How to choose a real estate agent?

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novembre
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How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by novembre » Sun Sep 09, 2018 9:11 pm

Hi All,
We will be moving into a retirement community soon and must sell our house. There are at least 200 RE agents in our area and we don’t know how to pick one. I have looked at Realtor.com, and another similar site, where you can see how many active listings a given agent has, and the number of sold properties (doesn’t give a time period), as well as the number of years’ experience as an agent. Which of these numbers are important? Can we trust this site?

Any advice would be most welcome.

I might add that there is a shortage of houses for sale in our area, especially one-storey houses, which ours is, so hopefully we will sell quickly. But I hear of sellers who accept an offer then find out, weeks later, that the buyer isn’t qualified. I wonder how we can minimize the chances of that happening?

Again, thanks for any help.

Novembre

moneywise3
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by moneywise3 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 9:13 pm

How savvy are you by yourself? You may or may not need an agent to tell you about the area. Also a lot of comp information is available online. You can even choose an agent that gives you a cash back.

desiderium
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by desiderium » Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:31 pm

I've thought about this as we will eventually sell our current home and downsize. It is desirable and valuable. I would do what others in business do.

Write up an RFP. List your priorities, e.g. net proceeds, time to sale, competitive commission etc. Do some research on real estate agents--find out their listings and sales and ask around. Pick what appears to be the best 3-5 and ask for a one page proposal. Let them know it is competitive and that you are serious about selling. Interview the ones who have the best proposals and choose.

I don't know anyone who has actually done this, but given the money and commissions involved, I don't really know why not.

Scrapr
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by Scrapr » Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:41 pm

Have any family & friends bought or sold recently? Perhaps a referral could help.

We sold our home 2 years ago. I have been around home buying & selling for most of my working life. But I was shocked at how I reacted to our home sale. I was a mess. Our Realtor was very helpful in the psycological side of calming us (me) down. He had seen most of the stuff before.

One thing popped up at the end he had not seen. Apparently scammers impersonate title companies and way lay the fund transfer. I knew about this. Our buyer signed in Hawaii and sent over by overnight mail. But it never arrived. With tracking it got held. And we didn't know why. Nobody was talking. Not the shipper, not the title co & not the buyer. Turns out that the title company gave out a bad overnight number to the buyer. And buyer had to re sign when he came back. But there was a week or so that i thought it was off the rails

I don't know what we would have done w/o our realtor

adamthesmythe
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by adamthesmythe » Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:37 am

In my opinion- in a strong market, you can't go wrong by going to the big company in your area. It is usually very obvious who that is.

If you have a desirable house start off by asking them to cut the commission. I would expect at least a modest cut. Watch out for any extra fees.

> I hear of sellers who accept an offer then find out, weeks later, that the buyer isn’t qualified. I wonder how we can minimize the chances of that happening?

You look for an buyer who can provide a mortgage pre-approval letter or proof of cash. You can ask questions about the buyer (as long as they are not forbidden questions). Often the buyer's RE will provide some info without asking. You can refuse contracts with extended inspection periods, etc. Don't take the highest offer, but the best offer.

novembre
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by novembre » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:38 pm

Thanks for the advice. Idon’t Know who is the digest RE office in the area. But I can find out.

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dm200
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by dm200 » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:21 pm

No experience - but in this area three agents heavily advertise that they each have thousands of buyers all ready to buy. This guy https://www.thelaheygroup.com/ is one. I have no idea how this "works" - but they advertise heavily on the radio stations I listen to.

riverguy
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by riverguy » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:22 pm

Save the money, list it with a realtor on the MLS for a flat fee. Can do it for $200 here.

sport
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by sport » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:35 pm

We looked at houses casually trying to see if we could find something we liked. At one of the open houses, I met an agent that really impressed me. When we were ready to sell, we signed on with that agent. He was very good.

fabdog
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by fabdog » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:07 pm

Look around your neighborhood/city... what agency has the most signs. Also ask your friends neighbors. You can look at some of the rating services online but not sure how accurate/what folks have to pay to be included.

Once you've got a list of 3 (at most 4) invite them to come and meet so they can prepare/present a marketing plan to you. Should include:

A market analysis of comparable sales
What they would suggest as a list price (with a range to accommodate desired sales speed)
What their marketing plan will be, and why
What they will charge and what other services will they arrange (house staging, photos, etc)
How many home shave they listed and sold in the past 12 months?
How long have they been an agent in that area?
What would their general estimate of time to sell be? (they should not give a specific number)
A list of things you should do to prepare the home for sale (they should be willing to hurt your feelings)

They will want at least a 90 day contract, many will ask for 6 months. 90 days should be more than fine especially if good demand in your area

If they are a broker for a large agency, they will have lots of supports, backup help in case they are busy when a potential buyer wants a showing, etc.

Mike

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Watty
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by Watty » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:36 pm

I had to sell my house when I did a corporate relocation. This is the process I used for picking a real estate agent.

I asked around for people that knew agents they would recommend and I also got the agents names from some houses were for sale or had sold recently in my subdivision. Even if someone is a good agent if they do not know your area that will be a problem so you want someone with local experience.

I talked with maybe 6 to 8 of the agents on the telephone for maybe 20 minutes at most.

I selected three of these agents to come see the house and then do a competitive market analysis and present their marketing plan to me.

One thing to be very careful about is to tell each of the agents the same thing about your selling situation. If you tell one of them that you really want to out by December 1st they may legitimately suggest a lower price than the agents that you do not tell them that. Before you start talking to any of them write down a list of your talking points so you tell them the same thing.

After hearing all three of the presentations I selected the one that I like the best and had the best reasoning on why the house should be put on the market at the price they were suggesting. It turned out that her reasoning was correct and we were able to sell it in a 40 days(?) which was reasonable for that housing market. We got just about the price that she suggested.

In talking with all the agents I learned a lot about the local housing market and felt a lot more comfortable about deciding how to proceed. Of the three that I let do the presentation there was about a 15% price difference in what they were suggesting to list the house at. That is a lot on money! At least one was trying to use a low price for a quick and easy sale. It was interesting that none of the three agents used the same comparable sales in their market analysis.

I was upfront with all the real estate agents about the process that I was using to select an agent and they were all OK with that. The ones that I did not select were professional when I told then I had selected someone else.

Basically I was going through a similar interview process as if you were hiring an employee. I was looking for someone that could "sell themselves" since they were going to be selling the house which was nice, but it did have a few issues.

One thing to watch out for is that some of the agents may give you a high suggested price just to get you to sign up with them You need to look hard at how they came up with that price to see if it is realistic. It turned out that the agent we used had suggested the highest price but she had good logic with how she came up with that number.

mortfree
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by mortfree » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:41 pm

I find it interesting that people are saying to find a realtor who can sell your house.

In my one time experience selling a home, my agent was never present when there was a showing. It was always the prospective buyer with their own realtor.

However, my agent was able to sell my home when we had an open house.

Just a reminder that the agent works for the company they represent, not you.

Maybe I just had a different experience so I’ll end with YMMV.

whomever
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by whomever » Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:09 pm

+1 to the idea of visiting open houses if you have the time. It's a chance to 'interview' prospective realtors.

Look up listings by any realtors you are considering. Would those listings attract you? For example, having quality photos is important for people who are web-shopping, but I still see listings with poorly done photography.

adamthesmythe
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by adamthesmythe » Mon Sep 10, 2018 7:43 pm

mortfree wrote:
Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:41 pm
I find it interesting that people are saying to find a realtor who can sell your house.

In my one time experience selling a home, my agent was never present when there was a showing. It was always the prospective buyer with their own realtor.

However, my agent was able to sell my home when we had an open house.

Just a reminder that the agent works for the company they represent, not you.

Maybe I just had a different experience so I’ll end with YMMV.
You don't hire a seller's agent to show the house. You expect them to do marketing and handle the negotiations. You expect them to advise on pricing. You want them to advise you on what improvements/ maintenance to do or to skip. You want advice on "staging" or at least on removing problems. And you want someone who can get a painter/ plumber/ etc. on short notice to fix stuff.

If you can do the showing and you have a good handle on all this stuff you don't need an agent.

meebers
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by meebers » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:03 pm

Totally unscientific approach. Picked one (as advertised) of the area's best multi-million dollar seller, who will get results etc. When he came to our house, he was pushy, controlled the conversation and bragged about how good he was. I did not have a good feel for him, perhaps buyers would see him the same @ Open house etc. Second best on the list was telling me everything she thought I wanted to hear, will get above listing etc. Opened the phone book, blindly picked a realtor, first guy that answered the phone, I invited him for an interview, figuring 3 interviews should be enough 8-) . Guy showed up in a smoking old toyota, young guy, over sized shirt, fairly new in the business who was calm and had a plan etc. We gave him a chance, 3 days later he presented us with an offer which we accepted at full price. YMMV

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Mlm
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by Mlm » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:20 pm

I've sold a few houses over the years. One time I decided to hire the most popular agent in my neighborhood. She was a top seller, had a lot of years in the business and put together a great sales presentation. As it turned out she was away on vacation for the majority of the three month listing and I never received an offer of any kind.

I then relisted at the same price with a person that had a lifetime of top sales experience but was new to the real estate game. He was very, very hungry and it showed through this persistent follow up with every agent that had shown my house. Within two weeks I had an offer at full asking price.

If I had to sell again I would keep the initial contract very short. I think you will know pretty fast how hard the agent is working for you.

Dottie57
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by Dottie57 » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:31 pm

There has been a real estate agent in my parents neighborhood who has done very well. Sold dozens of houses in the area, and advertises with calendars, pens etc. if he is still around when mom’s house needs to be sold, he will be called. His open houses are always show well and are priced in the right range.

Look for similar in your neighborhood.

WhyNotUs
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by WhyNotUs » Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:09 pm

The top things that you need from a realtor are:
A comprehensive market analysis of your area to price the home properly
Advice on the minimum you need to do to prepare the home for prompt sale
A marketing plan with specific commitments for what they will do during the life of the listing to get it sold
Access to the Multiple Listing Service so that all realtors can try to sell it

None of this is rocket science but some realtors actually love doing it and you can get a sense of that by calling three on your list of top sellers in your area and meeting with them. Give them a chance to propose a plan that addresses the above. As others have noted, it is mostly likely that another broker will actually bring the buyer but you need someone to do the above and then be very proficient at problem solving and staying on top of deadlines once it is under contract.
I own the next hot stock- VTSAX

RickBoglehead
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by RickBoglehead » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:29 am

The main purpose of an open house is for the listing broker to meet potential clients, not to sell your house. I'll never agree to an open house again. There is usually a realtors-only open house, that's different.

Many realtors have a "team", like "The John Smith Team". Often that means that John will never do a damn thing, he's just drumming up more business. You get one of X team members for each thing you call about, and they often have been in the business for 4 or 5 minutes.

You're hiring a realtor to correctly price your home to sell in the time period you want it to sell in, and to market your home to make this happen. Many don't get this. My neighbor had her home on the market for over 3 years, sold for 35% less than she initially asked. Her carrying costs for those 3 years (she was living elsewhere) were huge. She spent way more carrying the house than the discount she eventually took.

In this digital age, having not sold a house in 13 years, I'd have to reassess how to approach it. I can tell you that like many things, I'd look for a specialized forum to learn more. I use a truck forum for info on my truck, a boat forum for info on my boat, and the Boglehead forum for info on my investments. I don't come here for plumbing advice, I find a plumbing forum. There are very specialized real estate forums.

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djpeteski
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by djpeteski » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:36 am

We are currently toward the end of the house selling process, our first one. Our agent was worth the cost and we did not negotiate down.

I looked on review sites, like google or yelp and found three people that were good candidates. I called and interviewed each of them. One clearly stood out and we hired him. The property is in palm beach county, so it is nothing to have listings over a million. Ours was listed for 118K. Still I feel we got full service including him hiring a photographer and they did virtual staging. And that is what sold our place. People saw the photos on Zillow and loved the way it looked.

We were under contract in less than 2 weeks, and it was only after the agent talked with the buyer's mortgage person. There were clauses put in place to make sure this closed quickly. Hopefully next week it will be done. Very worth it for the service provided.

capsaicinguy
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by capsaicinguy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:19 am

I am good friends with a husband/wife RE agent couple who are absolute rockstars and have given me a little glimpse into the RE world. They are very successful in their market. They never do open houses and get the majority of their clients by word of mouth. They don't advertise except via a yearly fridge calendar magnet to current/former clients. As stated per them open houses are for RE agents that are in need to drum up more clients, NOT to sell the seller's house. To quote them, would you just leave for the weekend and leave the door unlocked for anyone to walk around in your house? Probably not, so why should you do the same when selling it? If more than one couple comes into the house, they can't keep an eye on everyone and guarantee something won't get damaged/stolen. A good agent needs to be connected, that is how they market your house behind the scenes with other agents and with their own client pool to find buyers. And as also stated it's how they can get subs in on short notice to fix things. FWIW, if anyone is looking for an agent in SE Minnesota PM me. With the digital age I think there will be a lot of pressure on the current RE model but a truly good agent does so much more than just list on the MLS and tell you what junk to pack up for staging.

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dm200
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by dm200 » Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:01 am

Some real estate agents specialize on a neighborhood and claim (don't know if true) that they can do best because they know the most about the neighborhood real estate market and can do the best in "marketing" your house.

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Ketawa
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by Ketawa » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:26 am

Personally, I went to Redfin first and saw that no actual Redfin agents were available. However, they had some affiliated agents and I contacted 3, presuming they would be willing to negotiate on commission. I also contacted an agent from the big company in the area.

I went with one who affiliated with Redfin who did a very high volume of sales and seemed to have a good feel for the pricing. One whom I contacted who was affiliated with Redfin wanted to list for what I felt was too high a price, which was borne out by my experience. One Redfin-affiliated agent didn't give me a warm and fuzzy when he assumed I was underwater on the house right out the gate and met, which was not the case at all. The realtor from a large company wanted to list much lower and would not cut his commission. I think I ended up at 1.5% for the seller's agent and 3.0% for the buyer's agent after negotiating my preferred Redfin-affiliated agent down to match another.

The agent ended up being valuable with strategy. I had an offer early and after I countered about halfway between, the buyer walked away, which was surprising. After about 2 months we dropped the price from $285K to $280K. After 1 more month while I was moving out, at his recommendation, we removed the listing for a few days, then relisted at $275K to make the listing look new. We had a lot more showings and were under contract at that price in about a week.

I would recommend finding someone who does a lot of volume and is willing to negotiate on price. At 1.5% for the seller's agent, I felt comfortable with the service I received for strategy and not needing to be at home or available to take calls about showings, plus assistance through the closing process while I was remote. I'm skeptical there is a lot of marketing in today's world that an agent can provide. Marketing is just taking some pictures and waiting for the listing to hit Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. I never went to an open house when I bought and never held one.

There doesn't seem a good way to get out of 3% going to the buyer's agent, even if you don't have an agent yourself. Most buyers will have agents. You could refuse to pay the agent a commission, sure, but they're going to get their cut from the buyer and it doesn't matter whose pocket the money comes from. Plus, the buyer's agents do a lot more work.

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nopushover
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by nopushover » Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:50 pm

You have already received a lot of great advice (especially by Watty and fabdog), but here's one more tale. Note that every situation is different. In late spring of 2017 my cousin and I sold a house that we both co-owned for our grandparents (who by 2016 had both passed away). It was in a west coast HCOL city that at the time was a seller's market. As my cousin lived out of town, I handled hiring a realtor and prepping the house. I have had 2 experiences buying personal homes, but never sold one before.

This house, which needed some updating, was in an edgy, just barely gentrifying area. I interviewed 2 agents who were familiar with the locale (familiarity with the area is key) – both agents were from well known, national agencies. One was a lone-wolf agent highly recommended by friends who had many years in the business and did everything herself (including hosting each open house), while the other worked with a "team" and did extensive marketing (on-line and in print) and made many sales. Lone-wolf presented a thorough competitive market analysis and explained what she felt the house might fetch. The team often handled property worth significantly more than value and in move-in condition. I knew that my house would not be high priority for the team leader, I would get a junior flunky, but was fine with that if I had confidence in that junior person. The analysis from the team was more cursory and less than that of the Lone-wolf. I told the junior person that I was wondering how she came up with her price-range, when another analysis I received had a high range. She did not offer to re-do her analysis or offer a better reason for her low-ish price. It seemed like the team just wanted to get the house on the market and sell as soon as possible to mark off another sale. I went with the person I felt most comfortable with, which was Lone-wolf. As she was not at that moment representing a lot of other homes for sale, our house had a good portion of her attention.

After putting in a lot of sweat equity and some money to spruce the place up, it sold in 2 weeks with multiple offers and above asking by a significant amount.

Lessons learned = trust your gut; educate yourself on the local real estate market; know how much work you're willing to put in to get the house ready to show.

Good luck.

novembre
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Re: How to choose a real estate agent?

Post by novembre » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:32 pm

Thanks Nopushover for your advice.

And thanks to everyone who took the time to write. I learned a lot, and I now feel much better qualified to choose an agent to list our home.

Nov

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