Find an agent who knows how to market your home

Q I’m selling my home, and so far I’ve had four Realtors give me price estimates. They range from $188,000 to $250,000. How do I know who’s the best agent? Would you suggest someone older and knowledgeable, or younger and aggressive?

C.P., Lynnwood

A An estimate of market value is just that – an estimate. No one can give you an exact price. A wide range of prices is not unusual because there are number of variables involved, such as the real estate agent’s level of experience in your neighborhood and his or her motivation to obtain the listing.

Some agents try to “buy” a listing by promising an unrealistically high sales price. These agents figure that once you sign the listing agreement, they can always talk you into lowering your price if the house doesn’t sell in the first couple of weeks. The best agents don’t play such games. They try to set a realistic price so the home will sell within 90 days. No one wants to make a career out of selling your house.

Often, the biggest hurdle for agents to overcome is the seller. Most people have an inflated sense of their home’s value. The reluctance of sellers to face reality sometimes prompts even the best of agents to stretch their opinion of market value if they want to get the listing. The problem is, there are so many fairly priced homes on the market today that buyers may not even look an overpriced home. If you start too high, the property may be shopworn by the time you come down to a realistic price, and buyers will simply pass you by.

The key is to set your emotions aside when pricing your home. Ask each agent to show you the comparable home sales they used to arrive at their price opinion. Drive around and look at the “comps” yourself to see how they stack up against your home. If the real estate agent has done his or her job well, you’ll probably agree with the price opinion – even if it’s lower than you had hoped. Remember, you want a professional who can tell you how much your home will sell for, not someone who will just fill in the blank with whatever price you hope to get.

Choosing an agent is somewhat more subjective. I generally prefer to work with one of the top listing agents in a company that specializes in my neighborhood. But there’s something to be said for hungry young agents. I know one highly successful real estate broker who used to have a policy against hiring inexperienced agents – until he discovered that intelligent, motivated new agents often outperformed established ones.

Whether you go with a seasoned pro or a talented newcomer, make sure the agent has an aggressive marketing plan. You don’t want to sign a listing agreement with a lazy agent who will just throw your home into the multiple listing service and hope that someone else sells it.

One common mistake that many homeowners make is assuming that their listing agent will hold Sunday open houses to sell their home. What they don’t realize is that the real reason most real estate agents hold open houses is to meet prospective home buyers touring the home so they can pick up new clients. They do not really expect to sell the house they are holding open, although that does happen occasionally.

So don’t worry if the agent does not plan an open house, but be sure to ask how they intend to market your house before you make a final decision.

Mail questions to Steve Tytler, The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Fax questions to Tytler at 425-339-3435, or e-mail him at

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