Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How to Hire the Right Agent if You Are Selling Your Home

If you are selling your home, hiring the right agent has never been more important. With prices declining, you are in a race against time. The longer it takes for you to sell your home, the less money you are likely to get. Over my 30 years of experience, it has become apparent that most homeowners really DON'T know what to look for or know what questions to ask when interviewing agents to represent them. So here is my attempt to give you some perspective as to what look for before hiring an agent to sell your home.

1. Look for an agent with experience. That has never been more important than now. If you can find one, get an agent who has worked through Buyers' Markets in the past. That won't be easy, the last one was back in the early 1990's and few agents have been in business that long. If you can find one, they often have a perspective on how to be successful in this market that agents who haven't been through it just don't have.

2. Look for an agent with a proven track record of production. Sounds pretty obvious, but the truth is that roughly 50% of the agents in our local Board of Realtors have gone the entire year with zero business transacted. If you get one of those, guess what, the chances of selling your house are remote. When you talk to any agent they will tell you they are productive, but make them prove it. Have them show you copies of the MLS sheets for every transaction they have been involved with over, lets say, the last three years and have it be a copy that shows that they were either the listing or selling agent.

3. Look for an agent who has success with sellers. We deal with buyers and sellers as real estate agents, and although the priorities are often similar, they are seldom the same. Many agents who are productive in a general sense, are not successful with sellers. In fact, it has been my experience that most agents prefer working with buyers, especially in a Buyer's Market. Make sure the agent you hire is at least as successful with sellers as with buyers.

4. Look for an agent who does business in your area. Knowledge of the local market is critical. Make sure the business an agent does is in your market. It is not critical that the agent has sold a house on your street in the last year or so, but is important that the agent is doing business in your area. I have encountered owners that think because an agent sold a house on their street in the last year, that somehow that makes them more qualified than one who hasn't. What if that sale was the agent's only sale in the last two years, or their only sale in the local market or has never successfully marketed a listing before? Clearly that agent is probably not the most qualified to handle your home.

5. Look for an agent you feel you can trust. If you don't feel you can trust a person, you shouldn't do business with them, simple as that. A good agent wants the client to get the most money they can for their house and will make recommendations to help the client reach that end. Sometimes those recommendations are not music to the client's ears. If you don't trust your agent, you are less likely to follow those recommendations. The truth is, there isn't much point to hiring a top flight agent if you are going to disregard their advice.

6. Look for an agent you can communicate with. Without the ability to communicate with one another things are not likely to go well, regardless of your motivation or the agent's track record. Be sure that the agent listens to your point of view and that you can understand the information and points the agent is trying to convey to you.

Did you notice what is not on the list of things to look for? How about the agent's opinion of the value of your home. The truth is, what the agent thinks your home is worth is not the most important criteria but is often the one that homeowners rely on most heavily. My experience has been that owners will very often hire the agent whose opinion of value is most close to the owners opinion of the value of their home. Guess what? Most owners have an inflated view of the value of their homes. If you hire an agent based on their opinion of value, you will likely overprice your home and it either won't sell or it will take longer to sell and you will get less money. It is quite likely that the best agent will have one of the more conservative estimates, if not the most conservative estimate, of your home's value.

There you have it. If you follow these guidelines you will have a much better chance of getting the right agent to market you home and will likely get the best price the market will bring you. If you don't follow these guidelines and get the wrong agent, you have only yourself to blame.

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