Sunday, February 15, 2009

I've Got My Fingers Crossed.

Well you can do that as well, but thorough agent interviewing is probably much better in landing an agent that will give your house the best chance of selling. The following information that I've compiled from various posts regarding the process hopefully may be of some help.

First, you should familiarize yourself with the various types of listings >

In choosing an agent, possibly the first thing I would look for is some letters behind the name. These do lend some sort of creditability. Certainly having a referral to him or her is a plus, but is not a sure thing. The agent that was referred to me by three friends was an absolute disaster. You can take agents that are referred to you that were used during the recent bubble with a grain of salt. Referrals to those that have been used during the present downturn can be considered much more seriously. Internet referrals by other agents should be scrutinized carefully as well. There have been instances where the referring agent hasn't any real first hand info on the agent referred, and is just looking for a finder's fee. They simply may go by stats that can sometimes be misleading in the overall quality of the agent you were referred to.

As far as choosing an agent on your own, drive around your neighborhood and look at signs to find out what brokerages are represented, and look their sites up on the web. Go to the agents roster and select a few. I would try to find the agent's listings on Realtor.com and see whose listings are the best described, and are featured listings with quality multiple photos and a virtual tour. You might even want to put the addresses of the different agent's listings in a google search. Compare how many websites or google hits you see for each address. The agent with the most sites might indicate a better job of marketing by that particular agent.
Another possible filter search you can use has to do with this link> http://www.trulia.com/voices/directory/Saint_Louis-agent--32844?sort_order=featured . Change the location to the correct one and research those agents listed. Check their profile on how helpful their answers have been. If they seem to consistently provide easy to understand answers, you certainly might want to put them up for consideration. If their answers seem to be more about self promotion or NAR statistics, personally I would skip them. From those that you have narrowed the search down to, use the criteria below. Some of the criteria are obvious, and couple not so much so.

1. Your call to the agent was answered, or returned in a prompt manner.

2. The agent showed up on time for the appointment, and was neat and professional in appearance.

3. Be sure to mention the names of other agents you have talked with, or will be interviewing. If the agent you are interviewing gives any indication that could be interpreted as a knock against the competition, he or she has failed on an important criterion. If, on the other hand, the agent is complimentary about his or her colleagues, that's a plus.

4. The agent should be prepared with facts and figures, marketing plan, and offer suggestions. When an agent says "This property is perfect. You don't need to do a thing to it," it could very well be a big red flag.

When making your appointments with the agents who you've decided on interviewing through your internet research ask for them to bring their MLS print out for the past 12 months with them.

When interviewing the agents, of the four suggested listing price ranges choose between the agents that have the two in the middle . Of those two, choose the agent you felt the most comfortable with after going through the rest of the interview questions. There is a lot to be said about trusting your "gut."

The reason I disqualified the one with the highest suggested price is that it could be a good chance the agent is just giving the info that you want to hear to get your listing. Not a very honest practice. I threw out the low, based on the possibility that this agent is just looking for a easy and quick sale at your expense. However, easy and quick are not adjectives normally found used in this market. If all four or even three suggested prices would come in extremely close, just go with the Realtor that you have the best feeling about of the group after the interviews.

If you are selling because of things such as a divorce or job transfer keep that to yourselves during the interview and if possible, all the way through the whole process. David Chamberlain, an agent/poster on Trulia once stated that you should never at any point in the interview divulge the price you were thinking of.

Alan May, a well respected Realtor in Evanston, IL, posted these great interview questions below on a thread related to interviewing agents. They should be of some help as well. As a supplemental question to Alan's question about photos, I would ask if the agent uses a professional photographer. The attention to detail with the photos you saw on the agent’s listings might also be indicative of the overall quality of the agent’s work. Since the first impression many buyers will have of the house is from photos, you simply can’t choose an agent that allows bad photos to be a representation of his or her listings, whether done by a professional or not.

• How many homes, of my type, have you sold? (recently, 6 mos, 1 year, 5 years)
• What is your list / sale ratio?
• What is your average "days on market"
• What is your marketing plan for my home? does it include internet (where?), do you offer multiple photos, virtual tours, color brochures.
• Do you do open houses (why / why not / how often?)
• What is your price recommendation (why / how did you arrive at that / do you have comps to back that up?... do you have a "quick sale" price, and a normal sale price")
• What is your plan if I'm not under contract in 30 days / 60 days / 90 days ...etc....
• Why should I hire you? What do you bring to the table that's different than the myriad of other agents out there who want my listing.
• Will you offer a reduced commission (why / why not?)
• Are you a full-time agent?
• Do you practice dual-agency? (why / why not?)
• What do you think of Agent A and Agent B (the two other agents you're interviewing)
• Are you planning any upcoming vacations or are you going to be unavailable, and who is your back-up when you're gone?
• What weekly communication can I expect from you? and lastly
• Is there anything I haven't asked you, that you think I should have?

A number of the initial questions that Alan suggested could possibly be verified by the agent's MLS printout that you asked the agent to bring.

A couple of other questions that I feel worthy of the list would be:
  • Who takes a buyer’s call when you are unavailable, or with clients?
  • Are you strictly full service, or do you also provide your services on an ala carte basis?
A great post from a Trulia Voices Member named Alan in New Jersey brought this question to mind: Will buyers have to sign in to view my property on your site? The preferred answer is a “no.”

After deciding on an agent, do not sign the listing agreement until the agent has went over everything in it with you. Don't settle for the quick one two, sign here thing that some like to do. Particularly look out for junk fees that the brokers like to slip in calling them a "transaction" or "administration," fee. Simply say no, and cross through it. If the agent wants your listing bad enough he/she will agree to the change. If the agent doesn't agree, he/she really doesn't want your listing that bad, and you probably wouldn't want that agent anyway.

I would find out when my MLS listing was to appear. Then soon as it came up, check everything on it. Make sure the photos are satisfactory, the description and directions are well written, and accurate. The first time mine went up there were so many errors, I couldn't count them all. The directions would have had a potential buyer in a cornfield.

If there is even a remote chance of you eventually going FSBO, try to make sure that in the listing agreement that the Realtor protection period is short as possible. Try for 30 days, and that a protected list of buyers is given to you within a 3 business day period after the expiration of the listing. This should be written in the agreement.

In the vast majority of cases the commission is split evenly between the listing and buy side. There are a few listing agents that will favor their side on the split. Look for that language in the agreement, and make sure the buy side is receiving at least the same commission as the listing side.

The following is an exact quote from an agent on Zillow:
"Only list for 90 days, longer listings make for lazy agents."

I've recently read that in some cases agents are adding in an automatic renewal clause, or addendum for the seller to sign. I'm sure these are very isolated situations, but at any rate watch out for it, and my advice to this type of agreement is to just say no.

Finally, remember commissions are negotiable, and when you are given the old line, "You get what you pay for," ask "And just what exactly is your split with your broker?

Furthermore, with the buyer's market that we're currently in sellers concessions such as closing costs, home warranties and the like have become the norm. You might want to negotiate for the commission to be paid on the net of the sale, rather than the usual total purchase price. Just a thought, and it doesn't hurt to ask.

I wish to thank the following contributors to this blog and no everyone, I'm not looking for a finders fee if someone would use the links below to obtain their services. Since I'm not a licensed professional, I believe that is illegal, however I could be wrong. Nevertheless, they both probably know me well enough, just by postings, to know that I would be offended with so much as a McDonald's gift certificate. A Lamborghini would be nice though. :)

Also, I would like to apologize for an annoying banner that will become attached to the top of your page on Zillow after leaving this blog. It's a Blogger thing that I haven't any control over. The only way I've found of removing it is to restart the computer. Again, I'm very sorry.

After reading the credits, please scroll down to the videos (full screen available), but on your way down feel free to make a comment, and vote.

Alan May
Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, IL

David Chamberlain
St. Petersburg, FL.


  1. Hey, Rockin... I just found this blog... thank you so much for the kind words.

    One additional comment... make sure that your new agent agrees that the listing will not go "live" until it is fully stocked with all (high quality) photographs.

    If the listing goes live with no photos... that's how it will go out to people set up on an automated search... and when they see a listing with zero photos, they just skip right over it.

    Opportunity lost.

  2. Alan,

    The "kind words" are most deserved, and you're certainly welcome. Thanks for the additional input. Terrific point.