How to Choose a Seller's Agent


When interviewing brokers to sell your home, you want initially to ask three questions.  One, how much do you sell a year (sales volume, number of transactions)?  Two, where do you sell (geographical area of specialization)?  Three, how well do you price properties (sale-to-list ratios, days on market)?  These queries are so germane to establishing competence in a prospective listing Realtor that I always take with me to interviews statistics on my track record, compiled quarterly by one of my assistants, to address them.  Little says more about an agent's effectiveness in getting top dollar for Sellers than a long history of effectiveness.


As a rule of thumb, I suggest you engage a Realtor that has been in the business at least ten years (you need experience); does at least twelve to fifteen transactions a year (you need full-time help); and works frequently both in your home's price range and in your vicinity (you need expertise).  I also advise you to seek out a Realtor who typically sells her listings from their initial price tags; someone who repeatedly has to mark down her inventory in order to move it does not know how to position properties properly in the marketplace, which may adversely affect your bottom line.  You want to engage the services of a Realtor with a history of selling listings in a timely way, too, because ultimately a listed property is a depreciating asset:  it's worth the most when it comes onto the market (hence the importance of condition, aesthetics, and strategic pricing at the outset) and declines in value by imperceptible degrees as the weeks and months go by with no takers.


Currently in my market area 58% of listings find a Buyer and go to settlement while 42% languish until either the listings expire or they are withdrawn.  To insure that my own listings are among the successful 58%, I always develop an action plan for each new Seller-client.  The plan prioritizes issues with the property I feel need to be corrected prior to listing.   I get quotes from the relevant contractors and arrange for whatever work the homeowners have OK-ed to get done pronto.  In addition to removing "red flags" up front, I also devote much time to glamorizing my Seller-clients' home interiors and exteriors as a Certified Home Stager.  For the most part my staging consists of decluttering, then rearranging--often dramatically--furniture, art, bookshelves, and accessories a homeowner already possesses.  Sometimes neutralizing wall colors, removing window treatments, installing extra lighting, setting a table, or adding cushions to sofas and indoor plants to bathrooms is called for as well.


The bottom line, literally, is that when you are selling a house rather than simply living in it, professional staging is essential:  you will either increase the eventual sales price of your property by more (usually much more) than you spent on the staging or decrease the number of days your property is on the market--or both!


Over the years I have developed my own unique, three-step protocol for positioning properties strategically in the marketplace.  Prior to executing a listing contract I ask my sellers to undertake any needed repairs--I make a list in descending order of priority for their review--and to agree to professional staging as discussed above.  The third critical step is to price the listing-to-be correctly, neither too low nor too high but rather "right on the money."  Why?  Because any fool can OVERprice a house; it takes no skill to thrust a property onto the market at an asking price that will prove unattractive to real buyers in the field and hence elicit no offers (or only low-ball ones).  What does take skill, intestinal fortitude, and real courage is to debut a new listing at an asking price calculated to impress both agents and qualified, motivated purchasers with its reasonableness relative to competing inventory, thereby creating a stir in the marketplace and catalying strong offers. 


You thus need thoroughly to investigate a Realtor's track record both with respect to her listings' average days on market and the average number of price adjustments needed to move her inventory.  It won't help you to list your property with Agent A for $1,000,000 rather than with Agent B for $800,000 IF Agent A has a proven history of needing on average seven months and three price reductions to get properties under contract at an average sale-to-list ratio of 70% while Agent B typically sells her listings in six weeks from their original asking price with an average sale-to-list ratio of 95%.  So keep your focus on established facts:  all Realtors are NOT created equal.