How to choose a real estate agent

Guest Blogger David McCorkle
How to choose a real estate agent

The real estate agent you choose to assist in selling your home can make a big difference in the success or failure of the job. All agents will claim to be "strong marketers" and "aggressive sales agents," so how can you dig through the hype and find one that will do the job well? If you are selling a home, consider these strategies for finding an agent:

1. Find prospective agents

The first step is finding potential agents to interview. The best way to do this is to talk to friends or family in the area for names of agents they’ve been satisfied with in the past. Then, when you call the agent, tell them who referred you.

If you cannot get referrals from people in your area, find agents at home buying seminars near you. While you are not necessarily in the market to buy a home, you can see the agent in a professional venue and use that to evaluate their abilities and professionalism.

2. Do a background check

Take the list of agents you are interested in and do some background checking. Visit the agents' websites, look them up on social media and check with your state Department of Real Estate to see what licensure they have or any history of discipline. As you do this, notice what types of technology the agents are using in their marketing efforts. If you see any red flags, remove those agents off your list.

3. Call the agents

Before scheduling a face-to-face talk, call the agents and ask if they work in your geographic area. Some agents are quite specific in the areas they buy and sell homes, so eliminate any that do not serve your community. When you call, you might find that a few do not have the time to talk or aren’t friendly on the phone — this could be another indication that they are not a good fit. Otherwise, make an appointment to meet up to five of the agents in person you’re interested in.

4. Have a meeting

Schedule a meeting with three to five agents from your references. This gives you the chance to get to know the agents, their marketing strategies and their personalities. The agent will have a list of topics to cover at the meeting, but you will want to have your own list of questions. Consider asking:

  • How long have you been in business? Look for an agent with at least five years of experience.
  • How many homes like mine have you sold in the past two years? You want an agent with experience not just in your area, but also in your price range.
  • How many homes are you selling right now? If the agent has 15 homes, you may not get personal service for yours.
  • What marketing tactics will you use to sell my home? Look for an agent who markets in a variety of ways.
  • What is my home worth in the current market? The agent should show market research to help you price your home with confidence.
  • How quickly will my home sell? The agent will not have a perfect answer for this question, but look for one who is realistic (but optimistic) about your chances of selling quickly.
  • How can I communicate with you? You need an agent who will be responsive and keep you in the loop about the home's sale. Yet you won't be the only client the agent has. Look for one who has a solid, open communication plan.

5. Learn about credentials

Real estate agents can have many different credentials, and you need to find out which credentials your prospective agents have. For sellers, the following are helpful:

  • CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) - These agents have completed additional training in residential real estate.
  • SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) - If you are in the 50-plus age group, this agent has special training aimed at helping sellers in your age group.
  • NAR (National Association of Realtors) - If your agent uses Realtor as a title instead of real estate agent, he or she has been accepted into the NAR.

While you may not need all of these qualifications, seeing that the agent had additional training or is interested in pursuing further qualifications shows that you have found an agent serious about his or her work.

6. Make the choice

After you have completed these tips, you should have a clear idea about which agent is the best. If two look equally good on paper, choose the one you feel has a personality that matches yours. You will be working closely with the agent, so it is important that he or she works well with you.

By working through these steps, you can sign with an agent confidently, knowing the agent you chose will do everything possible to sell your home at a competitive price.