Some tips on selecting a listing agent

[photopress:View_of_Patio_1.JPG,thumb,alignright]Today’s topic is inspired by a woman I ran into at an open house. The woman was going through a divorce and wanted to sell her home quickly. A nearby home had recently been sold quickly, so she contacted that real estate agent (who sent her a helpful postcard!) and she quickly listed her home with this agent. So far, so good… right? Wrong!

What’s wrong with this story? Well, first off, the home owner only talked with one agent and didn’t really interview him to find out what type of service he would provide. It turns out that this particular agent does a horrible job marketing everything but the “after sale” postcards where he announces to all the neighbors that he just sold a nearby home! The photos he took of the home were unflattering (and it was a beautiful home!). The brochures he created were very generic and photocopied (to save money!). And this was for a $400K home! No wonder some people are frustrated with the commissions of real estate agents!

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a rant on any particular agent, the idea behind this post was to give some concrete ideas on how you should go about selecting an agent. First off, yesterday I ranted about how home buyers should ALWAYS get more than one quote from a mortgage broker. (I’m sure my broker friends hate me for giving out advice like that!). Today, I’m going to turn the tables on myself. Home owners should ALWAYS interview more than one real estate agent before listing their home!

What difference does it make? Well, there are about as many styles of agents as there are agents. And at the end of the day, you really want to find an agent who is going to meet your goals. What might your goals be? One goal might be to maximize the amount of money you can sell your home for. Another goal might be to ensure that the new home owners are decent people. A third goal might be that you want a really fast transaction. Ideally, you’ll find an agent who will help you define your goals and then go out and beat them.

So, now that we’ve all agreed that it is worthwhile to interview more than one agent (everyone’s on board right?), what types of questions should you ask? In a previous post, I listed 10 good questions for sellers to ask a real estate agent along with some background on why the questions were important. The questions are summarized here:

      1. How long have you worked full time in real estate?
      2. Do you have a personal assistant, team, or staff to handle different parts of the sales transaction?
      3. Do you and/or your company each have a website that will provide me with useful information for research, services, and how you work with buyers?
      4. How will you keep in contact with me during the buying process, and how often?
      5. Can you explain one thing that you do that other agents don’t do that ensures I’m getting top dollar for my property?
      6. Will you give me names of past clients who will give references for you?
      7. Do you have a performance guarantee?
      8. How are your fees structured? May I have that in writing?
      9. How would you develop pricing and marketing strategies for our home? Will you commit to the marketing strategy in writing?
      10. What will you do to sell my home?

[photopress:shilshole_boats.jpg,thumb,alignright]Rather than go through each question with a blow by blow with my answers, I thought I would outline my basic strategy that I give to each and every home owner. For my own benefit, I’ve broken the process into three categories. When I’m successful, all three of these steps come together to form a cohesive whole:

  • Preparing Your Home. Advice can range from “you need to bring a U-Haul truck here and remove the clutter” to “I think this room would look much better with new drapes, to “Wow! Your home looks amazing!”
  • Marketing Your Home. This is where I bring in photographers and have my design team put together color brochures, fliers, ads, webpages, and other home-specific marketing techniques. Of course, I also list the home on the MLS and open houses until the home is sold.
  • Selling Your Home. This is where we strategize on pricing the home to meet the sellers goals and maximize the price. This is also where my team performs numerous quality control checks to ensure that all the legal issues are settles.

So, to answer a more fundamental question… Why am I (as a real estate agent) advising you to interview more than one agent? I’m confident enough in my own ability to say that there is not another agent in North Seattle who can offer the market insight and quality of service that I provide. My experience has proven that when I’m given the opportunity to present my ideas for preparing, marketing and selling their home, many home owners choose to work with me!

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