Choosing the right real estate agent to list your home is a big decision. Clients are often asked to enter into a long-term contract for the sale of their single largest asset with few specifics and no guarantees. That said, there are some key questions to ask candidates to help you find the right real estate agent.
Background, Experience and Statistics
Experience matters. There are many moving parts to a listing, so it takes experience to get it right and anticipate issues or opportunities. An experienced agent will know how to prepare and market your property in a savvy manner, getting the best price possible. Plus, agents who handle a large number of listings each year often receive priority pricing and service from contractors and other professionals, resulting in a savings for the client. All Realtors® have ready access to statistics and data and should be able to provide prospective sellers with personal statistics, such as:
• Number of homes sold in the area (ask for an MLS printout for the past 5 years)
• Average price per square foot
• Average days on the market
• Average price above or below the initial list price
The ability to see a home’s potential and make cost-effective improvements is another benefit of listing with an experienced agent. With time and cost constraints in mind, an agent with a strong team and quality connections can give your property an advantage over listing with a less experienced agent. Asking for “before and after” pictures of homes and their vendor connections can help demonstrate an agent’s work firsthand.
Will They Double-End?
Under California law, the same individual agent is permitted to represent both the buyer and the seller on the same real estate transaction; in real estate parlance this is called “double-ending.” However, this can lead to conflicts of interest and the potential for significant financial damages to the client. Real estate attorneys are all too familiar with situations when doubleending listing agents violated their fiduciary duty to a client, either tempted by the lure of a double commission or an inability to anticipate complications. Although theoretically possible and certainly legal, it is difficult to imagine how an agent can zealously advocate for both clients while protecting confidential information. Thus, asking about an agent’s policy on doubleending is important and will enable the parties to enter the listing with their eyes wide open.
At a recent panel, the manager from another real estate office proudly touted his office’s policy, which is that the listing agents must stop advising their clients and switch to the buyer side as soon as they know one of their buyers is going to submit an offer. Under this system, the manager then steps in to review the offers with the sellers and © 2016 DeLeon Realty – DeLeon Insight July 2016 7 advise them on how to proceed.
While some sellers may feel abandoned by their agent in this case and object to being advised by someone who doesn’t know the property, competing properties, or the sellers’ situation, other sellers may be willing to accept this solution because they like their agent and want them to get twice the commission.
Needless to say, at DeLeon Realty, we make sure the same individual agent is never advising both the buyer and the seller on the same transaction. Also, the listing agent never receives any additional compensation based on which offer gets accepted.
All agents can say they “invest heavily” in marketing their listings, but what does that mean? An experienced agent should be willing and able to give a detailed plan, including:
• how many and what size ads will the agent run (and in which publications) to promote the property each week of the listing contract? Ads may seem expensive, but they are an effective tool in drumming up interest in the property. Generally, agents cover 100 percent of these costs, so some agents shy away.
• what will the brochures look like? Professionally printed in full color? Two pages? Four pages? 32 pages?
• which photographer will be used?
• will the agent advertise the property on TV? Television commercials are a very powerful way to reach potential buyers who are not actively searching the MLS.
• will there be a professional video tour (versus a photo-only virtual tour) and, if so, which production company will be utilized?
• what will the property website look like?
• what is included in the agent’s online marketing campaign?
• what does the agent offer at open houses to increase attendance?
• how will they reach the international community?
While these are only a few of potential marketing techniques, agents who are willing to answer these types of questions with specificity tend to invest more time and money in promoting their properties. Simply put, agents who give non-committal answers are less likely to get quality results.
Length of Listing Contract
Savvy sellers may want to avoid signing long-term listing contracts because some agents are less aggressive if they know that they have the sellers locked in for an extended period of time. A shorter contract period, however, can serve as a motivating factor for the agent. In most circumstances, a properly prepared and marketed home in this area should sell within 45 days, so a healthy listing agreement term is often 60 days or less (generally, agents request more time if in the hills or at higher price points). An agent with a shorter contract will have additional incentive to perform well because satisfied clients will be happy to relist the property with the same agent even if the home doesn’t sell. The DeLeon Team only requests 39 days, starting on the day the home hits the MLS.
As with selecting a buyer agent, it is wise for the selling client to interview several agents before making a choice. Providing each agent with the same questions will enable the potential seller to better compare and contrast the agents in a neutral fashion. Don’t accept scripted or canned answers. This up-front time may seem like a hassle, but the dividends will more than pay off in money, time, and avoided stress.