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Selling a house is very stressful! You want to know it will go smoothly and that your agent will hold your hand and soothe you through the rough spots. You need to work with someone you can trust and feel comfortable with. How do you find that person?

The most obvious choice is to use the agent that sold you the house. If you had a good rapport, it could be wise to give them the repeat business. S/he already knows the house and you so it could be the easiest solution. If you need a change, keep reading.

Friends and co-workers love to give referrals, but just because they had a good experience with a certain agent does not mean you will. Call these referrals, and ask a lot of questions. If you settle on one of these prospects, great! If not, keep looking. You need to be able to establish a trusting relationship with someone.

Be sure they explain complex things fully so you understand. There is a lot of legal wording in a real estate contract, so be sure you will know exactly what it says and what it means. Selling a home can be confusing, and you need to understand what is happening throughout the transaction.

It’s important to know that the listing agent will most likely not bring you a buyer. Her job is to market your property in places where suitable buyers can be found. If she does find a buyer, both parties must sign an agreement to allow her to be a Transaction Broker. She can’t represent both sides, so she becomes a facilitator. Don’t get upset if she is not showing your house. That’s not what you hire her to do.

Other things to do when choosing a listing agent

I saw an agent website that said buyers and sellers: ‘Be Prepared to Do Your Homework!’ Your due diligence is just as important as the agent’s work. The more you understand about marketing and a sales transaction, the less stressful it will be.

1) Get references. Talk to past clients, appraisers, lenders and title companies. They will tell you if this agent is efficient, professional and easy to work with.

2) Get comps from the agent and other sources. Call appraisers and see what they say about the marketability of your home and your neighborhood. Call the local board, too.

3) Drive around and look at their listings. See if the signs are straight and in good shape. See if the homes are being well maintained. Do they have curb appeal? Basically, see if the agent is paying attention to their listings.

4) Google the agents you are interviewing. They should have a website and perhaps a blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Read what they write. Look over their sites for typos, good and plentiful information, excellent photos and virtual tours.

Questions to ask a prospective listing agent

1) How many years have you been in the business? Full time? Part time? Obviously, the longer the career, the more experience. A full time agent learns more, but may be too busy to give you their full attention. A part-time agent might learn more slowly, but they have more time to devote to you. A new agent in a good brokerage is enthusiastic and has good support. One situation is no better than the other. You’ll figure out which you prefer by speaking to various agents.

2) How many listings do you have? Some agents take pride in having hundreds, and they may not be able to devote enough time to marketing yours. S/he may have a team. You may never speak again to the original agent you spoke with. That agent gets the listing and hands it off to the team for paperwork and marketing. You will hear from the agent again when you have an offer. Maybe.

If an agent has only a few listings, it could mean they are working part-time and have other obligations besides real estate. Preferably, it could mean they work full-time and are selective about listings they take, so they can devote themselves to their clients, as it should be.

I heard of an agent who never had more than five listings. They were not all high-end, but they were good quality, priced well and very salable. This agent was a success! He knew his market, what was selling, who would buy his listings, and where to market to buyers. Quantity is not always the answer.

3) What is your fee, and what are you going to do for my money? Be blunt. You are hiring them and want your money’s worth.

4) How do you market your listings? Be sure your listing agent is tech savvy! Most buyers start their home search online, so be sure your home is on the internet. The agent should have a website and use email at the very least!

  • Will you hold open houses and how often?
  • Will you put my home on the real estate tour?
  • Do you create virtual tours?
  • Will you advertise in specialty magazines and on specialty websites? If you have a ranch, vacation home, waterfront property or historic architecture, for example, it would be beneficial to get the listing seen by interested parties.

5) Ask about the market. What’s been selling? What do buyers want? How many sales have there been in the last six months? Year? Verify this information with the local board. They will provide you with facts.

6) Have you had any complaints filed against you? Call the local and state real estate boards and ask.

7) How often do you communicate with clients, and what is your favorite mode? Do they call, text, email or make appointments for face-to-face meetings? As the seller, what do you prefer? Let them know how often you would like to hear from them.

8 ) Do you have a specialty? Do they specialize in condos, second homes, certain neighborhoods, green homes, farms and rural properties, urban areas? You want an agent that understands your neighborhood and your type of home.

Finally, take your time! You need to feel comfortable and able to trust your agent to get your house on the market and sold.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.