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How to hire the best real estate agent to sell your home

Peter Miller
The Mortgage Reports contributor

In this article:

How should you go about finding the best real estate agent to sell your home? You need to find an agent whose services and capabilities match your needs.

  • Your agent should work in your area and in your price range
  • Look for someone who is experienced, reputable and professional
  • Choose from full-service, discount and hybrid agencies

It’s smart to request sales presentations from several agents before choosing one to represent you.

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The best real estate agent: 1 in a million?

How do you find the best real estate agent to sell your home when across the country there are an estimated 2 million licensees?

Real estate is an intensely-localized commodity. This solves the problem of looking at huge armies of brokers and salespeople. The professionals with whom you want to do business live and work in your neighborhood. You can identify them by the number of their “for sale” signs and open houses nearby.

Related: How long does it take to sell a home?

If open houses are commonly used in your neighborhood, it’s a good idea to visit them. Meet the broker and see if that individual is doing a good job representing the seller.

The best real estate agent and listing presentations

As a seller, you want brokers to make a listing presentation. This presentation will outline current market conditions. It will include recent and nearby past sales as well as properties now on the market. This information will be contained in a written Comparative Market Analysis or CMA.

Prepare to be dazzled. CMAs can be lengthy documents with an impressive array of statistics and other information. You’ll find out about such things as average days on the market, recent sales, price trends, etc. With modern software, CMAs can be quickly turned out for virtually any property.

Related: Do discount brokers really provide 1 percent rebates to buyers?

But there’s a catch. Figures from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) show that in 2017, most sellers – 74 percent – contacted just one broker before listing their home. When selling your home, you are a consumer of real estate services. It costs a lot of money to sell a house.

In the same way that consumers should shop for mortgages, they should also shop for brokerage services.

Pricing

If the listing price is too low, you won’t get full value for the property. Alternatively, if the price is too high, you are likely to drive away potential buyers.

Related: How much do real estate agents make on my home purchase?

If you get several CMAs, you will also get several suggested list prices. Suggested list prices will differ because pricing is part science, part art. The big question is which listing price makes the most sense. Take a look at the broker’s marketing plan and experience in the neighborhood.

Don’t just pick the broker who suggests the highest list price. That may be good for the ego, and bad for the sale process.

Listing agreements

Listing agreements have various provisions. They will specify a listing price. The broker may not offer the property for sale below this price without your written permission. They will have a termination date.

Related: New app makes FSBO easier, cutting real estate commissions

Listing agreements list items not included in the sale. Fixtures and appliances not on the list convey with the property.

A listing agreement is a contract which involves the largest asset owned by many sellers. If you have questions and want an independent opinion, speak with an attorney for advice.

Types of brokerage

Brokers today offer an array of service options. In general, the options include:

  • Traditional or full-service brokers. These are brokers who handle the transaction from one end to the other. They write ads, market the property, post signs, negotiate with buyers, advise sellers and follow up with inspections, appraisals and repairs
  • Discount brokers. These are brokers who offer a full or partial package of services at a lower cost
  • Flat-fee brokerages. These brokers offer a specific package of services. In some cases, the seller participates in the marketing process. The seller, for example, might show the house
  • Seller-assistance brokerages. Such firms help self-sellers with some of the technicalities and marketing involved in a transaction
  • Hybrid brokerages. Firms that offer different marketing packages, depending on what the seller wants

What to look for in a real estate agent

When looking for the best real estate agent for you, you want someone you can be honest with, and someone who you trust. You’ll also want an agent whose communication style works for you — both in frequency and method of communicating.

Related: How to understand a real estate contract

Choose someone who works in your area and in your price range. You don’t want to be ignored by the luxury lister if your home is a bargain fixer, nor do you want low-end agents in over their heads negotiating the sale of your mansion.

And of course, make sure your agent is licensed, has some experience (preferably working full-time in real estate), and is without blemish. Your state division of real estate, or a similar agency, keep records of complaints and sanctions.

What is the standard brokerage fee?

There is no “standard” brokerage fee. Real estate fees and commissions are entirely negotiable. In real life, commissions range from 1 percent from brokers like Redfin to more than 6 percent in some markets.

Related: Millennials rely more on real estate agents when buying

According to The Washington Post, real estate commissions are trending downward as technology reduces the cost of selling and increases the competition among real estate agents for your business.

Paying the broker

Broker are traditionally paid when a “ready, willing and able” buyer is found. This is a buyer willing to meet the listing terms or terms acceptable by the seller.

Some areas use additional language. In California, for example, most listing agreements also say the fee is only payable if the buyer “completes the transaction.” In effect, the broker is paid for performance.

Verify your new rate (Dec 13th, 2018)