Selling your home is a huge decision. The financial and emotional impact can be freeing… or devastating. Tragically, once we have a real estate agent sitting across from us at the kitchen table, we drift toward conversation that doesn’t help us choose the best person for the job. “What’s my home worth?” is usually the only question on our minds.
But what of the net worth that might be lost should you choose the wrong agent and the sale of your home turns into a circus?
Discover How the Real Estate Industry Really Works
This checklist empowers you to ask the right questions on your quest for a great real estate agent. I must caution you, however, to NOT focus on getting perfect answers. Rather, use these questions as jumping-off points for meaningful discussion. Get to know the person sitting across the table and you’ll quickly get to know who is the best listing agent for you.
Question 1: What list price will get buyers excited about this home?
Unless you enjoy the process of cleaning and staging your home every day for months on end, pricing to market expectations of value is critical. A good agent doesn’t just know the numbers but also demonstrates instincts about what matters to buyers. Where tensions rise is when the money you want (or need) and the price buyers are willing to pay is miles apart. And you can talk to three different agents and get three different opinions on price.
The agent who tells you only what you want to hear may not be the agent who is going to ultimately sell your home. Overpriced homes languish on the market and discourage buyers from even making an offer. And once a listing goes stale, it becomes increasingly difficult to attract any interest at all.
=> Hard truth: your primary residence is not a financial tool to turn quick profit. It’s shelter. It’s an address. It’s a place to hang your hat and call home. The days of “flipping” your home are over. No agent can change that reality. However, a good agent can minimize risk and maximize perceived value, especially if you hit the market with the right price, guns a-blazing.
Question 2: What are your fees?
Professional fees directly impact the net proceeds from the sale of your home. You need to know these numbers so you can plan your finances accordingly.
Contrary to popular belief, real estate agents don’t collude to set industry-wide rates. Price fixing is illegal! Each agent (or brokerage) decides what to charge according to their business model.
=> BONUS Question: Discuss what will be offered to the successful buyer agent.
Question 3: What’s your Internet marketing strategy
The Internet is Ground Zero for almost every buyer looking for a home. How will your listing agent get buyers’ attention on the World Wide Web? And does the agent have an established Internet presence that will allow him or her to effectively spread the good news about YOUR listing?
I was an Internet marketing consultant and copywriter for six years. While the listing agent you choose certainly doesn’t have to have the same experience I do, s/he had better be comfy with all things digital. That means having profiles on the key social media sites, along with a crisp, functional website that serves as “home base” for his/her brand, listings, and other helpful real estate information and updates.
Question 4: What’s your people strategy?
We may live in a high-tech world, but at the end of the day, selling homes is a people business. A good listing agent knows people and knows how to connect with lots of them. There are two types of people that matter when selling your home:
- Other real estate agents: these are the people who, the vast majority of the time, are going to bring buyers to the home and ultimately get an offer on the table. You want a listing agent who can really dance with these folks while also protecting your confidentiality and best interests.
- The agent’s personal network: You just never know where the right buyer will come from. A local network of friends, family, service providers and other professionals that the agent stays in touch with on a regular basis increases market exposure for your home.
Question 5: How do you use technology in your day-to-day processes?
A healthy respect for technology translates into an agent who is easily reachable by text, mobile, or email. It also translates into enhanced communications with BUYER agents. The listing agent should have a process in place that allows showings to be booked quickly, easily and hassle-free. If “getting in” to see your home with a buyer (or even for an agent preview) is a pain, do you think that might discourage agents from showing your home to impatient buyers? What if the buyer is only in town for a couple of hours?
The other way that technology is critical to listing success is in regard to how the agent manages administrative processes in general. There are a gazillion things—big and small—that have to happen once your listing goes “live” on the MLS® System. Then a gazillion more things have to happen once your home is under contract with an offer. Strategic use of technology by your listing agent keeps track of these things and ensures important details don’t get missed.
=> BONUS Kitchen-Table Question: always ask who will be your key point of contact during the term of the listing agreement. Some agents use assistants or have a team of people working with each client. Some agents handle all client communications themselves. You need to be comfortable with whatever arrangement that agent offers.
Question 6: What if I want out of my listing contract with you?
Different agents and brokerages exercise different policies around this, so it’s critical that you understand the answer to this question before you sign anything. The bottom line is that if you sign a service agreement with an agent, you and that agent (and the brokerage) are legally bound by it until all parties agree otherwise.
Question 7: How can you help me with staging my home?
Whether your home is a charming fixer-upper, a high-end luxury property or something in between (most are something in between!), it needs to be staged. Your listing agent should commit time and effort to ensuring you can show the home in its best light. Upon signing a listing contract, your agent should advise you on things like de-cluttering, arrangement of furniture and accessories, and what to fix versus what to leave as-is.
Some agents may avoid telling clients the truth about their home-sweet-home. While this may protect the homeowner’s feelings, it doesn’t protect the homeowner’s wallet. If you are truly motivated to sell your home, then you must maximize appeal and perceived value for the dollar. That means an eat-off-the floor clean house with tidy furnishings, tasteful accessories and well, not much else! It’s hard work, and each agent will offer a slightly different approach or philosophy. On the balance, though, staging is worth the result: a home that sells faster for top dollar.
Question 8: What is your process if you bring an interested buyer?
In the real estate biz, when a listing agent brings a buyer to the table (as opposed to another agent bringing the buyer), this is called “double ending the deal.” In Alberta, we use a process called Transaction Brokerage to facilitate a real estate transaction for a buyer and seller represented by the same agent (and sometimes within the same brokerage, if it’s a common-law office). Whomever you hire to list your home should have a solid grasp on this process. This is because, if you consent to Transaction Brokerage, you forego conventional representation and the agent becomes a transaction facilitator. Big difference.
Make sure your agent can explain this process, along with your options, in detail, ahead of time. You can also ceck the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) website or talk to a licensed REALTOR® if you want more information.
Question 9: What happens when an offer comes in?
How an agent manages the offer and negotiation process is where many homeowners discover the true value of using a real estate agent. Every agent has a unique negotiating style, but ultimately you want someone who will work hard to protect your best interests while remaining calm and professional under pressure. When many thousands of dollars are on the line—along with your sanity—getting angry or making a scene does not ensure a “win” and may bring negotiations to a standstill (or total collapse).
This is also a good time to test your agent’s knowledge of purchase contracts. Every term and conditions that is accepted by you and the buyer needs to be properly articulated in that document. While real estate agents cannot provide legal advice, it is our job to understand specifically how contract terms and conditions impact the sale of your home.
Remember, price is not the only thing that can be negotiated.
Question 10: What happens AFTER we accept an offer to purchase?
Many agents will say that this is when the real work begins. Once an offer is accepted, you need reassurance that the right people are doing the right things at the right time. While the “contract-to-close” process looks different for every real estate transaction, the fundamentals remain the same. Ensure you have a listing agent who isn’t afraid to investigate problems or even pre-empt them if s/he can. Sometimes all it takes to grease the wheels is a strategic phone call or email! And sometimes it takes much more.
There are a lot of people involved in the sale of a home. These often include two lawyers, two lenders, a home inspector, an appraiser, a surveyor, mortgage brokers, another real estate agent, and of course the buyer and seller. There may be even more people involved if the transaction is complex. A good real estate agent is comfortable with a leadership role in this wild and wooly mix!
A Final Closing Thought
We are more than sales people. We are your trusted advisors. Our words are our promise. Your trust is our entire business. As we always say, we do more, because you deserve more. To elevate your real estate results, contact me now or schedule a call.