How to Find the Right Person to Sell Your House

Your guide to hiring the listing agent who can set you up for success.

Finding a Listing Agent Who's Right for You
Image: HouseLogic

Your home is where you’ve lived and loved, where you’ve laughed and cried, where you’ve huddled and snuggled. You’re the pea, your home is the pod. And you’ve been through a lot together.

Now that it’s time to put it on the market, you’re likely experiencing some sadness, plus plenty of anxiety. Because really: How often does your future depend on selling your past? If you’re a little overwhelmed, we don’t blame you.

But there’s also good news: You don’t have to go it alone. 

A listing agent has your back when it comes to the financials, like setting a listing price and marketing, staging, and making repairs to your house. He or she can also help you navigate more personal issues, such as your timeline, and what you’re hoping to achieve with the sale.  

For all of those reasons, it’s important to find an expert who is right for you and your specific situation, and who can help you get what you want. Here’s how.

Know What a Listing Agent Can Do for You

Before you start interviewing prospective agents, have a clear sense of what you want to get out of the selling process. When so much money is on the table, it’s crucial to know what your goals are, so that you can find an agent who really speaks to them.

Then, it helps to understand what a listing agent does (other than sell your most valuable asset — no big deal).

The listing agent will: 

  • Work with you to price your home
  • Market your home (we’re talking pretty pictures, social media promo, cute staging — the works)
  • Negotiate with home buyers
  • Usher the home sale through inspection and closing

Now, let’s break all of that down . . .

Pricing your home. This is the BIG question, right? How do I set the price? The short answer is you’ll need to trust your agent to recommend a smart listing price. 

So how can you tell whether an agent — a relative stranger to you — is choosing the best price for your home? You need to do two things:

  1. Know, generally speaking, what your property is worth. Do your own research on the prices of local comps, (but understand the limits of online property sites). Run your info by your agent for an informed perspective. 
  2. Ask the agent for pricing information on homes he or she has recently sold. Specifically, what the differences were between their listing prices and how much the homes ultimately sold for. 

When it comes to the agent’s pricing history, you’re looking for accuracy. Anyone could suggest a high price for your home, knowing it’s what you’d like to hear. But nobody (especially you) wants to have a house languish on the market, or to reduce a price repeatedly.

Marketing your home. The listing agent will also get the word out that your house is on the market, using a combination of old-school (but powerful) marketing techniques — such as direct mail, signage, and open houses — and the modern methods we know and love, like social media. Savvy agents will post pics of your house on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and any other platform that can get likes plus the attention of other real estate agents who can bring buyers to the table.

Negotiating with buyers. When offers start pouring in, your agent will negotiate with prospective buyers on not only the sale price but also on what contingencies (aka special circumstances) are attached to the contract. As with any negotiation, there could be some stressful, fraught moments with the buyers. You’ll want an agent who can step up for you, and who has a negotiation style that you’re comfortable with.

Closing the sale. Once you’ve signed a purchase agreement with a buyer (woo-hoo!), your agent will help you navigate the sale’s remaining steps. This includes negotiating home repair requests post inspection and dealing with any last-minute surprises before closing.

The average listing agent does all of the above. A great listing agent does all of the above, while also inspiring your confidence — that they’re getting the best price for you, and that they’re representing you and your home in the best possible light. 

So, let’s talk about how to find and hire that kind of agent.

Ask These Questions to Find a Great Listing Agent

Here, time is on your side. Aim to hire a listing agent six to eight weeks — or more — before the day your house is listed on the market (also known as the “go-live date”). You’ll be grateful for the cushion, especially if the agent you ultimately hire recommends that you make repairs or upgrades to your home before it’s listed. (That wouldn’t be unusual.)

To find prospective agents, start with your network. Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues for recommendations. Word-of-mouth endorsements, as always, can be priceless.

You can also turn to another trusted friend: the internet. Property websites such as realtor.com® have directories that let you search for agents in your area. These databases can clue you into important details, such as an agent’s years of experience, number of homes sold, and past client reviews.

Three out of four home sellers only contact one candidate before picking their listing agent, according to a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® report. While that may be the norm, it’s smarter to shop around. Interview at least three agents before deciding on the one you want to work with. 

During the interviews, ask these questions to help assess whether an agent is the right fit you:

  • Do you work as an agent full-time? As in most professions, work experience doesn’t guarantee skill. That said, much of real estate is learned on the job.
  • How long have you been in the business? Generally, the more experience an agent has, the more they’re tapped into the local market. 
  • How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood in the past year? You don’t need to find an agent who specializes only in your community, though that would be ideal. You do want someone who has recently sold at least a few homes in your neighborhood and knows the local and hyper-local inventory.
  • What’s the typical price range of homes you sell? Most agents work across multiple price points, but you don’t want an agent who has never sold a home in your range.
  • What’s your fee? An agent should be able to articulate their value and explain their commission rate.  
  • How will you market my home? You don’t want to hire someone who’s just going to stick a For Sale sign in your yard and call it a day. The agent should present a comprehensive marketing plan for your listing. This should include strategies for staging your home, taking professional photographs of your home, promoting the listing on social media, marketing to other brokers, and scheduling open houses.
  • Will I be working with you directly, or with a team? Some agents lead or work as part of a sales team. The lead listing agent shares client responsibilities with other agents. Where one agent may handle private showings for a listing, another may host open houses. A benefit is that for the same fee, you get many people working for you. But if you want the sole attention of the listing agent, you may want to stick to a one-on-one arrangement. 
  • Will you provide one-on-one service? Whether you’re working with one agent or a team, ask how responsive they can be to you, your timeline, and your goals.
  • How long on average are your listings on market? Your average sold-to-list price? This can help you suss out whether the agent is a solid marketer and negotiator. These are real estate stats that the agent can pull from your local multiple listing service, or MLS. 

The bottom-line: It’s in your best interest to pick an agent who understands your goals, fits your personality, and can get your home sold for top dollar. When you meet someone who can offer all of the above, congratulations — you’ve found your listing agent.

First Thing: Know What You’re Signing up For

Now that you know what you’re getting when you find the right listing agent, let’s make sure you know what you’re committing to when you sign that agent’s “representation agreement.”

The most common type of representation agreement is the exclusive right-to-sell agreement — a legally binding contract that states you’re going to use that agent to sell your house. Under this agreement, you’re giving the agent (and the agent’s brokerage) the right to sell the home for a mutually agreed-upon time period and compensation. IOW: You get peace of mind that you have a dedicated agent; the agent gets peace of mind that you’re only using their services. Other common terms include the agent’s duties to you, like marketing, and a dispute resolution plan.

There are other types of representation agreements, where agents don’t have exclusive rights to sell the property — meaning multiple agents can try to sell the home and compete for the commission. However, when agents know a listing is exclusively theirs, they’re fully invested in selling the property (which, again, should also give you peace of mind).

Every contract has an expiration date, but the length of the contract can vary. Some are three-months; others six months. It all depends on what you and the agent agree upon. If the contract expires before your house is sold, you can re-list your home with another agent. 

Of course, there’s a chance you sign an exclusive listing agreement but just aren’t satisfied with the job your agent is doing. To protect yourself, make sure the representation agreement has a cancellation or termination clause that lets you void the contract before the expiration date without any financial penalty.

Understand How a Listing Agent Gets Paid

So  . . . at the end of the day, how do listing agents get compensated for their work? 

Real estate commissions — including the listing agent’s commission — are typically charged as a percentage of the home’s sales price. For example, on a $300,000 house, a 6% commission would cost $18,000. Commissions are negotiable. The commission is usually split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent as well as their respective brokers. 

A caveat: If an agent represents the seller and the buyer, the agent becomes a dual agent and earns both sides of the commission. In dual agency, you may have more room to negotiate the rate — just keep in mind that you’re not being represented exclusively as you are in single agency. You may want to hire an attorney to review documents and help you negotiate.

The listing agent’s commission fee often covers the cost of professional photos, marketing and marketing materials, and any administrative fees charged by the agent’s brokerage. 

Also, consider this: Great agents — with their pretty photography, HGTV-worthy staging tricks, and marketing smarts — earn their keep. 

So, if you’ve read all of the above, you’ve done your homework to find a great agent. Now you’re ready to sell that house.

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HOUSELOGIC

HouseLogichelps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible. 

Making a Good Buying Decision

c21
Hello,

Making a good home buying decision is crucial when looking for a new home.

Sometimes we want something so badly, we’re not willing to ask all the questions we should.

Here are a few tips to consider :

1. Visit at various times of day
The windows that let in so much light during the day may be a peeping Tom’s dream at night. That seemingly quiet residential street may be a noisy, highway-feeder street during morning or evening rush hour; or it may be near impossible to get from your quiet street across traffic and onto the feeder street in the morning. The adjacent school may seem like a nice perk if you’re buying in the summer, but during the school year, daily playground noise and extra traffic may be more than you bargained for.

2. Look through recent newspaper archives
“Make sure you’re getting information on what you can’t see,” Levine suggests. Perhaps the municipal water well that feeds your neighborhood has high levels of contaminants or a proposed high-voltage power line may soon be coming through your back yard. You can also check with the city or county to see if there are any proposed projects.

3. Talk to neighbors
How many people in the neighborhood own their homes? Sometimes it’s hard to tell at first if you’re choosing a neighborhood that’s primarily rental houses.

4. Ask if the neighborhood has an association
“Is there a newsletter for it? How often does the neighborhood get together? Do they have a block party every year? “Even if you don’t plan to attend, the fact that they’re having a gathering says they care about their community, that they want to get to know each other, that they’re willing to socialize that way. People who behave that way are building a community. They’re going to look out for your kids; they’re going to look out for your house. It’s a nice, safe way to celebrate something.”

5. Quiz the sellers
What problems are they aware of that the house had in the past – even if they’ve been fixed? An ice dam five years ago may have caused water damage that has since been repaired. But it’s good to know that the house may be prone to ice dams so you can take preventive measures rather than find out the hard way. Discovering the basement flooding was solved by building up the landscaping in a particular area will prevent you from leveling the ground there in later years.

6. Get a home inspection
Virtually all houses have defects, according to National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents. Some will be obvious and most will be curable. But knowing what needs fixing can help you negotiate a lower price – or at least prepare you for costs you’re soon to incur. Strongly consider getting inspections, too, for lead paint, radon and wood-eating pests.

7. Get detailed records on past improvements
This isn’t always possible. But if you’re told the house’s exterior was painted two years ago – and then see a receipt noting the whole project cost just $1,000 – then you’ll be forewarned that cheaper materials were used and that you may be looking at repainting sooner than you thought.

8. Don’t just assume remodeling will be a snap
If you voice your ideas to the sellers, you may be able to glean valuable insights. For instance, perhaps that shower is in an odd location because, when remodeling 10 years ago, the previous owners discovered a costly structural impediment to putting a shower where it would seem more appropriate.

9. Consider the view
“So many neighborhoods now have teardowns. So look at the two houses on either side of you. If this neighborhood has had some teardowns, one of those houses might be a candidate. And they may build some behemoth structure that affects your light or the way your house looks or your view,” Levine says.

10. Ask for utility bills
You may adore the Cape Cod architectural style or the high ceilings and walls of glass in a modern home – but those winter heating and summer cooling bills may push your monthly payments beyond affordable. Ditto for the water bills you’ll pay to maintain a pristine landscape.

11. Pay close attention to taxes
Don’t just ask what the seller’s most recent tax bill was; ask what several recent tax bills have been. In some areas, houses are re-appraised – and taxed at higher rates – frequently. That great deal and good investment may not seem quite so grand if the property taxes skyrocket year after year. Again, look at newspaper archives or talk to your Realtor about the way taxes are used in this area. In some cities, schools are substantially funded through property taxes – which means you can count on yours increasing regularly.

12. Check with city hall
NAEBA recommends looking into the property’s and neighborhood’s zoning, as well as any potential easements, liens or other restrictions relating to your property. The seller should disclose these facts, but it’s better to be safe. If you’re using a buyer’s agent, he or she should be able to help you with this.

13. Reconsider the bells and whistles
Are you sure you can live with a one-car garage, or a detached garage, or on-street parking? The pool may be a nice bonus, but can you afford the upkeep?

14. Explore the surrounding area
If you’re not just making a cross-town move, you may not know that only three blocks away, this pretty neighborhood backs up to a dumpy commercial area or a less-than-savory part of town. If the home is near an airport, fire station, police station, hospital or railroad track, expect to hear trains, planes or ambulances throughout the day and night. Make sure you’re not too close to an agricultural area that may generate odors or kick up dust or other airborne problems.

Scott Myers
Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers
(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222
email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com

San Antonio Housing Market and Texas Business Climate – STILL STRONG!

The following excerpts from a recent update from the SAN ANTONIO BOARD OF REALTORS® attest to the continued strength of the San Antonio housing market, as well as the overall business climate in Texas.

November Home Sales Hold Steady as Holidays Approach
The San Antonio housing market is poised to close out the year strong with 1,531 single-family homes sold in November 2012, a 21 percent increase compared to the November 2011 sales. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAIL >>

Texas Ranks in Forbes’ Top 10 States For Business
The Lone Star State ranked seventh on a new Forbes list that measures the business climate in each state across the country. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE>>

 

If you are considering a move to San Antonio, or if you are already here and would like to discuss buying or selling a home, give me a call or e-mail me and I will put you in touch with one of my experienced agents to get the process started. Now is a great time to take advantage of our strong housing market and vibrant economy!

Scott Myers

Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com

Old-Fashioned Fun in San Antonio

Recently on a recommendation from a friend, my wife and I visited the factory outlet of San Antonio Shoes (also known as SAS). He told us that it was much more than just a shoe store, and that it would be worth the drive across town. Was he ever right! The SAS Shoe Factory and General Store, located at 101 New Laredo Highway 78224, is the site of the factory where SAS shoes are made for distribution to their world-wide retail network. But it is also an old-time country store & gift shop, snack bar and ice cream parlor. There are also a dozen or so antique/classic cars on display, many restored to show-room condition. The snack bar has prices that haven’t been seen in decades (e.g. a cup of coffee for a nickel; a bag of popcorn or peanuts for a dime; a soda pop for a quarter). The gift shop has a great selection of books, gifts, clothing, jams & jellies, grilling sauces, etc.

 

Oh, I almost forgot, they also have most of their line of high-quality shoes for sale, many priced below their regular retail prices. So if you’re looking for a great deal on shoes, would like a factory tour, or just want a couple of hours of old-fashioned fun – check it out. You can call for their store hours and find out about factory tours at (210) 924-6507, or visit their Web site at www.sasshoes.com.

 

And when you’re finished looking at shoes, old cars and browsing the SAS Country Store, give me a call when you are ready to sell your home or find a great deal on real estate in the San Antonio area.

Scott Myers, Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

Email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com

Ten Suggestions for Selecting a Real Estate Agent

Selecting a real estate broker or agent is an important first step in buying or selling your home. Here are some helpful suggestions for finding an agent who will meet your needs and make your buying or selling experience a positive one:

1.      Ask friends and family for recommendations.

2.      Interview several real estate agents:

  • Find out their history with the brokerage, their experience and background.
  • Gauge their knowledge of your neighborhood (if selling) or search area (if buying).
  • Ask the agent to provide references (previous clients).

3.      Pay attention to whether a potential agent is listening closely to what you say.

  • Is he or she asking follow-up questions that prompt further explanation and help him or her understand exactly your needs and wants?

4.      Give a potential agent the opportunity to educate you.

  • A good agent should walk a customer through the buying or selling process before ever showing properties or discussing a specific transaction.

5.      Have a good idea of what you expect from an agent and communicate those expectations.

  • How often do you want to hear from your agent?
  • How do you want to hear from your agent (e.g. phone, e-mail, text)?
  • Do you want to hold meetings at your house rather than the real estate office?

6.      Weigh the benefits of working with an experienced agent versus a novice.

  • An experienced agent may have more insight, but a new agent may have innovative ideas or more energy and time.

7.      Find an agent who complements your personality.

  • If you like to start your day at 7:00 a.m., don’t choose an agent who arrives to the office at 10:00 a.m.
  • If your preferred method of communication is e-mail, don’t choose an agent whose most advanced technology is a fax machine.

8.      Evaluate the agent’s firm and/or office.

  • Look for a real estate organization whose agents can empower you with real estate expertise and resources and provide first-rate customer service.

9.      Look for an agent who will be your partner.

  • Find someone you trust, who will give you the facts, help you make intelligent, well-informed decisions and work with you throughout the entire process.

10.  DO NOT just blindly walk into or call a neighborhood firm and ask for an agent at random.

When you are ready to start your home search or put your home on the market, give me a call or e-mail me. I will listen to your needs and requirements, and select one of my knowledgeable agents to help you get the process started.

Scott Myers, Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

Email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com