Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s the fairest listing agent of all…Part 2

What Rocks & What Flops
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What Rocks & What Flops

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In my previous blog on choosing a listing agent, I explained why agents sell homes – not brokerages. If that’s the case, then the issue uppermost in most seller’s minds should be:

How do I choose a good listing agent?

How do you find an agent who is worth their weight in gold rather than straw? You need to learn about what what rocks and what flops when it comes to listing agents.

Here are some tips on what to look for and what to avoid:

What to avoid in a real estate agent:

  1. Avoid an agent who relies too heavily on brokerage marketing and keeps saying “my brokerage this” and “my brokerage that.” Chances are they are leaning on some very meager internal support to sell the home.
  2. Avoid any agent who suggests a listing price way above what other agents have suggested. No agent can sell a home for more than the market can bear. Even if you could find an appropriate buyer, the lender also has to approve the price and a lot of contracts are falling apart because the appraisal came in low. Some sellers are desperate to hear what they want to hear so they fall prey to the “Oh, I can get you more than agent X.” The agent who does this is more than likely to take the listing and disappear – only to reappear in order to get a price reduction. Some agents collect listings. Throw a couple of dozen up against a wall and maybe 25-30% will stick! That’s a good way for the agent to survive a bad market, but it doesn’t help you sell your home.
  3. Avoid agents who are literally all over the map. I personally cover most of lower Westchester – and pockets of middle Westchester with several areas of concentration. I don’t try to cover upper Westchester and beyond. Why? I can’t possibly learn all the ins and outs of every single village, town and city in the county. Also, how often am I going to visit a listing that is 35 miles away? Answer: as little as possible!
  4. Avoid the “top producer” syndrome. Just because someone has a lot of listings, doesn’t mean they are “better.” Since many agents buy listings by over promising, you need to know a lot more than how many homes they sold or have on listing roster.
  5. Be wary of anyone who trumpets their own accomplishments too much. I had a minister who once said “empty vessels make the loudest noise.” This truly applies to real estate agents.

What to look for in a real estate agent:

  1. Look for an agent who will take a look at your home and immediately try to present the home in its best light. They should be making suggestions about lighting, painting, furniture placement and small upgrades that can make a huge difference.
  2. Look for an agent who does their homework and checks with the municipality to see if that bathroom in your basement is legal or whether that deck you put on the back of your home is up to code.
  3. Look for an agent who knows the area. It’s a particularly good sign if they know about local issues that could impact the sale of your home.
  4. Look for an agent who supplies comps of homes that sold in the area and who prices your home to SELL not to SIT. You may not like the price you are being quoted, but it’s in your best interest to view the facts. Setting the listing price too high may get the agent the listing, but can ultimately depresses the final sales price. No one pays top dollar for a stale listing.
  5. Look for quality over quantity. Don’t go for the biggest lister. Go for the agent who supplies the best customer service.

An Example From Real Life:

The facts about these agents are true, but the names have been changed to protect the guilty and the stupid:

Agent 1.

I know of a listing agent who aggressively advertises as a “cut above” claiming that their sales record speaks for itself. Agent 1 will get you MORE than all the rest. This agent has holds the “secret” to selling for top dollar. Agent 1 has a ton of listings – 34 in fact. An enormous number for our area. However, these listings cover a 40 mile range. This agent is spread like too little butter over a slice of bread. Granted 16 listings have closed in the last 6 months – however – over 50 were either cancelled or expired. Although a few of the expireds were re-listed, this is not a good record, even in this tough market. What sold appeared to sell for 8% less than the initial list price ($40k less on a $500,000 listing.)

Agent 2:

I know another agent that currently has only 5 listings. Sales have been slow, but this agent sold their listings within 2.5% of list prices. This agent sells within a more reasonable geographic radius. Agent 2 states up front what is possible. This agent does what he/she says they’ll do.

Who is the “better agent.” Agent 1 is more “productive.” But productive for whom? Agent 1 seduces with the higher list price..but doesn’t perform as well. Over 50 cancellations/expirations? That’s a red flag. Agent 2 doesn’t make promises they can’t keep.

Further reading:

Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s the fairest listing agent of all…Part 1:

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