By Ryan Tyson
A world of difference lies between a good listing agent and a bad listing agent. Unfortunately, for first-time home sellers, determining the difference can be difficult. You might have to interview several real estate agents before you find someone who works for you, so be sure you're asking the right questions before you start.
You should always check references before signing on with a listing agent. Talk to people whose homes the agent recently sold, not the best sales of their careers that may have happened years ago. You don't need to talk to everyone the agent sold for in the past year (in fact, many of them won't give out their information to strangers) but the agent should have a couple people willing to give them a good reference. If not, look elsewhere.
Your listing agent should be a full-time real estate agent. Doing everything required to sell a house well is a full-time job. A lot more goes into it than just showing it to a few potential buyers and determining a good listing price. A part-time agent will have divided attention between selling real estate and another job. Hire someone who spends their entire work week in the real estate industry.
A good listing agent will have advice for you about improvements your home needs before you list it for sale. Unless your entire home has been renovated in the last year, you must take care of some things. Outdated appliances have an impact on how potential buyers see your home. If your agent tells you, for example, that repairing a 20-year-old AC unit instead of replacing it is adequate, they're not giving you the best advice about preparing your home for sale.
Commissions are not like interest rates. You don't necessarily want to go with the person who offers you the very lowest. Most agents in your area work for the same commission percentage. Commissions are negotiable, but if someone is willing to negotiate down too readily, they might not have the negotiating chops to represent you well while selling your home. Plus, agents who work for a low commission don't have much incentive to do a good job.
A Friend or Family Member
It's often better to go into business with someone you don't know personally. If problems arise or you have disagreements with your agent, do you want this to turn into a fight that could damage a friendship or a relationship with a family member? You can certainly interview your friends or family members to see if they're the best for the job, but they need to understand that you'll pick the agent that's right for you, and not choose them because of your existing relationship.
With the wrong listing agent, your house might sit on the market for too long. Choosing your agent is an important step in selling your home, because the right selling agent will get you the right price on a timeline that works for you.