Let’s say you’re putting your house on the market. You have some idea of what this entails, and are somewhat daunted – after all, this is probably the biggest investment you’ve made to date, and the financial security of you and your family rides on getting a good price for your home. You’re sensible enough to want to hire an agent. But which one? Research alone won’t lead you to finding the “superstar” agent who can take you through the entire process of selling your home, and end up helping you sell your house for every dime possible.
When you sit down to talk to your prospective real estate agent, be prepared to make him or her prove that they are the best agent for you. Treat that first meeting like a job interview.
Some things to ask include:
- “Do you have references? May I contact them?” Satisfied home sellers won’t hesitate to recommend the agent that helped them successfully market their home, and superstar agents will have these references ready to share with you. You should contact those references and ask specific questions, especially as the reference’s needs match with yours. And beware: some references are personal friends or family members of the agent and those people may not be as unbiased as you would like.
- “What can you tell me about the current market in my area?” Any agent worth his or her salt will have a comparative market analysis at the ready to share with you, showing the homes for sale in your area as well as those recently sold. The CMA, or “comps,” compares details of the different homes on the market – homes with two, three or four bedrooms, garages, large parcels of land, and so forth. But this is just a starting point. Your agent should know what kinds of homes are selling well, and which ones are not moving. Are ranch homes popular? Bungalows? Two-story Colonials? What does that mean for your individual home? Your agent should also know, roughly, the amount of time these homes are staying on the market, and have a good idea why.
- “Is the area I’m in growing or declining? Why?” Whichever the answer, your agent should have the right answer for you, and should be prepared to back it up with data. Areas go up and down in value all the time, and whether your area is experiencing a growth spurt or a slump – and why – is key data for you to use in deciding how best to sell your property. Your agent should be expert in spotting the early signs of growth or decline, and be ready to show you. What’s the neighborhood activity like? Are the streets being maintained? Are the schools meeting their standards from year to year? Are small businesses coming to the area, or leaving?
- “Are you part of a team, or do you work solo?” There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to this question. And a “team” might be two people working as partners, an agent with a support staff, or a large group of agents working pretty much as equals. If your agent is part of a team, you may find yourself working with other team members as much as your agent him/herself. Is this a positive or a drawback for you?
- “Do you have other clients?” Good agents will almost always have other clients. It’s whether they have so many that they can’t devote adequate time to you that’s the issue. You can’t expect an agent to race to your home or office on demand, time after time, to answer your questions or show you some competitors’ homes. You can, however, expect that the agent will spend sufficient individual time with you to properly market your home. If you find yourself leaving one voice mail after another with no adequate response, or keep having appointments broken, you may want to raise the issue with your agent. On the other hand, an agent with a very few clients may (or may not) be too inexperienced or well-regarded to be your ideal agent.
- “How will you market my home?” What’s the plan, Stan? Sure, your agent will list your home on his MLS (Multiple Listing Service), but what else does he plan to do? He should have a marketing plan that includes the Internet’s biggest real estate websites, property website, print advertising, flyers and brochures to sell your home to prospective buyers.
- “What’s your list price to selling price ratio?” This is a comparison of the homes he or she has sold, with list prices compared to selling prices. Ideally this would be almost 100%, but we don’t live in an ideal world.
- “What kinds of properties do you usually handle?” An agent who handles almost all commercial properties might not be the ideal choice to represent someone who wants to sell a family dwelling. Or an agent who works primarily with condominiums might not be the best choice to help you sell your single-family home.
- “How do we keep in touch? How frequently?” This is very fluid. What works best for you – telephone calls, e-mails, texts. Skype sessions, Facebook chat? Are you equipped to have him or her fax you documentation? How often will you speak – twice a week, once a week, as needed? What is going to work for you? There’s no shame in needing a bit of hand-holding, and your agent should stand ready to communicate frequently with you. On the other hand, you can’t expect your agent to text you three times a day with “progress reports.”
Your agent should not only be a great agent in general, but a great agent for you. He or she is going to make the difference in getting the best price you possibly can for your home or property. It’s up to you to make sure your choice of agents is the right one.