But, while most sellers find it an advantage to use a real estate agent, nearly one-third say it’s hard to find the right real estate agent. Read on for tips on how to choose the real estate agent that’s the best fit for you.
Start by doing your own market research
1. Check out the local housing market in person: Drive or walk around your neighborhood and look for repeat agent names on real estate signs (bonus if there’s a “sold” sign next to them!). According to our research, six percent of sellers find agents from a for-sale sign, while 15 percent hire an agent based on name recognition around their community.
2. Talk to an agent in person at an open house: Pop into a nearby open house and observe how the agent engages with potential buyers. Take the time to interact with the real estate agent — don’t just grab a business card and leave. Keep an eye out for personality and professional chemistry. Five percent of homes sellers find their agents at an open house.
Compare real estate agents by ratings, reviews and references
3. Compare real estate agents: Do a quick name search online for the real estate agents you’ve identified. Online reviews are the next best thing to a personal referral. Read what people in your area are saying about a recommended real estate agent. And, take note of how that agent responds to negative reviews.
Interview multiple real estate agents
5. Meet with at least three agents: When hiring a real estate agent, don’t settle on the first agent you meet. According to Zillow research, 61 percent of sellers only ever contact one agent, but by talking with multiple agents, you’ll be able to compare and contrast to find someone who will be a good fit. Handle it like a job interview —because it is! While you might have a front-runner based on a referral or local reputation, ask each of the three agents the same questions and compare their responses.
6. Ask the right questions:
- How long have you been working in real estate?
- Do you primarily work with buyers or sellers?
- How many active clients do you have at a time?
- Are you part of a team?
- What’s your specialty?
- Are you equipped to handle my unique situation?
- How will you market my home?
- Can you put me in contact with some references?
Set clear expectations when hiring a real estate agent
7. Explain your communication preferences: One of the most common complaints from buyers and sellers is about the agent’s lack of communication. Make sure you’re on the same page from the get-go.
Discuss how the agent will keep you informed and how often you expect to hear from them. If you prefer email but the agent is most responsive to phone calls, you may not be a good fit for each other. Or, if you know you’re going to have lots of questions and expect quick responses, but the agent usually just sends bi-weekly updates, you may want to find someone who is a better fit.
8. Clarify your motivation to sell: Make sure you’ve made clear any requirements that are specific to your own home sale. Are you on a strict timeline? Need to reach a specific bottom dollar? Looking to fall within a particular timing window to avoid capital gains taxes? Make sure to share these details from the beginning so your agent knows what to expect.
9. Discuss selling strategy and number of showings: Make sure you and your potential real estate agent are on the same page about their selling strategy. Will you do open houses? How many showings do you want to do? How much lead time will the agent give you before a showing? How will the property be marketed?
10. Agree on all the important details: The best agent-seller relationships are those with clearly defined expectations. Make sure that, in writing, you’ve agreed upon the commission structure, list price, and contract length (i.e., what happens if your home hasn’t sold after a certain amount of time).