Choosing the right Realtor to sell your house is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. Your home is your most valuable asset after all. Of course you want to hire someone you trust, which is why many homeowners turn to family and friends who are real estate agents. But, while you certainly trust them to have your best interests at heart, will that necessarily translate to getting your home sold quickly and for the most amount of money?
Before you decide to hire your tennis partner or your cousin's husband for this important job, ask them these questions:
1. Why should I hire you? What makes you different from other real estate agents?
Any agent you interview should be able to answer this question without missing a beat. After all, real estate is a very competitive business, so any agent worth her salt will have thought about this long and hard and will be able to articulate her point of difference. If she doesn't have a good answer, she probably isn't any different than the others or doesn't realize her own value.
2. How do you go about determining the list price for my home?
The typical approach is to look at properties similar to yours that have sold in the past six months or so. While this information is important, it is just one piece of the puzzle. To make a smart pricing decision, you need to understand the big picture first. Your agent should walk you though a review of market trends in your area. Are sales trending up or down? Are prices appreciating or depreciating? Are inventories growing or shrinking? What is happening in your specific price range? How many houses are on the market in your price range and how do they compare with yours? They are your competition after all, and your target buyer is going to make an offer on the one that is the best house for the money, so it's critical to know how yours stacks up, and price accordingly.
3. What will you do to help me get my house ready to sell?
There are two areas the agent should address. The first is to identify the repairs and updates that need to be made. A good agent will be able to highlight the things that will provide the best return on your investment. For example, a coat of paint and new cabinet hardware can go a long way toward making a kitchen feel fresh and new, for not much money. A kitchen remodel, on the other hand, will certainly make your house more appealing to buyers, but there is almost no chance that you will recoup your investment.
The second area is staging. This is a critical part of the process of preparing a home for sale. The purpose of staging is to "package" the home in such a way as to connect with the home buyer on an emotional level. Every buying decision is based on emotion, and people will choose one house over another because the lifestyle it promises is one they aspire to. Your agent should have a good home stager on her team to help with this important aspect of marketing your home.
4. Are you a full-time Realtor?
There are lots of part-time real estate agents who sell a house here and there for friends and family. They probably aren't going to be able to provide the level of service you need and aren't likely to have the marketing firepower it will take to sell your house in a challenging market. Also, if they have another "regular" job, chances are they will not be as accessible or responsive as someone who works in real estate full-time. And they won't be as up to date on important trends and regulatory changes in the industry.
5. What is the average time it takes you to sell a house and how does that compare to other agents in the area?
Every agent should have this statistic at his fingertips. If his listings sell faster than average, that means he is skilled at pricing homes correctly and helping sellers prepare them to sell. If his listings linger on the market longer than average for the market, it may signal that he does not have expertise in pricing or has not been forceful enough getting his clients' buy-in to his pricing and staging recommendations.
6. What % of list price do your listings sell for, and how does that compare to the market average?
This is the other important statistic your agent should share with you. You want to know that your agent's typical sale to list price ratio is at least as good the market average and preferably better. A higher ratio suggests that the agent does a better job pricing, staging and negotiating offers on her listings.
7. How will you market my property?
Here is where the rubber meets the road, because the only thing that is100% within the agent's control is how the property is marketed.
What you want to hear is that the agent will market your home where today's buyers are looking, which is on the internet. Not in newspapers and magazines, because no one is looking for their next home there.
Here are some of the vehicles that should be part of the agent's marketing plan:
- 20+ professional photographs in the MLS
- Interactive floor plans
- A dedicated website for your property
- A blog post about your home and what makes it special
- Facebook ads
- Syndication to all real estate websites and portals (Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, Homes.com etc.)
- Email marketing to a large buyer database
If you want to get a sense of how the agent markets herself and her listings online, Google her. You should see a few search results for her on page 1 (if the agent has a very common name, you may want to add the word Realtor or real estate agent after her name in your search query). Also, check out her website to see if it has original, high quality content that would attract home buyers. The more buyers that register on her site, the higher the likelihood that she will attract a buyer for your house.
8. How will you communicate with me while my house is on the market, and how often?
The right answer to this question is to ask you how you would prefer to be communicated with and how often. Do you want to hear from your agent primarily by phone, text or email? Do you want a weekly update or feedback after every showing? Obviously, there will be times when only a phone call makes sense (i.e., when you receive an offer or when negotiations on an offer are hot and heavy). For regular updates about market activity an email may be most efficient for both of you. You should discuss and agree on expectations up front to avoid frustration down the road.
Your agent is there to serve you and should listen carefully to your requests. But be mindful that you are hiring her to find a buyer for your home. If you have her spending too much time updating you on progress, that means there is less time for her to be out there finding a buyer.
9. Do you have a team and who is on it?
Real estate transactions today are so complex that it is impossible for one person to do everything that is required and do it well. Every facet of the business requires specialized knowledge and skill, and you will have a smoother transaction when each phase of it is handled by someone who has expertise in that area. Some important team members are: transaction coordinator, closing coordinator, marketing coordinator. You also should ask who is on the agent's virtual team: those service providers she works with regularly and can rely on to support a successful sale: attorney, stager, organizer, lender, handyman, painter, etc.
Questions that may not be helpful in helping you choose the best Realtor:
Some of the questions agents are often asked by prospective clients will not give a true picture of the agent's competence, effectiveness or level of service.
How many years have you been in the business?
You probably don't want a complete newbie to represent you in the sale of your most valuable asset. On the other hand, just because someone has been in the business for 20+ years doesn't necessarily mean they are a great agent. They may sell only a couple of houses a year, while a less tenured but more aggressive agent may be selling ten or twenty houses per year. It's also quite possible that a newer agent is using more effective marketing approaches than someone who is still relying on traditional methods like print ads.
If you interview a less experienced agent and you like everything else about her, ask her if she would consider co-listing with a more experienced agent. She will probably agree, and that will give you the best of both worlds. The newer agent will be high-energy, determined to do a bang-up job for you, and will employ the latest online marketing vehicles. The experienced agent will provide guidance and wisdom to ensure that the whole transaction goes smoothly, and will have the negotiating chops to make sure you get the best price and terms on the sale of your home.
Are you the # 1 or 2 agent?
Of course, if the agent is #1 or #2 in the market, it means that he sells a lot of houses (though be careful, as every agent claims to be #1 at something). But hiring the market leader may have some downsides. For one thing, you may not get as much attention from him after the listing agreement is signed. For another, he may not be as responsive to your questions or concerns, or as easily accessible.
How much money will you spend to market my property?
Listings do cost money to market. But the amount of money an agent spends does not necessarily correlate with effectiveness. Print ads are very expensive to run and not very effective, while many forms of internet marketing are relatively inexpensive but much more effective at reaching today's home buyers.
How many times will my house be featured in newspapers/magazines?
Home sellers love to see their home featured in print. But home buyers are no longer searching for homes in the newspaper. Why should they when they can access every available home online, complete with photos, videos, floor plans and detailed information? If the agent makes a big deal about how many print ads she'll run featuring your home, bear in mind that she is doing it: a) to appease you and appeal to your ego; and b) to promote herself - because the only people looking at those print ads (besides other agents) are potential home sellers looking to see which agents are listing homes in their area. What you want to hear is not how many prints she will run, but how she will market your home on the internet, make it stand out from the competition, and bring buyers into your house.
Would you like a market snapshot of homes that have recently sold in your neighborhood? You can get it here.
If you would like to schedule a seller consultation with the Come Home North Shore Team, please give us a call at 847.881.6657 or send us a note here. We'd love to show you what we do differently to get our clients' homes sold!