Here’s how to pick the right agent to sell your home
Every real estate agent is different, with their own strengths, weaknesses, and specialties. That means that the listing agent that was perfect for your best friend may not be the best choice for you. But there are qualities that each good listing agent should have, and we’re here to walk you through them so you can make the best decision for you.
- Communication is key
- Every agent is different, but there are certain qualities that every good agent will have
- Choosing a good real estate agent may take time
Their communication style works for you
When you’re choosing a listing agent, it’s important to make sure your communication styles mesh, because you’ll likely be talking a lot throughout the process. But, just like everyone else, a real estate agent will have their own way of communicating. So, it’s important that you respond to their particular style. Some people respond better to direct and blunt communication, while others like their agents to be more gentle and sugar-coat things. Some people like to joke around, while others prefer a serious take. No matter what their communication style is, these are the non-negotiable communication skills an agent needs in order to be effective in any housing market:
- They explain things in a way that you understand, no matter how complex or simple the concept is
- They’re patient
- They make you feel comfortable asking questions
They are honest and upfront
You’re going to put a lot of trust in a listing estate agent to help you sell one of your biggest investments, but remember, they’re human like everybody else. As long as they’re honest and up front about their own style, approach, expectations, and limitations, you can trust them to be there when it counts the most.
Here’s what your agent should tell you right away:
- Their availability
- The amount of time they can dedicate to your listing
- Their marketing plan
- The list price of your home
If you feel like they’re holding back on any of these items, or what they say doesn’t match what they do (i.e., they tell you to call anytime, but your last three calls went to voicemail), then you may need to find a different agent.
They offer a solid marketing plan
The days of sticking a “For Sale” sign in the front yard, running a newspaper ad, and sitting back to wait for the phone to ring are over. Your real estate agent should be effective at marketing your listing on a number of social media and digital real estate platforms. A solid marketing plan is one of the top things you should ask a listing agent about. Here are a few questions to ask:
- How do you plan on marketing my home to potential buyers?
- How many open houses will you set up?
- What do you recommend for staging prior to showings?
- Will I get to see the listing description before the listing goes live?
They are clear about their availability
An agent should be available when they say they’re available. Real estate moves fast, and being an agent can demand odd hours. If your agent is busy with other clients then they should have a team in place to help you if they can’t. Either way, your agent should be able to respond to you quickly, clearly, and concisely when you need them to.
If your calls go straight to voicemail regularly or it takes a long time to hear back, then your agent may be too busy or too distracted to help you make important decisions. Make sure your agent is specific about their availability so you both have clear expectations. It’s absolutely understandable for your agent to have off hours on specific days or during family time, but if they can’t tell you what those hours are, it’s time to find a different agent.
They provide data and research
A good agent will know their market and be able to prove it. Your agent should provide data and research so that when you sit down to discuss the specifics of selling your home, they have the knowledge to back up their advice. They should come prepared with a comparative market analysis (CMA), know what similar properties have sold for recently (comps), and understand the local market and current trends. If an agent is sitting in front of you with nothing and asking you what you want to list your home for, chances are, they’re not the right agent for you.
They come highly recommended
You’ve probably asked people for recommendations for restaurants, vacation spots, daycare facilities, salons, and much more. Your search for a real estate agent should be no different. Ask your friends and family who they used and if they would recommend them.
An important thing to remember when asking for recommendations, however, is that different people prefer different communication styles. So, if you’re asking your best friend who likes things sugar-coated, keep that in mind when you’re interviewing the agent they loved, especially if you know you respond better to blunt honesty.
They pass the interview with flying colors
Interview? Yes! The agent that you choose will be handling one of largest financial transactions of your life worth likely hundreds of thousands of dollars. With that in mind, it’s important that you interview at least three agents. Even if the first one is perfect, interviewing a few more may give you a better idea of what to ask, and another agent may give you information that’s helpful as you move through the process.
Here are a few sample interview questions to get you started:
- What is your availability?
- When and how will I be able to reach you?
- Do you have team members that I’ll be talking with?
- How long does it take you to return a call (or email or text)?
- What is your marketing plan for my home?
- What kind of real estate do you specialize in? (If an agent specializes in single-family suburban homes, but you’re trying to sell your beach condo, it might not be the best fit).
During the interview, their answers are important, but you should also pay attention to their communication style and if you feel comfortable during the conversation.
Other things to consider include:
- Their track record
How many homes have they listed compared to how many they’ve sold? What is their total sales and the average sale price of the homes they’ve listed?
- Their reviews
Check the reviews on their website, look through their social media comments, and talk to people you know who have worked with them.
- Their experience
Real estate is a full-time job and one that requires experience to understand the local market, what upgrades or repairs are most important, and how to market your property. Finding a real estate professional who has experience is key to getting the best price for your home.
- Their suggestions
A good listing agent should come prepared with some suggestions on how to prepare the home, a recommended sales price, how to stage the home, etc.
They have a high transaction volume
This is similar to experience, but a real estate agent doesn’t necessarily have more experience just because they’ve been at it for longer. The true mark of an agent’s effectiveness is their transaction volume—or the amount of homes they’ve bought or sold in a recent time period. A real estate agent with twenty years of experience who only sold one house last year is less knowledgeable of the current market than a newer real estate agent with ten recent transactions under their belt. The real estate market changes month by month, sometimes day by day, so the most recent home sold is the true judge of an agent’s ability.
They don’t make guarantees that they can’t deliver on
If an agent guarantees they can get you $10,000 over asking price, it is a huge red flag. No matter how good an agent is, there are no guarantees when it comes to selling a home. While an agent can be optimistic, they are working for you and need to give you a realistic idea of what you’re getting into and what your home will sell for without making guarantees just to sound good or get the listing. If they do make predictions about what they can get you, ask about previous sales and negotiations to get an idea of how they’re making these promises.
They listen—and really hear—you
Selling a house can be an exciting time, but depending on the situation it can also be stressful or sad. Moving into a new home because your family is growing is a much different experience than downsizing after a divorce or selling a home you inherited from a deceased parent. A good listing agent will really, truly listen to you. You should feel heard and understood. And while your agent isn’t your therapist, they should be able to help you navigate this time whether happy or sad, exciting or stressful—or all of the above.
They make use of social media and up-to-date technology
COVID changed the way we do a lot of things, and buying and selling real estate is no different. While in-person showings are becoming the norm again in many places, throughout the pandemic, real estate agents had to adapt and make use of virtual showings, 360° tours, Zoom calls, and more. Check out the agent’s website. Make sure it looks professional and modern, otherwise you may be dealing with an out-of-touch agent.
Choose your real estate agent wisely
This is a huge transaction. You have every right to be—and should be—discerning. You’re not under any pressure to hire any agent you don’t trust or feel good about. Choosing a real estate agent who has enough experience, knowledge of the market, a communication style you’re comfortable with, a solid marketing plan, and excellent negotiation skills is the best way to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
Do I need an agent?
In short, yes. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, in 2021, for-sale-by-owner homes sold for significantly less than those sold with a listing agent with selling prices of $260,000 and $318,000 respectively.
What’s the difference between a Realtor® and listing agent?
While both a listing agent and Realtor® are licensed to sell homes, a Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. This means that they have gone through additional training and have access to additional resources.
When should I talk to an agent?
If you want to list your house, you should talk to a listing agent at least 3 to 6 months before your target listing date. That means, if you want to list your home in the spring, you should be meeting with your agent near the beginning of the year. This gives you time to interview a few agents, make your choice, and then work with them to get your property sale ready.
About the author: Stephanie Mickelson is a freelance writer based in Northwest Wisconsin who specializes in real estate, building materials, and design. When she’s not writing, she can be found juggling kids and coffee.