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Choosing a Real Estate Agent

How do you go about choosing a real estate agent to help you sell your home?

  1. Ask around. Friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and local tradespeople can be good sources of leads. But don't just ask: “Who do you know?” (Everybody knows somebody in the real estate business.) Ask them with whom they had a good experience. And press for details about what made the experience good (or not so good).
  2. Interview a few agents before you commit yourself. You're going to be spending a lot of time with your agent, and you'll want someone with whom you feel comfortable.
  3. Probe for evidence of deep local knowledge. Your agent should have a thorough working familiarity with the local real estate market, particularly of prevailing price trends for houses like yours.
  4. Look for indications of up-to-date industry knowledge. Real estate laws and regulations are complex and fluid. An agent's professional credentials or designations often signify that he or she meets continuing education requirements for the profession. Ask prospective agents what they read, what organizations they participate in, and how they stay current in the field.
  5. Ask for references. Get the names and phone numbers of some recent clients, and follow up. Don't assume that an agent's willingness to provide references is, in itself, a sufficient reference. What you want is a flavor of what it's like to work with that particular individual.
  6. Find out exactly what the agent or company will do for you, and on what timetable. It's all about marketing: the more people who know about your home, the more often it will be shown to potential buyers. The more frequently it's shown, the faster it will sell.
  7. Ask about the terms and conditions under which you would work together. Establish the length of the listing and the terms. If you feel comfortable with the agent, a 180-day listing agreement is acceptable. Also establish the frequency with which you want to receive activity updates and the medium of communication (e.g., telephone or e-mail).

Don't choose an agent...

... just because he or she quotes you the lowest commission. You want your realtor to have a real incentive to actively market and ultimately sell your house.

... just because he or she gives you the highest sale estimate. Of course you want to sell for the best possible price; so will your agent. What you don't want is to price your home unrealistically high, have it languish unsold on the market, and then be forced into lowering the price (and making other agents and prospective buyers suspicious that there's something wrong with it).

For Sale By Owner "FSBO"

Some people decide to sell their homes themselves, chiefly to avoid paying commissions to agents. You may have seen references in articles or on other websites to "FSBO" - pronounced "fizz-bo" - and meaning "for sale by owner."

Naturally, at Sentry, we're a little biased. We believe a real estate professional provides you with critical information, experience, and expertise - not to mention moral support! But if you're seriously considering the FSBO route, make sure you can answer "YES" to all these questions.

  1. Can you devote the time? You'll need to spend at least one hour per day on advertising, screening prospects, and showing your home. You'll also need the flexibility to schedule showings on the prospective buyers' timetable, not your own.
  2. Can you be objective? It's your home , but to a prospective buyer, it's still just a house. You need to be able to price it realistically (particularly in terms of its location and the local real estate market), listen neutrally to comments about and criticisms of it, and negotiate effectively with buyers (or buyers' agents).
  3. Are you willing to forego Multiple Listing Service (MLS)? Agents use MLS to search for properties for their home- buying clients. Not being included will reduce opportunities to expose your home to potential buyers.
  4. Do you have the necessary knowledge? That includes the laws and regulations governing real estate transactions (including disclosure requirements), as well as sales and marketing strategies (such as qualifying prospects, advertising techniques and venues, and closing deals).

If you have doubts, call Sentry and ask us to tell you what we can do for you!