10 Tips on Finding a Great Realtor to Sell Your Home

selling_a_houseWith thousands of real estate agents running around, how do you find the right realtor to sell your house ?  What should you look for?  Here are 10 tips on finding a great realtor to sell a home.  Find a great listing agent will not only make the selling process smoother, sell your house faster, but also get your top dollars for your house.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of realtor or real estate agent – listing agent and buyer agent.

  • Listing agents are also called seller agents.  They represent the seller, they help the seller to sell a home.  They are the ones whose name you see on the for sale sign.
  • Buyer agents help the buyers to find and purchase a home.

1. Find a realtor that specialize as a listing agent

PageLines- Sell_a_house.JPGAs you will see later in the post, selling process is quite different from buying, and needs a different expertise.  When you are interviewing agents, make sure you ask how many homes have they listed in the past year?  A good listing agent often have 20-50 listings per year.  It takes quite a bit longer for agents to establish themselves as a listing agent.  Also ask them to print out detail information from their listings, you can see how quickly the houses were sold and ratio between listing and sold price.  If an agent were able to sell 20+ listing each year effectively, you can be pretty sure he or she is quite competent at his/her jobs.

2. Find a realtor that has sold at least one home in your area

house soldListing agents typically “farm” a few areas, by “farming”, I mean they specialize in a few neighborhoods. Usually these neighborhoods are smaller than a city, for example, a particular subdivision.

A good listing agent really know the neighborhood, they can rattle off houses that were bought and sold in the neighborhood, they can tell you about how the neighborhood have changed over time, they can tell you what school districts the house belongs to, they can tell you about local shopping, restaurants, services etc..

In short, you want to find someone who knows the area well and have sold homes in your neighborhood in the past year.

3. Find a realtor that offers end to end service

Selling a home involves a number of steps, to get top dollars, you need to get your home in tip top condition (at least on first glance).  Unless you are really handy and have lots of time, I would recommend to find professional help with it.  What would that end to end service entail? Typically it would include the following:

  • handyman to fix up odds and ends around the house (i.e. dents on door or walls, touch up paint where your kids left their artwork, leaky faucet, etc.)
  • gardener to plant some nice flowers, new mulch, trim hedges, etc. to increase the curb appeal of your house
  • movers to help you clear out non-essential furniture, boxes etc..
  • cleaner to give your house a thorough clean
  • stager to stage your home
  • photographer/videographer to take great pictures/videos of your house

For details about these services, read Getting your home ready for top dollars.  An experienced listing agent would have all of these services handy, and have a team of vendors they can call upon at moments notice.  They will work as a team to get these things done as efficiently as possible, with the good agent, you don’t need to be too involved, just give them the key and they will take care of the rest.  This is especially important for sellers who are busy or have moved out of the area.  Believe me,  you don’t want to be the one to research and arrange all these services.  Ask potential agents about what they can do to prep your house for sale and whether they have a team to call upon.  Ask them to show you pictures of their previous listings.

4. Find a realtor who is willing to have some skin in the game

My personal belief is that you want the agent to work hard for you, make them to have some skin in the game.  When the listing agent put your house on the market for sale, she will invest some time to put together the listing, on top of that I also want her to put some of her money in the listing.   

How do I do that?  Last year when I sold my house, the listing agent paid for all of the services I mentioned above while prepping my house for sale.  If she is confident about selling your house, this is not a problem.  If she is not confident about selling your house, she will think twice about it.  It’s a straightforward way to gauge how confident is the agent about pricing your home and get it sold.  With some skin in the game, you bet she will work hard for this listing!

Obviously getting this will depend on the market condition, last year, it was seller’s market, lots of agents want my business, I made this part of the negotiation and I got it.  See negotiate for lower realtor fees for more details 

5. Find a realtor who is willing to have shorter contract

When you decide a realtor, you will sign a contract with them, one of the terms is the length of the contract, this is how long you will use them as listing agent.  By default in many places, the length is six months.  For bayarea, this is way too long where days on market (# of days before a house is sold) is less than 30 days.  Imagine your house sits on the market for six months and you are probably two mortgages, and have to deal with strangers coming to your house this whole time.  Take a look at the days on market for houses in your area, double that for the duration of the contract.  In my case, I typically negotiate for two months.  If they can’t get the house sold in two months, it’s time to think of other options like finding a new agent or spend some money fixing your house, or renting it.

Moreover, this also gets around the problem of listing agent give you unrealistic price estimate just to gain your business.  For example, if the market price for you house is really $800,000, some agent will say your house is worth $850,000 in hope to gain your business.  Once they have your business, the thought is they can always lower the price later.  This is a very costly mistake some homeowners have made, it needless drag out the selling process and could cost thousands of dollars of extra mortgages payment sellers would have to pay.  By shorten the contract, there is no time to lower the price, and it forces the listing agent to give a realistic estimate, otherwise, they will run out of time.

6.  Find a realtor that is willing to negotiate their commission

negotiate effectivelyThe amount of work a listing agent have to do to sell a $100k house is about the same about selling a $1 million house.  However, the amount of commission they will receive is drastically different, for $100k house, 3% commission will be just $3k.  For $1 million house, 3% commission will be $30k.  A whopping 10x more for the same amount of work, why should that be?  The answer, it doesn’t have to be.  I look at the amount of work a listing agent would have to do and the amount of time they need to spend on the listing, you are overpaying at 3% commission for the $1million house.  Think how long would it take you to make the $30k 🙂

As my business school professor for negotiation said many time, “everything is negotiable!”.  I live in the very expensive silicon valley where the median home price is over $700k.  I paid a lot less that 3% for commission.  How much you can negotiate down would depends on how much your home is worth?  how much work goes into prepping your home for sale?  how hot is the market? etc.  But ask when you are interviewing agents, you might be pleasantly surprised.  Read Negotiating listing agent commission for more details.

7. Find a realtor that doesn’t have too many concurrent listing

busy listing agentThis maybe counter intuitive, I mentioned in bullet #1 that you want to find someone who specialize on listing and have many listings.  At the same time, get a house ready and sold quickly takes quite a bit of effort.  If your agent have too many concurrent listing along with yours, she won’t have sufficient time to look after yours.   When you are interviewing the agents, ask them about how many listings they have now and how many new listings they expect in the near future.  This of course would also depends on how much assistance the agent has.  Some of the more established and successful agent has assistance that handles much of the logistics and leaving them to focus on the bigger items.

8. Find a realtor that is not going to be on vacation while your home is on the market

This maybe obvious, but make sure your listing agent is going to be around while your house is on the market.  Ask the agents if they have any vacation plans.  Cellphone and emails are great, but real estate is a high touch business, you want someone around, not their assistant.

9. Find a realtor that is organized

Selling a home entails a number of processes and different parties, you want someone who is organized. From the time I signed my agent to the time my house was on the market, she completed all the items mentioned in bullet #3, it only took 7 days.  Then it took 7 more days to get the house under contract (would have been sooner, but I insisted on leaving the house on the market to get sufficient market exposure).  Asking your agents for a plan when they are going to get all the things done, a good listing agent would knows like the back of their hand, and immediately put together a plan – Day 1 to get this done, Day 2 to get this done, Day 3 to  get this done, etc

10. Find a realtor that is responsive

In real estate, time is of the essence, particular in a hot market, responses are needed in hours not days. Make sure your agent is available and responsive.  Ask the agent for all the ways to contact them, phone, text, email, IM etc., after the interview, try some of these methods and try them at different time, ask a question and see how quickly they get back to you.  If they don’t get back to you in a few hours, find someone else.

In Summary

Following these tips to quickly gauge prospective agents, by asking the right questions and negotiate the right terms, you will not only save money and time, but also align the listing agent’s interest with yours.   Find a great listing agent will not only make the process smoother, sell your house faster, it will also get your top dollars for your house.

Readers, if you have questions or suggestions, drop me a note below.

2 thoughts on “10 Tips on Finding a Great Realtor to Sell Your Home

    1. SassyFinance Post author

      First comment on my blog, yipeee! Thank you, Isabel, glad you found the post useful.


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