How on earth does the consumer choose an agent? With so much hype, smoke and mirrors that the actually process can seem about as clear as mud. Sadly, there is no foolproof way to do so, but there are pros and cons to any method. Here are some typical methods that sellers seem to use:
You have a friend who just got licensed.…and he/she acts as if she already owns your listing….so why not?
Watch out here…your friend may be very competent – but competence and excellence are things that are often learned on-the-job in this field. Does your friend know the market well? Have they marketed a home for sale before? If prices are depreciating and your friend doesn’t know how to market and price your home, you are losing money every week you have this person as your agent. This should not be a decision based on friendship. A lot of money is at stake. But take heart – I do offer a possible solution to this dilemma later on.
You look for someone who is a top producer:
This can be done in various ways. You can look for an agent who has fliers out saying they are #1. You can count yard signs or you can try to find out who has made the most in gross commission or who has the highest sales volume in your area. This is all well and good. But you need to know what you are getting. Being #1 in listings is meaningless unless they sell. In fact everyone can be #1 for something if they think about it long enough. Many top producers built their businesses on trust and did it the old-fashioned way – they earned it. But others, not so much.
You Go to Zillow, Trulia or some other “trusted site” to pick an agent:
People trust these sites far more than they should. Ask yourselves just how trustworthy any site that features “Zestimates” that have a 25% margin of error can be? Picking an agent this way is a crap shoot. Don’t do it. We all seem to have a child-like trust of high ranking websites. They found it on the web, so it must be true. The public seems to have a vision of some nice person at Zillow or Trulia hand picking and vetting agents in every location in the country. Not so. Agents PAY for these spots. If they have the green – no questions are asked. This is not a good way to pick an agent.
These are issues that are often overlooked by sellers, but they can shed light on who is best suited to list and sell your home.
Ask to look at previous or current MLS listings:
In my previous post about what rocks and what flops in terms of marketing – I put the MLS at the top of the list. So ask to see some examples of MLS listings. PHOTOS sell homes. Is it full of great photos of the home and even the neighborhood? Is there a slide show? Buyers want pictures, pictures, pictures! Is the copy decent? Remember that they have very few words for a description – but look to see if it is informative and not filled with cliches like “won’t last long” or “a must see.” If this is well done, then it is a sign that your home will be well-marketed.
Look at production – but get the full picture:
On questions of production – let’s get back to basics. You are calling an agent to help you sell your home not just list it. Looking at raw sales is only half the picture. Ask to see expired listings as well. This will give you an idea of the listing to sales ratio. Some agents with lower sales volume actually have excellent, if not superlative, track records when it comes to actually getting what they listed sold. Sometimes they leave top producers in the dust. Anyone can take a listing. If you have a “name” the chances are greater that you will have a lot of opportunities to list. Throw enough things up against a wall and something will stick eventually. But that doesn’t help you if 75% of what they list fails to sell. Agents can get overextended.
A caveat is needed here. Know that where this agent lists and what they list impacts those values. An agent who is taking on a lot of distressed property is going to have a higher failure ratio. Do not hold that against them. Ask for clarification and why the numbers are what they are. Listen carefully to what the agent says. You are not trying to create the Spanish Inquisition, but you are asking for clarity.
Look at the ratio of list to sales price:
Ask for listing histories. Did this agent promise one thing and then jawbone the price down inch by inch? This is particularly important when you find an agent that promises the moon and the stars. Remember, agents don’t have the power to create or make a market. We can only respond to what the current market conditions are. We all make mistakes. What you are looking for is a pattern not an individual instance. If you see rapid price drops at the beginning of a listing, that’s a clue that the agent was honest with the seller, but the seller needed to see the reality of the market for themselves. They probably agreed to a rapid price reduction if they didn’t get showings and offers. If some one is listing things 20-30% above the final sales price on a routine basis for months – that’s a problem. Ask agents to clarify what happened. Once again, you want to understand the pattern not be accusatory.
If you have a friend who really needs business…
I understand the desire to work with them – and offer a possible solution. If you feel you want to give your friend a break, suggest a co-listing with an experienced agent. If they will agree to that – then you can help your friend and rest easy that the listing is in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. Remember that new agents are trained to cling to their friends who might be selling like crazy glue. So don’t let that put you off. One of the problems in our industry is that there are far too many agents for the business available and getting started is treacherously difficult.
© 2012 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – http://thewestchesterview.com – All rights reserved.