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You're ready to sell your home.  You've discussed it with the family, have a good idea of what it's worth, and you're ready to make the big move and call a Realtor.

How do you choose a seller's agent?  Are they all the same?  Do they know the same things? Consider these things before you sign your rights away and either waste a lot of time, or lose a lot of money...

Choose by the company and take the first agent that comes along?

We are inundated day and night by tv commercials about Century 21, Remax, Prudential, and other agencies that are nationwide and very popular.  Does the agency name guarantee a good agent?

Not necessarily.  While the bigger agencies may do more national media marketing than smaller ones...or independents, this doesn't guarantee that a particular agent will work hard, spend personal money to market your home effectively, have the best website to show internet buyers, or will not try to sell faster by costing you price-wise.

The experts all say that close to 90% of buyers begin their real estate search on the internet for homes, condos, and land. 

Out of the thousands of agents in the country, probably only 1/10 or less of them have spent the money, taken the time to learn about, and utilize the internet effectively.  This should be a strong point in your choice of a selling agent.  Have them show you their website, and check Google to see where it ranks for "Your City Real Estate".  If it isn't there, you should probably look elsewhere.  You've lost a huge potential for selling your home right there.

Go with a friend or neighbor and/or family members out of obligation?

If you are a buyer, this might be ok. As a seller, it may be the worst mistake you can make.  Your friend may have a good personality.  Your friend's daughter may have gotten good grades and need a break to kick start her new career.  Your nephew? Well, you may be stuck with that one.

But keep in mind that if things go sour, you may lose a friendship, create a family rift, or be put on the spot to stay with a seller that isn't a good seller.

Keep it professional and hire a professional .  It's good to get references, though, so perhaps asking a friend if they know someone, with the stipulation that it not be family, could be a good way to start.

Take the first one you talk to because it's easy and they're all the same anyway?

Be lazy in your decision and don't be surprised after 6 months have passed and you haven't gotten a bite.

Choose an agent that suggests the highest selling price?

Not a good idea at all.  Real estate is a cut throat profession in many areas.  Many agents will flatter you by over-pricing the property to get that all-important listing contract.  If your house is over-priced, it won't sell...simple as that.  In the present market with the number of foreclosures, speculators that need to exit and sellers under pressure, you may have to take a lower amount than you had hoped for.

That's something you should think about up front anyway.  Are you willing to leave your home on the market for 12 months or more and hold out for what you feel it's worth, or will you concede to the market and sell it quickly? Will holding out really deliver a better price in the long run anyway? It usually does the opposite.

Choose an agent by the lowest commission?

As everyone knows deep down inside, you get what you pay for.  An agent that agrees to take a discount rate is not going to work hard for you. Why would they be working at a discount in the first place if they weren't desperate for inventory, brand new to the business or failing?  The average 6% sounds like a lot of money.  But by the time the agent splits that with a broker, pays for a great website and real estate marketing, hauls potential buyers back and forth with today's gas prices, and pays for other expenses that all agents have, that amount isn't nearly as much as you may think. In fact all across the nation, many real estate offices are closing their doors or struggling to keep them open and advertising and marketing are among the first things to suffer cutbacks in firms that are in trouble.

In addition, often a home is sold by a cooperating agent, and the commission is then split between the two firms.  If the commission percentage is low, other agents are not going to bother showing your house. Worse, some firms try hard to keep their sales in house in order not to have to share their fees. It would be normal for a firm to split roughly 50% of their sales. If there percentage of sales falls much below that, either they are the only game in your town or they are somehow not sharing their sales very well which in fact can be costing you money since your property may not be receiving competitive interest. Does the agency belong to the MLS and do they participate in IDX? If not both, you should look elsewhere.

A good real estate agent will EARN your respect, and every dollar of that commission. After all, in what other line of work do people invest their time and money on the "chance" they will eventually earn a fee? Not any that we can think of.

Do your homework, interview with several people, ask about the websites and other services the firm offers to market their listings. Today there are video presentations for example, new features on websites like this one for example, a blog and other creative new ideas all of which go hand in hand in generating traffic and interest in your listing. Choose carefully and thoughtfully when choosing an agent to sell your home. It will definitely show up in your bottom line at the closing table.


Jan Chilton and Paul Harsch

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