How to Find the Right Realtor
Once you’ve decided to sell your home, you need a trusted guide by your side. That means it’s time to find a Realtor.
Here we’ll teach you how to find this essential professional to help you pull off this most important of all transactions. Because not all real estate agents are created equal. (They’re not even all Realtors®—that designation is reserved for members of the National Association of Realtors.) Here’s how to find a real estate agent who’s right for you.
There are a lot of real estate agents out there. So how do you choose? Go ahead and ask your pals for referrals, but don’t fall into the trap of picking an agent purely because of rave reviews. The old mantra of location, location, location applies to real estate agents as much as homes.
You want an agent who is very familiar with your general area. The reason is simple: If they’ve spent time in the area, they’ll know how to market your home to buyers searching in the area.
So a better question to ask your friends than “Know any real estate agents?” is, “Know a real estate agent who’s sold any properties in my area in the past few years?”
Test their communication skills
Once you have some potential candidates, email them or call their office, then sit back and wait. This is your first test of a key component: How responsive will your agent be? Ideally, they should get back to you that same day.
If it takes longer than four business hours without a decent explanation, you may want to move on. Imagine if you’ve got competing offers on the table, or if some problem comes up with the home inspection. You don’t want to wonder where your agent is and whether you’ll hear back from them!
Questions to ask a real estate agent
Your initial conversation with a prospective listing agent should be like any job interview: Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions right off the bat. A good agent should know their stats, and any dancing around these numbers could mean they're hiding something. You should ask the following:
- How long have you been in business? Aim for agents with at least two years of experience, enough time to learn the ropes and finesse their marketing and selling strategies. Time (on the job) is money (in your pocket).
- How many homes did you sell last year? Look for agents with double-digit sales. Agents who sell more homes tend to be full-time career agents vs. agents who sell less that 5 homes a year who tend to be part-timers.
- What percentage of your listings do you sell? Ideally, agents sell 100% of their listings. If they sell less that 80% it may indicate the listing was cancelled by the seller or expired due to over-pricing or under marketing.
- What is the average list price to actual sales price ratio for your listings? This can fluctuate by market, but you should still look for high numbers. Set a low bar of 95% to be acceptable for even the worst market conditions.
Plus, everyone knows that to sell a home quickly (and get the big bucks), you need to reach as many eyeballs as you can. And the way to suss out an agent’s ability to do that is to ask these questions:
- How will you market my home? An agent should use at least a good brokerage website to showcase your listing, national listing portals such as Realtor.com®, their MLS and an email subscription list.
- How will you use social media? They should use at least Facebook and Twitter to market listings; they get bonus points if they post photos and videos on Instagram and LinkedIn pages.
- What offline materials do you use? While most marketing is done online now, your agent should still make use of tried-and-true methods such as color brochures, yard signs, and mailers to neighbors, especially at an open house.
- How much do you spend on advertising? Don’t stop asking until you get a solid dollar figure. Advertising costs vary widely by area, but agents should consistently spend a portion of their business expenses on advertising. By asking for a set amount, you’ll know if they’re doing that or not.
Finally, don’t assume the most inexpensive agent is the one for you. While agents work at different price points and some may take a lower commission, they should be confident enough in their abilities to stand by their brokerage fees. So when you’re talking terms, we recommend asking agents if they’ll work on a discount. If they jump at the chance early on in the conversation, that is typically a red flag.
Think about this: If the agent can’t even negotiate to protect their own money, how likely do you think it will be for them to go to bat to protect your money? It’ll be a test of confidence in their own services at least.
Up Next: How Much is My Home Worth?