If you’re considering selling your home, you’ve probably also been thinking about how to go about finding the right real estate agent to help.
Choosing precisely the right real estate representation makes a bigger difference than you might ever imagine. So where does one begin?
DEFINING A TOP AGENT
REALTORS banter around the term “Top Agent” quite loosely—Top 1%, Top 10%, etc. They earn that title for dollar volume in sales—not any independent measurement of the quality of their work or survey from past clients. In the Bay Area, most agents surpass any threshold for earning the Top award distinction due to the median sales prices—not the they are any better than their colleagues in Kansas who need to sell 10 times the number of homes to garner that distinction.
Discard any idea of using on-line companies that recommend agents or say they will “find” you a perfect match. These are nothing more than companies extorting money from agents to be in their directory. They are not recommending the best agents, but rather the ones willing to pay to be recommended.
YELP tends to do the same thing. Although the reviews are organic in nature, agents must pay to be listed at the top of the search, even though they are often far from top agents.
Agents with the most listings or yard signs in a neighborhood are also not necessarily the agent doing the best job, they’re just getting the most attention.
Doing a native on-line search is more time consuming, but it will yield you the best results. Search for local agents that have been in the business long enough to have learned the ropes at someone else’s expense. Any real training of agents happens in the field, not the classroom. Look for examples of their work product on their own web sites—video tours, photos, and descriptive informational pieces.
Once you’ve found an agent you’d like to meet with, reach out and set up an initial meeting. Don’t call three of four agents all at once. It takes hours to prepare for a meeting and you’re wasting agents’ valuable time.
If you’re not happy with the first agent you meet, by all means contact another.
No two REALTORS are the same and each one acts essentially as their own independent contractor. They develop a business plan on their own and so you’re really hiring the agent, not the company they work for.
Are their differences in the companies’ agents work for? Sure, but far less important than the agents you’re hiring. Most agents will focus on how big (or small) their company is—how much “market share” and how much “technology” they have but how does that really benefit you?
The fact is most agents are capable of selling your home in this seller’s market, but the service they offer and the attention to detail and marketing varies greatly.
With that invariably comes differing degrees of success and results.
SELECTING AN AGENT—WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK
These are the questions most sellers are prepared to ask:
- How much do you charge?
- What do you think my home is worth?
More detailed sellers might throw in a few more:
- How long have you been in business?
- In what cities do you specialize?
- Do you work with mostly sellers, or buyers?
- Do you have referrals with whom we may speak?
And that’s pretty much the extent of most sellers’ questions. The two which paradoxically seem to carry the most weight are two sellers always ask—how much is my home worth and what do you charge. These are two very important questions, but they should have little to do with choosing an agent. You can always find a discount agent to sell your home and you will most certainly get cut rate service and results as well.
The price the agent tells you your home is worth should also have little to do with whether you hire them. You get to pick the asking price for your home and if you’ve watched sales in your neighborhood, you probably have a pretty good idea at what price homes are selling.
Be careful not to decide on your agent based solely on the highest estimated sale price you hear, since that agent may not know your market or could be trying to “buy” your listing—meaning they are trying to get you to list with them under the pretense that they can magically get more for your home just by asking for it. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
Buyers choose the price they are willing to pay for your home—not you as a seller or your agent!
We’ve heard sellers say, “We’re going to hire the REALTOR that sold our friends house—they said that they liked him and felt that he did a good job.”
And perhaps they did do a good job, but then again maybe the seller just thought because they received multiple offers well over the asking price that they must have done a good job. But could they have done better?
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION
Results. Before you’d consider having any important surgery done, wouldn’t you like to know what your Doctor’s survival rate is for his patients? How many operations has she performed? How much they charge would probably be the least of your concerns, so long as you survive to pay the bill.
Wouldn’t it be nice before booking a flight to know how long the pilot has been flying and how many hours they’ve logged?
Any agent can proclaim to be the best, or sell their listings for more in a shorter period of time, but you need to ask for proof.
IT DOESN’T GET UGLIER THAN THIS
These sellers probably thought their agent did a good job as well. After all, they received $126,000 over asking!
When the sellers hired these agents, they no doubt never expected this shoddy work product would be what they received—and we can all but guarantee that it’s not what was promised.
This is what is referred to as a Moral Hazard—wherein under the contractual protection of a listing agreement an agent takes advantage of their client—promising one thing and doing another.
But as bad as the photo of the home on its side may be, the agents went on to boast in the private comments (in red) to all agents, that had they waited to hear offers, they would have received three more—and one back-up offer was for $25,000 more than the early offer they may have steered their seller into accepting. To add insult to injury, when they went back into the listing to amend the comments with self-aggrandized accolades once it closed, they still never took the time to fix the photo. So great job Dino!
This may be a gross example of agents taking advantage of a seller, but many agents are guilty of taking the path of least resistance, (e.g. work), to get paid.
We can’t count how many times we’ve represented a buyer, delivered an offer only to receive a call late at night that the seller accepted a different offer. Many times, if the agent had reached out to us, our buyers would have stepped up in price and the seller would have received even more for their home.
We often download disclosures for our buyers which is an indication that we have a very interested party. An offer date is set and we rarely if ever receive a call from the listing agents asking if our buyers are interested in making an offer, and if not, why.
BROKER TOUR, OPEN HOUSES & ADVERSE SELECTION
Agents will probably tell you that they will hold open your home for all agents to view on a special day referred to as “Broker Tour Day”. They may even tell you that they will serve food to attract the masses. And unless you ask if they will be present—they usually won’t. Agent Teams that have someone different for every aspect of the job are especially guilty of this. Many times, they don’t even go that far—they have a vendor such as a mortgage company hold open the home so they don’t have to bother being present. Other times we’ve seen the “Catered Broker Tour Lunch” promised to the seller relegated to a tray of stale sandwiches on a counter with the agent nowhere to be found. Being present at an open house is critical to answer other agents’ questions about the home.
Unfortunately, these breaches in moral behavior are more common than not.
YOU CAN DO BETTER
Do your homework. Research agents organically on-line to see what work product they are capable of and delivering. Then, be armed with the best questions most agents are ill prepared to answer.
If you’re interested in receiving a list of questions every seller should be asking, we’d be glad to deliver 35 of the best questions when we meet in-person for our initial visit.
Here’s a preview…
Drew & Christine Morgan are REALTORS/NOTARY PUBLIC in Belmont, CA. with more than 25 years of experience in helping sellers and buyers in their community. As Diamond recipients, Drew and Christine are ranked in the top 50 RE/MAX agents nationwide and the top 3 in Northern California. They may be reached at (650) 508.1441 or emailed at email@example.com.
The information contained in this article is educational and intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute real estate, tax, insurance or legal advice, nor does it substitute for advice specific to your situation. Always consult an appropriate professional familiar with your scenario.