Getting Personal with Listing Agents – What Sellers Need to Know

Selling a home is a big decision that usually has a major financial impact on homeowners. A primary residence is often a seller’s biggest asset, especially older adults.  According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, equity in the home often outweighs cash in 401(k)s, IRAs and other investments for Americans over the age of 65. For younger homeowners, the cash coming from a home sale often determines their next move in life.

With so much riding on a successful home sale, you’d think that sellers carefully screen potential Realtors before choosing a listing agent.  However, 2015 data from the National Association of Realtors shows that 72% of sellers only contacted one realtor before making their decision, and 42% used a Realtor who was referred by (or is) a family member, neighbor or friend.

It’s astounding to me that sellers don’t insist on knowing more about the person they are hiring for this major life event.  Especially when it carries so much financial weight. You might say, “Well, I know my neighbor. He’s a Realtor.”  Does this make you more or less likely to ask him why he’s the most qualified or if you can see a list of references? Probably less. He won’t let you down, right?

Based on my experience, here are some vital and often overlooked factors to consider when interviewing potential listing agents:

Who is this person? It’s easy to determine that a Realtor is licensed (technically qualified), and whether they’ve sold a few houses or hundreds. Look for an agent that proactively offers up more about him or herself. Accomplishments within and outside of the real estate industry are key. What are some of their noteworthy experiences in life? What are their values and priorities? Insist on being impressed.

Who do they know?  Successfully marketing and selling a home involves more than just public exposure on the MLS.  The larger an agent’s “sphere of influence” and the more community involvement they have, the better.  A great listing agent will market your home to their contacts and leads before offering it to the general public. Business is built on relationships, and you want your listing agent to have strong ones.

How well do they know your neighborhood? The professional you select to sell your home should know the area inside and out.  Buyers aren’t just interested in your four walls – they are buying the street, the neighborhood vibe, the schools, the amenities and the social status of living in a particular area. A listing agent who doesn’t fully understand what he’s selling can’t do an effective job.

How interested are they in you and your home?  When a Realtor shows up for a listing appointment, listening to and getting to know you should be a priority. As a professional, they should truly value relationship building. They should also take an active interest in your home.  Does the agent take note of features throughout your home, ask questions and take notes? Do you get a sense that they are enthusiastic about selling your home, not just adding another listing? A listing appointment and walk through should never feel rushed.

Do they offer personal and professional references? A great listing agent offers references that prove she is everything she says she is.  She’ll provide you with not only past client references, but offer to put you in touch with current clients as well.  Doing so shows total confidence in her ability to satisfy clients and earn rave reviews.

Why is this Realtor more qualified than anyone else to sell your home? This is a legitimate question and one that is rarely asked (or answered). Is this agent a negotiating master? A neighborhood expert? Does he know more about contracts and deeds than other agents?  What are the skills and talents that make this agent the ONE to sell your home?

If you find a listing agent that provides the right answers to these questions, you’re on the right track!  Sellers should start their listing agent selection process by actually getting to know the person they hire before moving on to pricing and fee discussions (which I’ll cover in future posts).