The Top 10 + 1 Questions Sellers Should Ask an Agent Before Listing Their Home

WHAT are the characteristics of the real estate sales agent most suitable for the job of marketing your property? A large portion of this decision is based on your own personality. Do you want an agent who does high volume but who will have a staff of assistants handle most aspects of your sale? Or would you prefer an agent who is more devoted to meeting your personal needs? Does the agent have a specific plan for marketing your property? Does the agent have a proven track record? Does the agent’s company have a plan for helping you to avoid litigation? Does the agent take extra care in preparing disclosure documents since inadequate disclosure is the source of 95% of real estate litigation? The guidelines below are designed to assist you in making a decision based upon your individual needs.

1. Do you want an agent who does a very high volume of transactions?

Answer: Agents who do high volume have lots of signs in the community and usually generate a large number of calls from those signs. Typically they are busy and well organized. Agents who do high volume will encourage you to price your house at or slightly below the market. Although at first glance this may appear to make their job easier, it is actually the best strategy for achieving not only a quick sale, but the best price for you was well. High volume agents will be present at your listing presentation and when there is an offer presentation. The balance of the time you will be dealing with an assistant who may or may not be licensed. Typically, high volume agents do not sit their own open houses or broker’s caravan because they cannot adequately cover A large inventory alone. Consequently, they must rely on their assistants, loan agents, and title representatives to cover their opens, if they hold them at all.

2. Do you prefer an agent who will give your personal attention or who approaches the real estate business as a numbers game?

Answer: If you are the type of person who prefers a “more personal touch,” you will not want a “numbers game” agent. An agent who is focused on personal service does fewer transactions, but is personally available to handle problems as they occur. They will also be more likely to be present at open houses and broker caravans. Agents who provide their clients with personal attention do not list and sell as much property as those individuals who are “doing the numbers.” Be especially aware of agents who are doing only a few transactions a year. These individuals are not actively negotiating on a regular basis and may not be able to represent you as well as someone who is actively involved with clients.

3. What kind of support do you provide that will help me sell my home faster?

Answer: The best agents will have a ninety-day marketing plan that will include dates for broker caravan, “circle” prospecting time, open houses etc. They will also have a specific plan on how to reach the top brokers in your service area. All agents will run your property in the Multiple Listing Service and advertise in the newspaper. Do not be taken in, however, by the notion that print advertising works. Only 8% of the Buyers come from print advertising. 15% come from the sign in your yard and a whopping 64% come from other agents. Rather than relying on print advertising and the Multiple Listing Service, the best agents spend two to three hours per day door knocking and/or telephone calling to locate buyers for your property.

4. Do you have a written commitment of the services you will provide for me during the marketing and during the escrow on my property?

Answer: Ask them for their “Marketing Pledge” which will include the services they will provide including reports on showing activity, reports on the changes in the market place, progress during negotiations, regular updates throughout the course of escrow, as well as coordination of events at closing. If they are unwilling to commit in writing to what they will do, look for an agent who will give you a written commitment and then follow it.

5. Would you mind giving me the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the last three (five) Sellers you have represented?

Answer: Call and ask the past clients the following questions: (a) Was the agent accessible to you when you felt you needed their attention? (b) Was the final selling price of your home close to the original price the agent suggested that you list at (this question probes whether the agent was realistic in presenting the facts about the market). (c) Did the agent live up to their marketing pledge and did they follow their ninety-day marketing plan? (d) Did you feel that this agent was a strong negotiator? (e) Did your agent listen to your concerns and do their best to address them? (f) Would you recommend this person to your friends?

6. How can I know for sure that the price the agent gives me is correct?

Answer: To have an accurate answer, well prepared agents will provide you with what is known as a “Square Footage Competitive Market Analysis.” From this, the agent will be able to tell you how much your house should bring based upon the other square footage sales data available from the Multiple Listing Service. Also ask for exact information as to whether or not homes in your area are decreasing, staying static, or increasing in price. Ask for the supporting data in writing. Furthermore, ask exactly how much it will cost you to hold your present property considering the present market conditions. Finally, ask them to describe the present “rate of absorption.” This figure describes the probability of selling in any given month based upon current market conditions.

Regardless of who you select to represent you on the sale of your property, pricing it correctly is critical. If you are serious about selling your home, carefully evaluate the comparable sales information. Since the showing activity on your home is the greatest between the second and eighth week of the listing, you are most likely to achieve your best price within the first few weeks of the listing period. “Testing” the market by overpricing will only cause you to lose money.

7. I understand that commissions are negotiable. Why shouldn’t I list my property at 5%?

Answer: Ask each agent you interview this question since it will give you an idea about their negotiation style. Does the agent provide you with hard data as to why this is a bad idea? Does the agent give in without an argument? If so, how strong will they be at the negotiation table on your behalf? Does the agent refuse to discuss it and threaten to walk out? If so, they may not be able to successfully persuade a buyer because they lack negotiation skills. Listing your property at 6% or more is critical in this marketplace. Properties listed at less that 6% are not shown as frequently, take longer to sell, and consequently, may actually sell for less due to less market exposure. Evaluate your agent’s answer to this question to determine how effective they will be in negotiation on your behalf.

8. What kind of support does your company provide that will help me sell my home faster?

Answer: As a Seller, you deserve the best brokerage service available. Full service brokerage should include the following:

  • Dominant market share. Companies that do high volume achieve that volume by providing high levels of service that results in repeat business.
  • Innovative marketing techniques: Does the company provide a “Buyer’s Line,” a service that allows clients to call and obtain information on a listing from the sign in front of your property? Does the company have programs that identify well-priced properties and provide special marketing for those properties?
  • A national referral network that serves virtually every city in the United States and provides relocation services for companies throughout the country.
  • A world-wide international affiliates network that services Buyers from around the world.
  • Superior financial, title, and escrow services.
  •  An REO, foreclosure, or institutional services division that provides special guidance for those Sellers experiencing difficult financial situations.

9. Is having a large market share important?

Answer: YES! Selecting a company with a large market share in your area is important. First, these companies have large numbers of agents who are actively moving property all the time. Second, brokers will usually show listings within their own office due to familiarity as well as ease of scheduling. Third, a company with large market share typically has more programs and better sales support for their clients. If you select an agent who does lots of business individually, but whose company does not have substantial market share, you are severely limiting your exposure by relying on a single individual to sell your home rather than utilizing the power that comes from marketing through a large number of successful agents.

10. Does your company have a plan for helping me to avoid litigation?

Answer: You should only consider listing with companies who have a specific risk management program. Have each agent describe their company’s program. In addition, since 95% of the litigation is over disclosure, ask each agent about the specific disclosure requirements in your state. If the agent is required to make a written disclosure, ask to see a copy of the last disclosure they completed. A disclosure statement that is extremely detailed shows that the agent is focused on providing you with the highest level of protection possible. A short statement demonstrates that the agent is either careless or inadequately trained.

11. Should I sell my property “AS IS”?

Answer: This depends on the condition of your property as well as the practices in your area. Ask your agent if it is an advantage or disadvantage to sell your property “AS-IS”. Be especially careful about personally warranting (or providing a “seller warranty” on the property). Look for the agent who encourages you to disclose everything you know about the property to the buyer. Any attempt to cover up can result in serious financial loss to you. To make sure that you have the maximum protection, require your Buyer to conduct adequate inspections of all aspects of your property. Also, to provide an additional degree of protection, purchase a home warranty policy for the new buyer.
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