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Choosing an Agent

Real Estate Isn’t About Real Estate
The most important thing I have learned since becoming a Realtor® in 1992 is that real estate is about PEOPLE.  And with that in mind, I especially want to help those of you who…
  • Have been told by agents things you wanted to hear just to get your listing.
  • Have been misled by agents looking out for themselves.
  • Are confused by misconceptions about real estate sales.
  • Deserve to hear the truth. 
My goal is not to complete the most transactions.  I am genuinely concerned with helping more people as they navigate through their own individual and highly personal real estate experiences.  

Choosing an AgentHow to Choose the Right Agent for You
You've made the decision to sell your home, but you’re not sure what to do next. Selecting an agent to help you through the entire process from start to finish is going to be as important as determining how much to list your home for and what your goals are in selling the property.

The single most important element in a successful home sale - and the best thing you can do when selecting your agent - is to choose someone who has a personality that fits with your own. You will be spending a lot of time with your agent, so liking them would be a major plus!  Ask yourself, "Am I comfortable with this person?"  Do you feel good about the agent, their personality, and how they conduct business? After all, this is a person who will be representing you in the sale of your most precious asset: The last thing you need is a personality clash in the course of the selling process. You want an agent who you can trust, who is honest with you, and who relates well to you. Uneasiness or discomfort in the agent-seller relationship leads to unhappiness on both sides and usually poor results. Both of you need to be completely comfortable in sharing expectations, thoughts, and concerns regarding all aspects of the sale. 

Consider asking the following questions when interviewing an agent to sell your home:

How long have you been an active, full-time agent? 
I recommend looking for an agent who has been actively working on a full-time basis for at least the last 3-5 years. You should also find out how long they've worked in your specific geographic area. There are several reasons for selecting a well-established agent: You want someone who has a track record you can confirm. Also, an experienced agent will have creative, time-tested ideas for marketing your home. Yes, there are good agents who have been in the business for a short time. But with a high dropout rate in the industry, it would be unfortunate if, a few months down the line, your agent moved on to other things. As for part-time agents, they often can't keep up with the pace or complexity of today's marketplace, and they may not be available when you need them most. Your home is your most important investment; doesn't its sale deserve an agent's full-time commitment?

Are you a Realtor®?
There is a difference between a Real Estate Licensee and a Realtor®. A licensee who is a member of the National Association of Realtors® is bound by the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice associated with the industry and may be disciplined for violating it. A Realtor® has a duty to treat all parties honestly and fairly, as well as having a fiduciary duty to their clients.

How many homes have you listed in the past 6 months?
While an agent's length of time in the field is important, the quality of that time is even moreso. You need to gauge just how active - and successful - the agent is. A large number of listings is often the sign of a successful agent. However, no matter how many listings an agent has, make sure that he has the resources and systems to market each of them effectively. Getting a listing is only half the job. 

How many homes have you sold in the past 6 months?
Here's where we separate the "listers" from the "doers." Just because an agent has a knack for signing sellers doesn't mean he's good at finding, negotiating, and closing deals - and that's what you want.

What's the average amount of time one of your listings is on the market before it sells?
You may think that a quick turn-around is a good sign. And it could be. However, a consistently faster-than-average selling record could indicate that an agent is quick to sacrifice a seller's profits in negotiations - which is why the next question is so important...

How does your average sales price compare to the original price?
There's a difference between an agent who gets you a good deal and one who gives away too much in order to sell your home. That's why it's important to compare the original list price to what a home actually sold for. For example, an agent who regularly gets 90% of the asking price is probably a better negotiator than the agent who typically gets 70% of the asking price. Again, this goes to the question of effectiveness. Make sure your agent has the systems in place to handle them all. A successful, top-producing agent may be more effective at managing many listings than a less experienced agent is with a handful.

How does the process of selling my home work?
Your agent should be able to explain to your satisfaction the process of listing and marketing your property, negotiating offers on the property, the inspection process, the closing process, and more. Also inquire about what your responsibilities are during the transaction.

What listing price would you recommend for my home?  How did you arrive at it?
Ask about the current market and how it affects your price and selling strategy. A good agent will be able to back up their assertions with solid proof. By running a comparative market analysis, they should be able to give you a sound argument and documentation on how they arrived at your home's proposed market value and price range. The comparative market analysis should include: listing and selling prices; descriptions of comparable homes; and adjustments in values for finished square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. The agent should give you a range of value, as no home has a specific price.  After a thorough review of the data and some advice from your agent, you should be the one to make the final decision about your listing price.

What's your pricing/marketing philosophy 30/60/90 days down the road?  
If your home isn't seeing any interest after 2-3 months on the market, what is the agent going to do to generate activity? You shouldn't have to go to your agent and suggest things to try, such as lowering the price. You want a proactive representative, not someone who simply reacts to whatever happens. 

Can you help me stage my home?
You will want to make sure that your listed home is presented in the best way possible. This will increase the chances of someone wanting to purchase it, as well as helping it to sell as quickly as possible and for top dollar.  A responsible agent should be able to offer suggestions for improvements, recommend a professional staging company and local trades if needed, and even help do some of the hands-on work with you.

Do you have training and education?
Most states have strict laws regarding licensing and continuing education. Your agent should be able to give you up-to-date information, should be committed to continuing education and should always act with professionalism. 

Can you provide me with references?
A Realtor's reputation is one of his most valuable assets; most will work hard to protect it. Surprisingly, most sellers don't bother to check references.  You should. This is one of the easiest and most important steps you can take, and yet I've seen many people make the mistake of not checking references. The 2 kinds of references to ask for are:
  • Past Clients - Talking to past clients is an excellent way to learn how an agent operates beyond what he says he's going to do for you. You can get a very good idea of whether or not an agent is a good match for you by finding out how they worked with other clients.
  • Other Agents - This is the question that throws most agents off.  But why would you want to work with someone who has a bad reputation in the market? If they are confident about their ability to sell your home, they shouldn’t be concerned if you talk with other agents, especially if it’s just to ask them for their opinion. You want an agent who’s not only known for their success, but well-respected by others in the industry.  IMPORTANT TIP: ?Talk with an agent who has worked directly with your potential agent -- the more often the better.
What can I expect as far as communication?
You will want an agent who listens to your goals, explains and identifies problems, provides feedback, and answers all of your questions. Communication is key, so ask your potential agent how he plans on informing you of issues or concerns throughout the transaction as well as timelines and deadlines.  He should also be willing to communicate with you in your medium of preference, whether by phone call, text, or email.

How do you get paid?
Inquire about the fee structure and representation. Listing agents actually earn a commission and are paid by the seller out of funds at the close of escrow. Ask your agent to explain the process so you have a better understanding of how it works. Your agent is a licensed professional and is there to help and protect your best interests.  Note that commission isn't set by law; it can vary from agent to agent. Make sure you know up front what you're paying. While you are legally entitled to negotiate a lower commission, some agents may be less willing to list your home as a result. In a soft market, an agent has even less incentive to push your home when there are others on the market whose sale will result in a higher commission. And an agent who's too quick to give up his money may be quick to give up your money during the negotiation process.  TIP: Remember the saying, "You get what you pay for"?  It also applies to your real estate service. 

Choosing the right real estate agent can be critical for a successful home sale. Do you research and ultimately select the professional who is best able to deliver the results you deserve.
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Brian Howell
Brian Howell

HomeSmart Fine Homes and Land
140 N. Montezuma Street
Suite 201
Prescott, AZ 86301
Cell: (928) 308-5086
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Why Choose HomeSmart?