Critical Questions A Seller Should Ask When Choosing a Listing Realtor
Sell it and move on. Believe it or not, this is the “strategic plan” that some folks put into play when trying to choose the right realtor to list their property. A seller’s dream is fairly simple to articulate: highest price, quickest turnaround, least effort, lowest maintenance, quick close, no hassle.
Depending on the realtor you choose, it can be just this simple. Or it could be a nightmare. Don’t pick the first realty company that pops up in your Google search. Ask yourself, and your perspective realtor, some hard questions. Here’s a sampling of information you need to elicit from your short list of realtors. No, all realtors are not created equal.
Question 1: Tell me about yourself.
It’s the most important question on earth that is never asked. Though it’s a business, professional relationship, you’ll be “dating” this person for what could be a significant stretch of time. Friends and family can often point you to at least three or four realtors you can trust. Ask for information from all of them before you meet. It helps you make a more objective decision. Ask to be sent a listing presentation by e-mail. Your initial impression will be based on how their materials are presented. You’re savvy enough to spot a skilled practitioner out of a world of inadequately prepared unprofessionals. Think about it – if they can’t sell themselves, how are they going to sell your home.
Question 2: How many listings have you managed and sold in the in past six months?
Inactive and invisible realtors are bound to be ineffective. In this business, visibility is key. There are plenty of realtors who will gladly have you sign the contract, and sit on your listing until the phone happens to ring. And a hundred listings with no closes means no action, no results. An agent should be prepared to disclose their recent track record without hesitation.
Question 3. Could you please give me the names and phone numbers of your three most recent clients?
Ask recent clients if they would work with this realtor again. Find out whether they were pleased with the communication style, follow-up, and work ethic of the real estate agent. You’d ask for reference to hire a plumber, and you wouldn’t go through that same simple process to hire a realtor to sell your home? Sounds ridiculous, but it happens more than you think. Besides, what agent who is capable, professional and knows the business would even hesitate to give you some names of former and current clients to talk to?
Question 4: How long can I expect my house to be on the market?
Are you looking for the quick hit? Even if it means giving in to a lowball price? Look at the asking prices for homes listed by this realtor, and what the home actually sold for. The larger the gap, the less effective that realtor may have been in eliciting the right buyer. But, the market also matters.The average length of time on the market is also a product of how soft the market is in your area. To decide whether or not it was the realtor or the market, or a combination of the two, that was the largest factor in the selling price can be tough call. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering. A track record of getting a sale that’s close to the asking price usually means he or she knows the market and the neighborhood well.
Question 5: Tell me about your support staff: What administrative, marketing lead generation, resources do you employ?
Though biggest is not always best. Office management, competent staff, in-house capabilities to handle the range of marketing approaches you’re going to take – all important factors. But this depth of resources alone does not guarantee you better service nor a more rewarding outcome. However, and broker/agent’s investment in the tools and talents needed to get the job done right are an indicator that you’re dealing with a serious professional. To them, selling real estate is a business, not a means of second income or a way to stay active in semi-retirement. If they’re employing capable staff to handle the details, and consult with you on creative ways to market using the web, social media and all the Web 2.0 tools available, he or she can focus on you, and your relationship will thrive.
Question 6: What sort of questions do you have for me?
It’s surprising how many realtors do not know how to elicit the most important information right up front, build a profile quickly, and not waste a lot of time dispassionately filling out standard forms. A mediocre agent just checks the boxes. A great agent asks the tough questions, looking for pointed, specific answers that are going to help them put together a plan, not just a file of paper. The cookie-cutter approach, especially in the first meeting, is a bad sign.
Question 7: Let’s talk specifics. How will you market my home?
Give me a plan, with specific details. What marketing approach will you use for my home? Every agent has as an overall marketing philosophy, but they’ll learn about what pieces parts are applicable for your situation and tailor a plan. If you determine that the agent is using the same marketing for the same clients for the same properties over and over, they’ve either found the holy grail of real estate marketing (unlikely), or they’re not putting out the effort to develop your personalized plan.
True, agents have many of the same basic marketing tools at their disposal, but today these are “table stakes” that are not differentiators. For example, the Multiple Listing Service, caravans, brochures, flyers, open houses, advertising, direct mail and personal networking - every real estate professional has them. Look for the things that make the agent stand out – one that operates outside the box. What worked in the past doesn’t fill the bill in today's market. Ask about tools, technology, marketing, creative or public relations backgrounds. PS: You’ll find these folks at Nextage Team Realty.
Question 8: How do you plan to advertise/promote my home?
Get down to the tactIcs embedded in the larger strategy. If a mix of web, social media and conventional advertising buzz are not all in the mix, walk away. Don’t deal with a dinosaur. Agents on the cutting edge often use a variety of creative advertising methods. If they’re not plugged in to Web 2.0 or what we’re calling “Realty 2.0” tactics, your chances of getting noticed are slim. Toll-free hot lines and fax marketing? You need to get real. It’s a new day. The Nextage Team will get you noticed in ways that were not available even two or three years ago. And it’s changing month to month, year to year. The Nextage Team is keeping up to the minute with these new, ubiquitous communications channels.
Question 9: What doe is mean to “stage” a home, and will you help with this?
Here’s what staging is not: Organizing (just moving stuff around) or playing a shell game with the 17 framed pictures of friends and family on the end tables. Staging means packing up the 17 pictures and putting them in storage – or at least some place where they can’t be seen by a prospective buyer touring your home. Might your feelings be hurt? Yes or no, but the buyer cannot imagine living in the home you’ve personalized down to the lime green switch plates. The agent should be fearless (but friendly) in suggesting these tweaks. De-Personalize, de-clutter. Here’s a great way to get over the anxiety of stashing Uncle Bob’s fishing photo in a box: Close your eyes, and imagine that you’re handing over the keys to the new owners across the closing table. Uncle Bob will understand.
Question 10: How will you keep me informed of the progress?
No right or wrong answer, because everyone has their own comfort (and tolerance) level for communicating, as well as their preferred mode.
The real point here is, what is your agent capable of with respect to updating you on the status. He/she should have a handle on where you stand day by day, but you may not want or need to know what’s happening more frequently than once a week, every two weeks, or only when there’s a showing or a prospect looks serious. Do you prefer phone, e-mail, or a personal visit? Set the ground rules early in the relationship. It will relieve the anxiety of waiting my the phone or in front of your e-mail for some small bit of information that may/may not be important in the big picture.
Question 11. Will you represent me exclusively, or will you represent both the buyer and the seller in the transaction?
While it’s usually legal to represent both parties in a transaction, it’s important to understand where the practitioner’s obligations lie. Your agent should explain his or her agency relationship to you and describe the rights of each party.
Question 12. Can you recommend service providers who can help me obtain a mortgage, make home repairs, and help with other things I need done?
Realtors are immersed in the industry, they’re wonderful resources as you seek lenders, home improvement companies, and other home service providers. Practitioners should generally recommend more than one provider and in all cases, they need to let you know if they have any special relationship with or receive compensation from any of the providers.
Question 13. How many days did it take you to sell the average home?
When all is said and done, most buyers will tell you that two things sold them on your house: price and location. You can’t change the location, but work with your realtor to price it right. What the “right” price is differs whether your comparing a home for sale across the street or across the country. See how yours compares to the local market overall. Your agent should have immediate access to the these statistics through the several online systems, including their access to MLS.
Question 14: What data do you use to determine the initial asking price?
First a side note: The price you get for your home determines the amount of money that goes into the agent’s pocket. They know that. They know that you know that, so here’s the time to decide exactly what kind of “date” your taking to the prom. On one hand, there’s the high price. You’ll stay (perhaps languish) on the market longer, but it might pay off. Bargain basement pricing to sell your home ASAP screams desperation. If you think you priced it low just to offload it, be prepared to get even lower than that when the deal is done. A qualified agent does not stick his or her finger to the wind and guess. They must justify the price through comparable properties and cold, hard facts about the market.
The selling price should attract prospective buyers to your home, get you top dollar in the current market and reflect the condition of your house.
Question 15: What’s in this “Listing Agreement” I’m supposed to sign?
Go over every detail, leave no questions unasked. A seller listing agreement is a legal document, and should be viewed with the same scrutiny you would afford any other legally binding instrument. You are hiring them to be your employee for up to one year, maybe longer. They’ll represent you and your reputation, and act as your client-facing representative. All fiduciary duties (matters involving money) and are owed to you, the seller.
Question 16: What other fees or charges do I need to be aware of?
As the seller, you should be prepared to bear some of the costs of closing. Your agent should be able to explain in detail, line by line, every one of these costs that you could incur as a consequence of selling your home: Title insurance, escrow charges, closing costs and prorated insurance, taxes, rent, home owner’s association dues, etc. There may be some unique circumstances (price including furniture, early or postponed closings, etc.) and other special requests from your buyer that may impact your net gain or loss.
Question 17: How will you determine the qualification of potential buyers?
Find out what information your agent will look for in a potential buyer, and the actions they’ll take in prequalifying buyers. As a seller, you should know whether or not the prospect who’s ready to make an offer can actually back it up.
Pre-qualification and pre-approval are not interchangeable terms. Pre-qualifying is often done before a bank invests time and money pulling credit reports and verifying income. If a buyer passes the pre-qualification, then the bank will go through the approval process. A pre-approval letter is the closest thing to a guarantee of financing your buyer can get, and it will tell you the maximum amount the bank will lend to the buyer. A good gauge of your realtor’s experience and knowledge is to simply ask, “Do you spend time working with buyers or showing homes unless they are at least pre-qualified for a mortgage.” Your realtor does not want to waste your time or theirs showing houses that the buyer cannot afford, or worse, suffering through the offer contract and acceptance process only to find out that the buyer cannot qualify for a loan.