long have you been an active, full-time
Realtor? How long in my neighborhood?
Look for an agent who has been actively
working on a full-time basis for at
least the last 3-5 years. You should
also find out how long they’ve
worked in your specific geographic area.
There are several reasons for selecting
a well-established agent. First, you
want someone who has a track record
you can confirm. Second, an established
Realtor has a roster of contacts you
will need: home inspectors, mortgage
companies, lawyers, etc. Finally, an
experienced agent will have creative,
time-tested ideas for marketing your
Yes, there are good agents who have
been in the business for a short time.
But there is a high drop-out rate in
the industry, and it would be unfortunate
if, three months down the line, your
agent moved on to other things. On the
other hand, a part-timer often can’t
keep up with the pace or complexity
of today’s marketplace. And they
might not be available when you need
them most. Your home is your most important
investment – doesn’t its
sale deserve an agent’s full-time
many homes have you listed in the past
six months? The past year?
an agent’s length of time in the
field is important, the quality of that
time is even more important. You need
to gauge just how active – and
successful – the Realtor is. A
large number of listings is often the
sign of a successful agent. However,
no matter how many listings an agent
has, make sure that he has the resources
and systems to market each of them effectively.
Getting a listing is only half the job.
many homes have you sold in the
past six months? The past year?
where we separate the listers from the
doers. Just because an agent has a knack
for signing up sellers doesn’t
mean he’s good at finding, negotiating
and closing deals – and that’s
what you want.
the average amount of time one of your
listings is on the market before it
You may think that
a quick turnaround is a good sign.
It could be. However, a faster-than-average
selling record could indicate that
an agent is quick to sacrifice a seller’s
profits in negotiation – which
is why the next question is so important.
- How does your
average sale price compare to the
difference between a Realtor who gets
you a good deal and one who gives
away too much in order to sell your
home. That’s why its’
important to compare the original
list price to what a home actually
sold for. For example, an agent who
consistently gets 90% of the asking
price is probably a better negotiator
than the agent who only gets two-thirds
of the asking price.
- How many
homes are you currently marketing? Again, this goes
to the question of effectiveness.
Make sure your agent has the systems
in place to handle them all. A successful
top-producing agent may be more effective
at managing many listings than a less
experienced agent is with a handful.
- What kind
of property do you specialize in? A Realtor who does
big business in condominiums, or homes
substantially less or more expensive
than your own, probably isn’t
the best person to sell your home.
Look for someone who has experience
selling homes of your type and price
range, preferable in your neighborhood.
- What can
you tell me about your share of the
marketplace compared to other Realtors
in the area? Again, you’re
looking for indications of success.
A Realtor with a competitive piece
of the market usually has better connections
win the community and greater resources
at his disposal.
- Do you have
a personal staff? How many are licensed?
While it doesn’t
necessarily indicate better service,
a Realtor who has a support staff to
handle office chores and routine details
can usually devote more time to the
business of serving a client’s
highest-priority needs. Ask about the
composition of a Realtor’s staff,
the duties each member has, and how
they will be involved in the marketing
of your home.
Make sure you’re
very clear as to the involvement you
can expect from your agent compared
to your agents staff. But don’t
assume that you’re being treated
poorly just because the agent isn’t
doing everything herself. If you were
having major surgery, you wouldn’t
want your surgeon handling anesthesia
and monitoring vital signs and every
other detail of the operation –
that’s what the rest of the
medical team is there for.
thing is that your listing is handled
in an efficient, professional manner,
that you are kept well-informed as
to what’s being done to sell
your home, and that the operation
will you market my home?
Most Realtors have at their
disposal the same tools for selling
your home: the Multiple Listing Service
(MLS), company tours and Realtor caravans,
open houses, marketing flyers and
brochures, direct mail, advertising,
personal networking – the list
What differentiates the best agents
from the rest is their marketing philosophy
and the strategies they’ve developed
to achieve their goals. You’re
looking for a Realtor who tailors
his approach to your specific circumstances,
and then puts the tools at his disposal
to your best advantage.
What you want is someone who does
more than provide a physical description
of your home and area to prospects.
Your Realtor should be enthusiastically
selling your home’s benefits.
You’re spending a good deal
of money with an agent, and you should
expect a detailed marketing plan-in
writing-before you sign a listing
As you discuss the marketing
plan, make sure you include the following
Flyers & Brochures: Carefully review the quality of the
materials the agent shows you. Does
the design, style of writing and print
quality do a good job of selling the
attributes of a particular home? Poorly-done
materials reflect badly on your home
and say something about the quality
of the agent’s marketing efforts
of Advertising: Many of the
marketing and technological advances
found in other fields are also being
put to good use in the real estate
industry. Some agents now use toll-free
hotlines and fax-on-demand marketing
to provide potential buyers with 24-hour
access to information on your home.
Ask the agent what he does that he
considers unique or special.
Open Houses: Again, be wary if the agent sings
the praises of open houses. As a rule,
they’re good for your Realtor’s
prospecting efforts, but not very
effective in selling your property.
And a home held open too frequently
can begin to look like a loser, making
it a price target for lowball bids.
Listing Service: The MLS
is one of a Realtor’s most important
resources. But here’s another
little secret – many agents
fail to use the MLS effectively as
a marketing tool. Make sure that your
agent takes the time to craft a strong,
detailed sales pitch that extols the
benefits of your home, and doesn’t
just list a lot of dry facts. When
you consider that a listing in the
MLS is like a free “classified
ad” that reaches every other
Realtor in town – many of whom
have clients who might be interested
in your home – don’t you
think you should take advantage of
Forms of Promotion: Exposure is the key to any home sale.
One of the most common ways a home
is sold is when another agent knows
a buyer who is looking for a home
like yours. Ask the agent about techniques
other than the MLS, advertising and
open houses which he will use to maximize
your home’s exposure.
- Will you
help me stage my home?
things go into selling a home: price,
condition and agent effort. If you choose
a hard-working agent who helps you set
a competitive price, make sure that
she also will advise you on how best
to present your home to prospective
buyers. Some agents are reluctant to
say anything in this area because they
don’t want to offend their client.
Ask the agent what kind of information
she will provide to help you stage your
home – the more detailed and honest,
will you keep me informed? One of the biggest
complaints sellers have about their
agents is that they didn’t receive
enough feedback. We’ve found
that the best communication occurs
when clients let us know up front
what they consider to be “enough”
Only you know
what level and type of communication
works best for you. Do you want weekly
progress reports? Daily reports? Are
phone calls and emails acceptable,
or would you prefer to discuss matters
in person? Find an agent willing and
able to give you the time and attention
you require. And agree on the appropriate
level of communication at the beginning
of the relationship – don’t
wait until you see a problem.
- What listing
price would you recommend for my home?
How did you arrive at it? Ask about the current
market and how it affects your price
and selling strategy. A good agent
will be able to back up his assertions
with solid proof. By running a comparative
market analysis, he should be able
to give you a sound argument and documentation
on how he arrived at your home’s
proposed market value and price range.
comparative market analysis should
include the following:
and Selling Prices
of comparable homes
of time homes have been on the market
of any price reductions that were
your pricing/marketing philosophy 30/60/90
days down the road? If your home isn’t
seeing any interest after two or three
months on the market, what is the
agent going to do to generate activity?
You shouldn’t have to go to
your agent and suggest things to try,
such as lowering the price. You want
a proactive representative, not someone
who simply reacts to whatever happens.
your commission on a sale? A Realtor’s
commission isn’t set by law;
it can vary from agent to agent. Make
sure you know up front what you’re
paying. While you are legally
entitled to negotiate a lower commission,
some agents may be less willing to
list your home as a result. In a soft
market, an agent has even less incentive
to push your home when there are others
on the market whose sale will result
in a higher commission. And an agent
who’s too quick to give up his
money may be quick to give up your
money during the negotiation process.
saying “you get what you pay
for” also applies to your real
- Can you provide
me with references? A Realtor’s
reputation is one of his most valuable
assets; most will work hard to protect
it. Surprisingly, most sellers don’t
bother to check references –
you should. This is one of the easiest
and most important steps you can take.
And yet we’ve seen more people
make the mistake of not checking references.
are some questions to ask your agent’s
- How long
was your home on the market?
- Do you
feel the agent priced it realistically?
was it originally listed at? What
did it sell at?
type of marketing did the agent
the agent suggest how to make your
home more marketable?
the agent keep his promises? Did
he do what he said he’d do
you kept informed along the way?
How often did you talk?
many offers did you get?
the closing process, did the agent
have good follow-up?
did you like most about the agent?
- Was there
anything about the agent that you
you use the agent again?
- What professional
organization do you belong to?
At a minimum, your agent should be a
fully licensed professional who is a
member of the local real estate board
and Multiple Listing Service, as well
as the state and National Association
Other memberships worth noting are the
local Chamber of Commerce, professional
organizations and community groups.
This kind of involvement can reflect
good networking and better insight into
the community. But what really matters
is your agent’s commitment to
selling your home.
- Do you have
any personal marketing materials I can
The quality of
a Realtor’s own marketing pieces
– brochures, direct mail, listing
presentation book, etc. – is a
good indicator of how well she’ll
represent you and your property. If
she hasn’t already sent them to
you, she should provide them at your
- Do you have
any questions for me?
agent is considering your situation
and plotting a marketing strategy as
you speak, so of course there should
be questions. If not, you could be dealing
with someone with a “one size
fits all” mentality that’s
going to plug you into a prefabricated
A good agent will ask your reasons for
selling, the date you need to move,
what improvements you’ve made
to the property, special features you
feel are noteworthy, and whether there
are any defects or problems with the
house. All of this shows a concern and
responsiveness, and the agent will incorporate
your answers into his selling strategy.
looking for an agent who’s ready
now – the last thing you need
in your life is another meeting!
- Am I comfortable
with this person?
isn’t for the agent –
it’s for you. Ask yourself if
you feel good about the agent, his
personality and how he conducts business.
After all, this is a person who will
be representing you in the sale of
your most precious asset. The last
thing you need is a personality clash
in the course of the selling process.
You want an agent who you can trust,
who is honest with you and who relates
well to you.
We firmly believe that this is often
the single most important element
in a successful home sale. Uneasiness
or discomfort in the agent-seller
relationship leads to unhappiness
on both sides and usually poor results.
Both the seller and the Realtor need
to be completely comfortable in sharing
expectations, thoughts and concerns
regarding all aspects of the sale. Ultimately,
you should choose the professional
who is best able to deliver the results