Here’s an important truth: every real estate agent is different, and your hiring choice can impact your experience drastically. Sure, all real estate agents need to be licensed - but - that license is really the only common denominator. There is a W-I-D-E range of qualifications, commitment and strategy in the real estate profession. Here are your top 10 considerations when choosing the professional who is right for you:
- Experience. Who wants to get in the helicopter for the pilot’s first solo flight? Or have open heart surgery performed by a medical student? Or be the investment manager’s 5th client? Nobody. To be granted a real estate license, an agent is tested on their understanding of encumbrances, bi-lateral contracts, water rights, estate types, and fair housing… and not on how to determine the value of property, nor how to attract the best buyer, nor how to negotiate an offer, nor how to navigate the many dozens of potential surprises. THOSE critically-important skills are honed over time, case by case, from experience. Experience matters. The more the better.
- Commitment. Is the agent a full-time agent? Part-time? Nights and weekends only? Is real estate their bread-winning job or their experimental, super-cool side-hustle? Does the agent want/need to sell your house as much as you do? How does your success matter to them? Confirm that the agent you choose has both feet in it to win it!
- Support. In a hot market, real estate is a 24/7 job. But let’s be real; no one is truly available 24/7. So what kind of support does your agent have? Who’s backing them up? Are they part of a team? Have an assistant? Do they create their own marketing materials, or does their company provide them or are they outsourced? What happens if you urgently need something RIGHT NOW and they are out of town? Who is on their team? Know the backup plan.
- Connections. The real estate agent is only one of several professionals you’ll need to make your sale happen. Can your agent recommend a stager? A painter? An attorney? A flooring contractor? Cleaning company? Moving company? Mold remediation company? Chimney sweep? Good relationships are gold, so choose an agent who is well-connected and you’ll save yourself time and aggravation.
- Community Knowledge. Buyers don’t just buy a house - they buy a home, a neighborhood, services, entertainment, commuting options, school systems and more. Location is typically THE top consideration for buyers. Your agent should not only be able to answer questions like “hey, where is the commuter rail?” but also sell the exciting expansion of Whole Foods, the amazing renovation of the ice rink, and how great it is that free curbside recycling happens weekly.
- Marketing. You’re going to have lots of questions similar to: “What’s my house worth - and how did you come up with that price? Who is my likely buyer and how will you find them? Do I need to replace the carpet? Why do I need to move half my furniture out? Do I have to have a for-sale sign? What’s the online strategy? Why do you want to video my bathroom? What’s the timeline? When and how will the house be shown to prospective buyers? What if it doesn’t sell?” Ask three agents and you may get three entirely different answers… so find the strategy that feels right to you. ***** Oh, and speaking of price - please, please, pretty please, do NOT make the too-common mistake of quickly and simply choosing the agent with the highest price recommendation, because anyone can tell you your house is worth $5M.
- Hands-on Service. Is the agent going to tell you what to do? Or are they going to do it - or help you do it? There’s a big difference here in terms of your workload. For instance, can the agent roll up their sleeves and help move some furniture? Do they have a storage locker where you could put a half dozen totes? Will you need to take a half day off from work to meet the chimney cleaner or can they be your stand-in? Who is going to order and chase down that final water bill? Good agents will add extra value to their service.
- Communication. You’re up at 5am and they are negotiating offers at 10:30 pm. You can’t talk at work and they hate texsting. When and how will you receive updates and information? Do you want to see every bit of feedback from every showing, or would you rather have a summary? Do you trust the agent to maintain confidentiality? What is the preferred mechanism when either you or they have a question - email? Call? Text? Drop by but only with donuts from Rocco’s? ;) Know your communication plan.
- References. Don’t be shy! Get and contact those references. Even better if you know someone that the agent has recently wowed. If you were referred to an agent by a friend, family member or one of the agent’s past clients, the agent should be inclined to shower you with priority care and service. Personal referrals are gold to a real estate agent, and thus the referred agent will greatly appreciate you even before they meet you.
- The Fit. Trust some instincts here. How well are you and the agent going to dance together? You’re going to be on a team with this agent for (at least) several months. Can you be 100% honest with them? Do you have faith in their service? Do you feel that the agent has a firm grip on your goals? Are they confident in success, and enthusiastic about working with you and representing your home in the marketplace? Are you excited to have the agent on your side? Trust your feels.
In summary, a savvy seller is wise to put good care into choosing the right pro! The agent plays a VERY important role, not only in the final sales figure, but also in the process and the work involved in getting there. So ask a LOT of questions, and make sure you’re comfy with the answers.
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