!) Go do something productive, ~and have a nice day!
---ULTRA Real Estate Services
Fort Worth, Texas
This post is in reference to Darthfrodo's post. There are agents (just as in all fields of business) that are unscrupulous).
As a buyer, you can state what you will be willing to pay for YOUR agent's service, HOWEVER, in many MLS' when the seller has decided to sell his/her home they agree at their time whether or not to pay a certain commission split to a buyer's agent if there is one. If there isn't then their agent receives the TOTAL commission.
Once again as a buyer, if you obtain a credible agent that has knowledge of the local market he/she makes a commitment to look out for YOUR best interest. The alternative is that you will have the "SELLER's" agent write your offer!!!
How do you pick out a buyer's agent? Visit a web site: rebac.net and see what a "BUYER's" agent does.
As far as incentive for the agent, well, when representing ONLY THE BUYER, I do my best to negotiate a lower price and better terms. Let's say I can get the price down $10,000 lets assume the my fee is 3.5%. That would be a reduced income of $350. Oh wait, typically I split the earning with the Company, so I would loose somewhere between $150 to $250 in income and you save $10,000 so you refer your friend to me. That makes alot more business sense. Wait, it doesn't end there!!!!
Let's say you could experience what I do......... 10 years of looking at homes, writing contracts, choosing the best bargaining terms, seeing neighborhood trends, construction trends and issues, city projects affecting homes, loan types as well as an assortment of different lenders, new gov regulations, AND environmental conditions, YOU WOULD HAVE A TOTALLY DIFFERENT OPINION OF BUYING AND SELLING A HOME than the one you currently have without that knowledge and experience.
Again, do your research FIND OUT WHAT THOSE DESIGNATIONS MEAN!!! You can ask your friends and relatives you trust who their agents were and what was their experience.
Either way LOOK for those designations!!!
When you get your car fixed do you like to see the term "ASE Certified" or better yet "MASTER ASE"? What about a doctor, dentist, attorney, therapist, engineer, etc??? Why do companies hire with a big basis based on educational designations and degrees.
Bottom line whether you agree or disagree, If the Seller has already agreed to pay for a "Buyer's" agent whether you use one or not, would you??? Your choice! That listing agent will either get only the selling side or both sides of the commission because of your choice!
One last note: a "Buyer's" agent will produce a list of homes that have YOUR requirements on it, give you private showings, and must maintain the confidentiality of private information such as what you really are willing to go up to, what you can really afford, and so on. This is done with access to a lot more information and a better system than the average home seller/buyer!
Interesting article I don't agree with totally with find an agent with "assistants". If the listing agent is well educated. Blogging, listing, photgraphy, staging, and so on can be done successfully. Many agents with assistants will tackle 2, 3,4,5,10 times the listings that a single agent with no assistants. SO, are you really getting better service with agents that have assistants vice those that don't.
Do your homework. Do they have a team? HOW MANY homes do they currently have listed? Do they sell them at the price the advertised? Do they sell them at all? Many do with or without assistants, but check!
Sometimes a big firm is better, sometimes not. Sometimes a big team is better, sometimes not.
I for example am in a Big name firm, but that wasn't always the case. I operate on my own with agents that will cover any emergency that may come up (good agents always have backup) and I am the one that my clients contact at all times, I like that and my clients love that. In some big teams, the agent will write the contract whether listing or selling, then you will not hear from them again the team takes over. Some clients are fine with that as well, some are not.