Choosing from among hundreds of real estate agents can be a challenge when it comes time to put your home on the market. But picking the right Realtor to represent you boils down to finding the best match with your needs, your house, and your personality.
For me, personality has to come first. You need to be comfortable with your agent, whose philosophy about selling your home should be similar to yours. After all, you are entrusting your Realtor with one of the biggest financial transactions you’re ever likely to make, one that involves emotional overtones, too.
What I mean by “philosophy” is really all about how the agent goes about marketing your home, who they think the most likely buyers are, and what tools they use to find those buyers and make the sale.
Other important considerations include the agent’s experience and expertise in selling property in your general price range or your neighborhood, their firm’s sales record, and, most important of all, whether they are full-time real estate professionals.
I should mention here that not all real estate brokers are Realtors. The “Realtor” name is used only by a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and subscribes to the Association’s Code of Ethics.
All real estate agents have to be licensed by the state, pay licensing fees, and take continuing education courses every year. Some of those courses are mandatory, involving new rules, forms and procedures. Others are elective. Those are meant to help broaden an agent’s expertise on such topics as short sales, risk management, or professional ethics.
You might find that you click with the first Realtor you talk with. But you might also want to shop around, talking with a number of agents, before finding the one you’re most comfortable with. You are going to be working with your Realtor for a good while, so their personal style and communication skills should be compatible with your expectations.
For instance: are they aggressive, or very soft-spoken? How do you think they would communicate with buyers? Some homeowners have a “Type A” personality and want their Realtor to be the same. On the other hand, a sales agent with a strong personality may not fit well with you – or with the sort of buyers you want to attract.
Different agents have different negotiating styles. You want someone who will work hard to get you the best possible deal. However, a broker who’s too aggressive in negotiations might turn off a prospective buyer.
You should also find a Realtor whose approach to communicating is “in synch” with your own. When I’m starting to work with a new client, one of the first things I do is to get their contact information and find out how they prefer that I get in touch with them. Some sellers want to be informed about every detail of the sales process: who I’m talking with, how each prospect reacts after seeing the house, when we plan to speak next. A homeowner of the first type might be on the phone 20 minutes after a showing asking about what the prospective buyer had to say. I tell them that they’ll know as soon as I know.
Other sellers don’t want to be bothered until I have a firm offer to present to them. With either style, however, a good agent should be easy to reach and should keep the client informed of everything they need – and want – to know.
When evaluating Realtors, you should ask about their marketing plan for your home: how they plan to sell it. For me, I don’t use the exact same marketing plan for each property. It might vary, with different mixes of print and Internet advertising, flyers or other media. Is a home a good candidate for an open house? Is it in a neighborhood that’s especially attractive to newcomers to our area?
One factor I firmly believe is essential is to be sure your agent is full time. Somebody who sells real estate as a hobby, or as a secondary career, may put other interests ahead of what should be a Realtor’s first interest: selling your house as quickly as possible, and for the best possible price.
A full-time agent should be staying on top of which properties are on the market, what has sold recently, and at what price. Full-time agents are more likely to be up to speed on trends in the market, and able to call on more potential buyers.
A related question is about the firm the agent works for. Some very good Realtors work solo, or in small firms. Others are part of bigger firms, which may include a variety of agents who specialize in particular price ranges, or neighborhoods, or other “niche.” It’s a good idea to ask about the entire firm’s track record in selling houses like yours.
An easy way to find out which agents are full time is to look at advertising in local real estate publications. Those you see consistently, week after week, with multiple listings, are most likely to be full-time professionals. (Though it’s worth mentioning that some very successful full-time agents don’t do much print advertising.)
It’s never a bad idea just to ask the question when you’re shopping for a Realtor: “Are you a full-time agent?” Follow up by asking how many properties the agent has listed, and how many they have sold recently.
It’s also appropriate to ask for references. These should be recent clients who are willing to tell you about their experience with the agent, and definitely should not be the agent’s relatives!
One final thing to ask is for the agent to tell you anything that sets him or her apart. In other words, “Why should I hire you?” Good agents should be just as effective in selling themselves as they are at selling your house.
Have a question about buying, selling or any other real estate matter? Let me know and I’ll address it in a future article.
Michelle Clark is a broker with Intracoastal Realty, based at the Wrightsville Beach office. She is an Accredited Luxury Home Specialist, ALHS and also a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource. Whether you are buying, selling, or investing, know that Michelle and her team will go the extra mile for you. To learn more about Michelle and Intracoastal, go to www.intracoastalrealty.com. You may contact Michelle at [email protected] or 910-367-9767. Like Michelle’s team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleClarkTeam.
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