First, let me say that this post will be a bit longer than usual. Since this topic is so critically important, I will give it the space it needs.
Selling a home can be one of the most stressful things in life. Homeowners want to ensure they get the best real estate agent who can sell their home fast and for the most money possible.
Before we get to the “meat” of this post, remember, as I’ve discussed previously in other blog posts, you don’t want to choose your agent because they said they’d list at a higher list price than any other agent or because they offered to discount their fees. Often, these two reasons are the worst reasons to hire an agent. In fact, any agents who offer to list at an abnormally high price or offer to discount their commissions are the very agents who you want to avoid. Think about it… if an agent’s greatest competitive advantage is a higher list price or discounted commission, is that really the agent you want handling one of the largest and most important transactions of your life? Would you hire a discount attorney? A discount surgeon? Of course, not.
So, how do you hire the best agent for you? I recommend the following steps:
- Google the agent. Put his/her name in Google and ensure they have a good internet presence. These days, real estate is very web-focused, you must ensure any potential agent has great internet exposure. In addition, you can often find out a lot about the agent just by Googling their name.
- Ensure the agent has at least 10 years of experience. I’ve found that 10 years is about right – since that means the agent has been through multiple types of markets – “up” markets and “down” markets – the “good, the bad, and the ugly”. This experience is absolutely vital to ensuring the agent you hire has the knowledge, experience and “toughness” to navigate any market and get the job done for you.
- Meet with the agent in your home.
- Ask to see samples of their marketing materials. Since they will be marketing your home, you want to ensure their materials are professional and impressive. Don’t let the agent skimp here; ensure what they do is top-notch.
- Ask for testimonials and references. I don’t mean two or three testimonials; any successful agent should have a stack of testimonial letters and plenty of references.
During your meeting, while there are many questions you can ask, I recommend at least asking questions about the following:
- Is the agent a full- or part-time agent? You want someone who sells homes full-time; no part-timers.
- How many homes does the agent sell per year? The average agent sells less than 7 homes per year; you want someone well above average.
- What is their list price to sales price ratio and how does it compare to the market average. Ideally, you want an agent who typically sells for more than the average agent.
- Do they offer an “Cancel Anytime” or “Easy-Exit” Listing Guarantee? If you want to cancel the listing, can you? Some agents will lock you in to a 6-12 month contract. Be careful.
- Ask about their marketing and how they’ll market your home. Ask about their overall internet presence and their websites. Any successful agent should have multiple marketing websites. Also, ask about the websites your home will be marketed on. This is vitally important since this is really where the rubber meets the road and what it’s all about. Most buyers start their home search on the internet and your agent needs to ensure your home is there for those buyers to see.
- Ask how often their listings “expire” and don’t sell. If a listing expires, that means the home didn’t sell. Obviously, you want an agent whose listings don’t expire.
- Ask about their overall market assessment capabilities to ensure they truly understand the local real estate market.
- Ask about their pricing strategy and how they will price your home compared to the local competition. Also, discuss price adjustment strategies to respond to changing market conditions.
- Finally, ensure you ask about their previous education and about their ongoing/continuing education. I’ve found that most top agents spend at least 100 hours per year in continuing education. In today’s ever-changing market and legal landscape, this is more important than ever before.
Of course, there are other questions you may want to ask, but these are some of the most important.
The bottom line is that you want an agent with a lot of experience, a strong internet presence, a very strong proven track-record of selling many homes per year, and someone who continues to educate themselves on changing market conditions, real estate legal issues, marketing techniques, etc.