Question: We are planning on selling my mother’s home in the near future and do not know any real estate agents. Can you suggest a good way to select an agent we can feel comfortable working with? Are there interview questions we should ask?
Answer: Finding a good real estate agent is kind of like dating. Obviously, you want to find a competent, professional agent, but you also want to make sure that you feel comfortable working with the person. If the agent has an abrasive personality, you may not want to work with him or her even if they are top producers.
And that brings up the next common question: Is it better to work with a top producer or a new agent who is young and hungry?
I used to routinely recommend that sellers only work with established professional agents who have a long track record of working in your neighborhood, but then I received some letters from newer agents who said that I was being unfair to them because they have more time and energy to provide service to their listings than the top producing agents who have to service many different clients. There is some merit to that argument, so don’t automatically discount presentations from newer agents. As I said above, it’s important that you feel comfortable with the agent you choose because you may be working together for weeks or even months. So pick the agent who makes the best presentation and strikes you as the most compatible with you.
First of all, you need to invite a few agents to make a listing presentation to you. How do you pick the agents to invite? Drive around your neighborhood and look at the real estate agent names on the “For Sale” signs in your area. You may notice that some names appear on more than one house in your neighborhood. That’s a good indication that the agent knows your neighborhood and is active in the area. As a general rule, you want to work with a local agent. By that, I mean look for agents with a local area code. For example, if you are selling a home in Everett, you usually would not want to work with a Seattle agent from the 206 area code. But like the top producer versus newer agent argument, that is not a hard and fast rule.
Use your own judgment when interviewing agents.
Another good way to meet local agents is to tour Sunday open houses in your neighborhood. Most people outside the real estate business do not realize that the primary purpose of an open house is not necessarily to sell the house, but to give the agent a chance to meet prospective home buyers (and sellers) in the neighborhood so that they can pick up more clients. Open houses give you a great opportunity to see the agents in action with other buyers, and you can talk to them in a low pressure environment.
Compile a list of agents and invite them to your home to make listing presentations. Let the agents know that you are interviewing multiple agents so they know that they have competition. During the presentation, the agent should give you their opinion of the suggested listing price of your home and explain how they plan to market it. The key to selling any house is to price it correctly, so don’t necessarily be swayed by an agent who promises that he or she can get you a higher price than the other agents. You want to analyze the presentations to determine how the agent arrived at their proposed listing price to decide if their pricing strategy makes sense based on actual sales data in your neighborhood.
Don’t tell the agents what listing price the other agents have suggested. That way, you can judge each presentation on its own merits. Frankly, I would be more impressed with a well-researched presentation that proposed a slightly lower listing price than the other agent’s rather than an agent who promises to get you a very high sales price, but has no statistics to back up his or her rationale for the price. It’s very difficult for agents to be honest with sellers because they know that many people have unrealistically high price expectations for their homes. The reality is that your home is only worth what somebody else is willing to pay for it. And the best way to determine that number is to look at data showing what similar homes in your neighborhood have sold for recently.
So to summarize, you want to hire an agent who knows your neighborhood, has a well-researched listing price analysis and has an aggressive marketing strategy to get other agents to show your home and expose it to the largest number of prospective buyers possible.
Mail your real estate questions to Steve Tytler, The Herald, P.O. Box, Everett, WA 98206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.