“Thank you for your helpful columns about how to buy and sell homes and other real estate issues. We are going to put our place up for sale soon and would appreciate knowing how you personally would go about picking an agent to sell your own home.”
-A long-time Santa Monica homeowner
I would begin by thinking of it as an employment process, since I would be comparing different agents to hire for the job. I would keep in mind that the sale of my largest financial asset is involved, so the decision warrants my being very thorough in the interview/selection process. I would give it as much attention and time as I would in selecting a doctor or attorney for a special medical or legal situation.
First, I would develop a list of three or four well-researched candidates to interview. These may come from various sources, such as: consistent presence in local newspaper ads and other publications, and people I know whose opinion I respect.
Next, I would visit each candidate’s personal website and note how easy it is to navigate and whether the content seems current. I would see if their listing have any special or upgraded presence on Realtor.com. I might also test their online response time by sending a brief e-mail requesting information.
• I would also prepare a list of questions to ask all of them, and begin asking them with my first phone call. These would include:
• What is your track record for the last two years?
• What preparations do you recommend before putting a home on the market?
• How do you propose marketing a house?
• Do you use a pricing strategy?
• Do you provide staff or team support?
• How available are you personally?
• What is your marketing sales success ratio and escrow “fall-out” ratio?
• How many ads per month will you guarantee and what publications will they be in?
• Why should I list my home with you?
Of course I might not get very far in that list on an initial call, but I would cover as much as possible. That call may help to eliminate a candidate before taking the time to actually meet.
I might drop by the office of the remaining candidates to see how their work environment feels. I would be watchful for evidence of good systems in place and a generally positive atmosphere.
I also might see how prompt they are in returning phone calls. I would request any information they have available that I could review before scheduling an appointment. By going over their “pre-listing” materials, I may be able to narrow the field down more, or at least have further insight about the quality and type of information each agent has available. I would also ask for a list of references and phone numbers.
I would have any remaining candidates meet me at my home. During this visit I would:
• Get a feeling for how much the agent seems to care about me and my best interests.
• Notice how detail-minded they are in their tour of my home and in taking notes.
• See if they ask good questions and offer a consultative approach.
• Try to sense if I would feel comfortable with their style, and confident that they will represent me well.
• Get some suggestions about how to get my home ready for marketing.
• Get a thorough explanation with many examples of how they would market my home.
• Get their initial opinion of what my home might sell for now and if they have any pricing strategy to suggest.
• Find out what their usual commission is and how it is distributed.
If I wasn’t sure which agent suited my needs best at that point, I would call two or three of the references each remaining candidate gave me. Their answers to a few questions might clarify which agent to select.
I would then hire my best choice, giving them at least a three-month initial employment period. I would also cooperate fully in helping get my property ready for marketing and be flexible in accommodating showings whenever practical.
I feel confident that in following these steps to interview and select an agent to represent me, I would be very satisfied with the results. Good luck to you!
Michael Edlen is ranked in the top 25 percent of Coldwell Banker nationwide, and he helps over 40 clients successfully move each year. He and his team can be reached at 310.230.7373 or at email@example.com. More tips and real estate information is on his website www.MichaelEdlen.com