How to Choose a Real Estate Agent to Sell a House

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If you're like nearly 90 percent of home sellers, you'd rather hire a real estate agent than try to sell your home on your own. Listing your home requires careful preparation, such as gathering figures, comparing records and analyzing supply -- and that's just what it takes to find the right agent. A good agent does much of the work thereafter, like pricing your home correctly, marketing your home, negotiating sale terms and guiding you through the escrow process to closing. Base your choice on listing agent on experience, sales track record, reputation and rapport.

Interview Multiple Listing Agents

Rather than hire the first agent that comes highly recommended, ask other home sellers you trust for referrals and select several agents to interview. There's no target number of agents you should interview, however, you should speak in person to more than one, even if the first agent you interview impresses you. You should interview as many as needed to find the right fit. Many agents try to lock-in the listing agreement at the interview, but resist the urge to sign until you've interviewed each of your prospective candidates. Having a basis for comparison makes you more confident in your choice.

Ask the Right Questions

You should spend approximately one hour with each interviewee. Walk agents through your home and ask them questions to determine their skills and how well they communicate with you. You want to determine how long they have sold homes; their credentials; whether they sell real estate full- or part-time; the number of homes they've sold and number of days on market; the difference between the initial asking price and final sale price of the homes sold; and how they plan to keep you informed throughout the listing period and how often. Also ask about the tools and plans they have for marketing and selling your home.

Do Your Own Research

Agent interview responses don't mean much unless you research the market and have data on which to base expectations. Compare their answers to the information you've gathered on recent comparable sales in your area. You'll want to see how they measure up to recent sales data in terms of time frames and efficiency. For example, find out the average days on market in your area -- how long it takes for homes like yours to sell -- and compare it to each agent's days-on-market track record. Also, compare the difference between asking and sale price for each agent. Agents whose listings consistently sell at or above asking price are more skilled at pricing homes correctly.

Consider What Matters

Five percent to 6 percent of the sale price is a typical commission and covers listing and buyer agent commissions. Agents may offer to slash commissions to get your listing. Paying a lower commission may improve your bottom line, but you risk sacrificing service and results, as agents with less competitive commissions may be less motivated to do a stellar job. You might also find it tempting to choose the agent who proposes the highest listing price. Agents should provide a comparable market analysis, or CMA, at the interview to support their suggested listing price. Agents who overprice homes to get a listing don't bring higher offers and you eventually will have to drop the price to get the home sold.


About the Author

Karina C. Hernandez is a real estate agent in San Diego. She has covered housing and personal finance topics for multiple internet channels over the past 10 years. Karina has a B.A. in English from UCLA and has written for eHow, sfGate, the nest, Quicken, TurboTax, RE/Max, Zacks and Opposing Views.

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