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Help Us Find a Realtor

Written by Nickel - 18 Comments

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I’ve recently been presented with a major career opportunity, and it’s starting to look like we’ll be moving this summer. This means that we’ll have to sell our current house and buy a new one. The main problem with this is that we’ve never sold a house before, so we’re not completely sure how best to choose a realtor. And before you suggest that we sell it on our own, we’ll be on a short timeline, and crazy busy before we go, meaning that FSBO is out of the question. So that brings us to issue of the day… What’s the best way to find a realtor? (In this case, a seller’s agent.)

Do you have any suggestions as to:
— How best to identify candidates?
— What we should ask them during our initial meeting?
— What (specific) criteria we should use to select the best one?
— Any other things that we should be doing (or considering)?

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Published on March 13th, 2006 - 18 Comments
Filed under: Moving,Real Estate

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. Here are a few things I wish I would have done differently when I sold my home…

    1) Frequency and times of open houses. My realtor liked to have them during things like the SuperBowl, etc.. when no one is out looking for homes.

    2) Advertising, Usually getting in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) will get your home advertised to other realtors. But you could sign up for ForSaleByOwner.com and accomplish this. Your realtor should go above and beyond by placing ads in the local paper as well as taking her own clients to your home if desired.

    3)Commission – you can bargain here all day. My personal experience is try to get near 5% if possible.

    4)Ask the realtor about his/her process for determining a selling price. I have seen this done many ways, some didn’t make sense. Do your own research on Realtor.com to try to determine what the value of other houses in your area are.

    5)Most importantly, unless you are under a severe time crunch, don’t let them push you into lowering a price, including items, etc.. Worst case your house may stay on the market a bit longer.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 11:26 am
  2. I suggest talking to friends in the area that have sold homes around there and getting a good reference. I would recommend the guy that I am using as a buying agent, but you don’t live near here so that probably won’t help you much.

    Usually commissions will be 5-6%; a buying agent will usually get 3% or so which comes out of the selling agent’s commission.

    If you can’t find any good word of mouth in the area, I would start calling local realtors and seeing what they can offer you and interviewing the agents. You will be dealing with this person a lot over the next few weeks and months, so make sure you can get along with them.

    Also, clean up your house. I can not believe the number of houses I have looked at over the last year where the house was a disaster zone and there was so much crap that you couldn’t look at the walls, floors, ceilings, etc. If you don’t have an easy way to get to the attic, then leave a stepladder near the closet access or however you get up there. And make sure that opening it up won’t dump a bunch of dust all over your clothes before you do it; I would stop looking at places if my eyes started stinging as soon as I looked up.

    Congratulations on the new position. I hope you have an easy transistion.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 12:00 pm
  3. The best way to find a realtor is through word of mouth… but don’t trust a relative of the realtor. Ask people who have moved into and out of your current neighborhood, ask your coworkers.

    Also ask to see a realtor’s previous work, ie the little books they put together on houses that are full of pictures and features. Look at their other online listings.. are the pictures of the house flattering, do they have good grammar and punctuation in the listings?

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 12:00 pm
  4. Good points, ss…

    It’s also amazing the number of properties that have multiple pictures of the outside, and none of the inside. Very frustrating.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 12:03 pm
  5. My wife and I had a hard time with this as well when we sold our last house. We tried FSBO for a bout 2 months, but nobody serious stopped by.

    So, we decided to go with an agent that was recommended by someone we knew. She was very nice (a little wacky, but who isn’t), but had to do very little work to sell our house. It was sold the day that she put it on MLS for $1K over asking from the first people that saw it. I guess we could have asked for more, especially since we were not time constrained. It really hurt to have to give up so much to her commission being that she really didn’t do anything. I would guess that it was under 4 or 5 hours of work…including the hour meeting we had at our house.

    I think that one of the best ways to get an agent would be word of mouth. Ask around and see if ant friends or co-workers have any good experiences with agents.

    I would also agree with Steve…do not pay over 5% commission and try to figure out at least a ballpark figure for selling price. We upped out sale price by the 5% commission when we changed from FSBO to an agent and she thought that we were totally crazy. Turns out we probably could have raised it even more.

    Good luck, hope everything goes smoothly. I look forward to reading about your further adventures with this.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 12:11 pm
  6. One other nice thing is the new 3D tours of the inside that certain realtors setup on their sites. Very nice touch if you ask me…might as well make them really work for the money and get a cool 3D view of your house.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 12:14 pm
  7. I second what Blaine says above…I think that one of the most important things that you can do when selling is to just clean the place. We saw so many houses that we could not even consider just because they were so messy…even though they probably could have been fairly nice. It is just hard to get that first impression out of your head and imagine it clean and with all your stuff in it.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 12:35 pm
  8. I learned a great deal when I sold my first home.

    1) Choose a realtor familiar with your area. They are able to point out ammenities in your area (parks, schools, grocery stores, theater’s etc.) to prospective buyers. Also, do not agree to an exclusive listing of more than 60 days in case you get stuck with a bad realtor.

    2) If you are able to get a discounted rate of 5% or less, get it in writing!

    3) Interview at least 3 realtor’s. Check history. Get references. The top producer may not be your best choice if the market it hot and he/she is not able to devote much time to your listing. Try the second or third top producer…

    4) When you do decide, have the realtor inspect your home and welcome any “constructive criticism.” It could help bring in top dollar.
    5) Keep in constant communication with your realtor.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 1:54 pm
  9. All these comments are great. I’d just add one thing. If you are or can be a member of a credit union, see if you can use agents in your area through http://www.curealty.com. They offer discounted commissions for seller and buyer’s agents. Be sure to interview these agents though and get good multiple references (one great one isn’t enough as I found out the hard way).

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 2:08 pm
  10. I’m sorry to say this.. but your screwed. You’d be hard pressed to find a realtor that cares one bit about your interests ahead of his or hers.

    Expect to get screwed beforehand and you’ll be able to tolerate it better when it happens. Good luck though!

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 4:18 pm
  11. Hey Mike, thanks for the words of encouragement! That’s a great outlook on life. 😉

    Comment by Nickel — Mar 13th 2006 @ 4:42 pm
  12. One thing no one mentioned is REMOVE anything you do not want included in the sale of the house before you put it on the market. We had a chandelier my husband gave me for my birthday written out of the selling contract, but the buyer insisted on having it, she even tried to get the drapes that matched my sofa. So if you want to take it with you, old ceiling fans, glass door knobs, remove them and replace them with other new ones. We learned the hard way.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 6:38 pm
  13. Never sold a house before? Ohhhh — lots of good stuff to write about! 🙂

    Congrats on the “career opportunity”!!!

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 13th 2006 @ 9:03 pm
  14. I think most of the bases have been covered by the other commenters. I would, however, add a couple specific questions for you to ask when interviewing agents:

    1. How do they help a buyer prepare the house for sale? Do they do any staging? I go to a lot of open houses (I guess there’s a little voyeur in me) and the ones that consistently sell over list price (sometimes well over list) are those that have been prepped for sale. This can be as simple as removing clutter and family items (you want the potential buyer to picture their family in the house, not yours), or it may be as much as replacing your furniture. Ask for advice if you can get it.

    2. What type of marketing materials do they create and how are they distributed? Ask for samples. In my area, our highest volume agent mails weekly announcements of new homes she’s selling. The mailing includes pictures and descriptions.

    3. What will they do for their 5% commission? You want someone who will help you from the listing through the closing.

    Good luck and congrats on the new job opp.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 15th 2006 @ 11:09 pm
  15. Remove your valuables from the house and put them in a safe deposit box. Remember, once your home is on the market, you’ll have people coming through when you’re not there to watch them. Not every realtor touring your house is trustworthy, nor are all of their clients. You might also want to remove or lock up your prescriptions, and very personal items – especially prior to an open house.

    Be aware that those looking at your house are going to open all your cupboards, closets, drawers, medicine cabinets, etc. While they shouldn’t be doing so, they may also look in your dressers and jewelry boxes.

    Keep the house picked up at all times. If you’ve got light colored carpet, insist on a “no shoes” policy at the door and consider plastic runners.

    Prior to an open house, bake cookies or bread. It’s amazing how the smell will help sway people to really like your house. Be careful about cooking anything with a lingering odor – garlic, ethnic foods, fish, etc. It can actually cause buyers to leave and not consider your house.

    Tidy up the yard and garage. You want people to easily picture their stuff in place of yours.

    For your first home sale, consider using a realtor, there are a LOT of regulations governing home sales and you don’t want that liability in your lap if you haven’t been through it before. Check references before you sign with one. The comment about top producers not always being the best is dead on. Definitely get it on the MLS – a house near me sat vacant for months because no one knew about it. Other houses in the neighborhood sold within 10 days of listing.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 24th 2006 @ 7:23 pm
  16. Let me provide you with a great referral! I have a resource directory listing top agents across the country. I am a realtor in Orlando, have been doing this for 19 years and have excellent contacts throughout the country. Good luck!

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 27th 2006 @ 6:50 am
  17. In no particular order-

    Watch out for the various FSBO scams. Little known sites that will list your home for x dollars (sometimes thousands) on their unheard of web sites and give you a yard sign but do little else.

    MLS is a must.

    Run away from brokers that promise ridiculously high prices for your house. They will try to lock you into an exclusive rite to sell and then toward the end of it tell you that you have to lower the price to sell it.

    It does take time to sell a house, especially a high end, unique one. If you find a reputable agent give them 6 months or even a year to sell the house BUT include a non performance clause that gets you out of it if they don’t perform.

    If you are getting showings the price is pretty close. If not rethink it.

    Don’t be fooled by the very low commission MLS listings. You get what you pay for. Many reputable brokers will not allow their sales agents show properties with less than a 2% sellers commission. Also find out what the commission split is. If you are paying a 4, 5 or 6% commission make sure the selling broker gets at least half, their the ones that will most likely sell your house.

    Find out what the broker you are considering market share is, not for listings but for sold/closed properties.

    Your best investment is a professional cleaning and a coat of paint. Get rid of the trash.

    Don’t be home (if possible) during showings. Pack all personal photos, religious items and crap off the refrigerator. Let the customer picture them selves in the home, not you.

    Good Luck!

    G

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 6th 2006 @ 3:12 pm

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