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How Sellers Should Choose a Real Estate Agent

Dear Marie: I am planning to sell my house. How do I go about choosing a good real estate agent?

You've asked what I think is a very important question. Surprisingly, few sellers make an informed choice. In a 1989 study commissioned by the S.C. Real Estate Commission, Dr. Kay Lawrimore of Francis Marion College surveyed several thousand recent buyers and sellers from all counties in S. C. More than 20 percent responded to her lengthy survey.

Much to my surprise, more than half the respondents found an agent wholly by chance! Predictably, they weren't always pleased. I believe you owe it to yourself to put some effort into finding a person with whom you can work and who will most effectively market your home.

After all, you are turning over your most valuable possession to an agent to whom you will be paying a fair amount of money to represent you.

How do you find one? First, consider the agent who sold the house to you. As a buyer, did you feel that she/'he was effective in representing the seller's interest? Also, ask your friends if they can recommend a particular individual and why. Lastly, visit a few open houses and observe the selling tactics of those agents.

As you narrow your choices, plan to interview at least three different agents. Be frank when you call and explain that you will be talking to several others and that you plan to ask for references from other sellers they have represented.

You'll be amazed at how much you learn at these interviews. Focus on three aspects: their marketing plan, the suggested listing price, and if you can afford to sell at this time.

First, the price: I'm sure that you have one in mind! Did they agree with your price to flatter you or is their suggestion based on properties sold in your neighborhood that are truly comparable to your home? Does their pricing process make sense to you?

Secondly, how do they propose to attract potential buyers to your house? Do they have an extensive internet presence? How else do they market properties? You want them to do more than just put a sign in your yard.

Finally, what are the selling costs? Have an idea of how much you still owe on your mortgage loan and ask to have all your selling costs itemized. You need to determine if you have enough equity to pay all costs and still have enough money left over.

Don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand something. Find out if there are any inexpensive things you can do to make your home more marketable, how and when it will be shown, and how long they predict it will take to sell.

After each interview, make notes to yourself. After you have the information, list the pros and cons of each agent. Although an agent cannot promise to sell your house, she/he can promise to do as much as possible to cause it to be sold.

When you consciously choose an agent based on research and fact, you will feel a lot better during the selling process and will have gone a long way toward ensuring a satisfactory outcome.

Marie S. Spodek, DREI, GRI is a highly regarded real estate educator and author. Her seminars have been attended by thousands throughout the U.S.

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