Choosing a realtor to sell your house will be one of the most important decisions you’ll make.
How do I know?
Because I picked the wrong real estate agent when my wife and I sold our home.
And the end result was a disaster.
Months on the market, high stress, and selling for much lower than what we should have. This was before I got into the real estate industry.
Knowing what I know now, there’s no chance I would choose the realtor I picked if I had to do it again.
The biggest mistake I made?
Convincing my wife to choose our agent because I liked him (and his inflated price) more than the other agent we interviewed.
Should you pick a listing agent you like?
But likeability does not mean an agent has the right qualifications to sell your home for the highest price and in the shortest amount of time.
I’m going to show you what to look for in a realtor so you know what does.
Follow these steps on how to choose a real estate agent for selling.
1. Understand which realtors to avoid
The first step in choosing a realtor to sell your home is simple:
Steer clear of agents who have a history of representing both a seller and buyer in the same transaction.
An agent who represents both parties (what’s known as a “dual agent” or a “transaction agent”) is contractually obligated to both the seller’s and buyer’s interests.
This makes negotiating the best price for the seller nearly impossible.
But it also does something else.
It allows the listing agent you’re working with to get two commissions instead of one (one for representing the seller and one for representing the buyer).
This is the sole reason why some real estate agents will intentionally limit the exposure of a home they have listed.
So they can make more money by getting a buyer who doesn’t have an agent.
This can hurt you when selling your house because it’s very likely that the sale price won’t be as high as it should be.
Now, sometimes a buyer won’t have an agent — or a listing agent might have a buyer who is interested in your home.
But you shouldn’t sell your home with a realtor who has a higher percentage of these sales than other agents in your area.
Because these are the agents with questionable character.
They prioritize getting a higher commission above looking out for a seller’s best interests.
The percentage you should watch out for varies by county (I know because this is a key data point we look at before matching a seller with a listing agent).
But I can tell you this…
A good rule of thumb is to not pick a realtor who has represented both the seller and buyer in 10% or more of their listings — no matter which county you’re selling your home in.
2. Compare listing agents online
Searching online can be a great way to find a realtor to sell your house.
It gives you an opportunity to compare some of the qualities you should look for.
And makes it easier to disqualify the listing agents you shouldn’t choose.
Here are a few things you should consider:
- Reviews: Analyzing reviews on multiple platforms is a great way to learn about what others in your area think of an agent. Look for common language in the reviews left by sellers (communication, service, negotiating, responsiveness, etc.) This takes a little time but is a great indicator of the type of service an agent provides (which is why our algorithm does this for sellers).
- Listings sold: Find the agent’s listings in your area, and focus on the ones that were sold over the last several years. Years of experience is important, but recent selling experience carries more weight. And be sure you’re looking at the sales where they represented the seller (and not the buyer).
- Price range: An agent who primarily sells homes in a much lower price range won’t have the experience needed to attract the right type of buyer. And agents who sell in a much higher price range probably won’t give your listing the attention it deserves. So browse the agent’s listings to ensure they have some experience selling near your home’s estimated value range.
You should conduct this research even if you find a prospective listing agent at an open house or through a referral.
Because due diligence will increase your chances of choosing an agent who meets the right qualifications to sell your home.
But be careful…
Ensure you look at the right criteria
Some sellers get swooned by the wrong criteria when exploring agents online.
Take real estate giant Zillow, for example.
Agents who are highlighted as “premier” agents on Zillow’s site pay for that designation.
This means that any realtor can have that accolade slapped next to their name — as long as they pay for it.
Now, a seller thinks those agents are “qualified,” and they very well may be…but without ensuring the right criteria, that realtor could be a sheep in wolves clothing.
3. Interview qualified real estate agents
Approach choosing an agent to sell your home in a similar way as you would prepare to interview someone for a job.
Because that’s what it is.
And it’s a job to sell your most important asset.
So you should treat it as such.
Many home sellers don’t.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 80% of sellers pick the first agent they meet with.
This is something you might want to think about not doing.
Because interviewing multiple candidates allows you to compare and contrast key information.
And you can use that information to help you pick the realtor best qualified to sell your home.
Here are a few of the important things to ask a realtor when selling.
Do you have experience selling in my area?
The real estate agent you select should have some experience selling homes in your area.
But don’t put too much emphasis on that criteria (many home sellers do).
Because relevant experience is the minimum quality you should look for in an agent when selling your home.
But it’s not the only one.
Plus, the internet has made this agent qualification less important.
Buyers are able to go online to get a lot of the information they’re looking for about a particular neighborhood or area.
But sometimes they won’t find all the benefits a particular area offers.
Or they won’t know why a specific neighborhood characteristic is beneficial.
So it’s important you choose an agent who has relevant selling experience.
Just don’t make it your top priority when determining which realtor you’re going to pick.
What’s your plan?
Not all listing agents have the same selling strategy.
And not all real estate agents provide the same service.
So you want to know why a prospective listing agent thinks their plan makes them the best choice for you.
What do they think you need to do to your home before listing? And how can they help you?
Who do they think your ideal buyer is?
Which marketing channels will they use to reach interested buyers?
And what’s included in their marketing plan?
Professional photos? Video? Brochures? Staging?
This is the time to learn more about how they can help guide you through the steps of selling with a real estate agent.
And more importantly, their specific strategy to get your home sold.
How much do you think I should list my house for?
Most real estate agents will give you an opinion about what your home should be listed at during your first meeting.
But don’t get tunnel vision about the exact number just yet.
Instead, focus on how they got to that number.
Ensure that the listing price they chose is backed by data with a comparative market analysis (CMA).
This is an analysis that compares your home to other similar homes that have recently sold in your area.
Look for how an agent compares the selling price of the sold homes to their estimated value of your property.
You should see value adjustments for the key differences (sq. ft., condition, beds, baths, etc.).
And the realtor you pick should speak with confidence when explaining why they think your house should be listed at the price they’re suggesting.
But there’s something you need to be aware of with this.
4. Don’t choose a realtor with an inflated list price
Some real estate agents are very good at convincing a homeowner that they can sell their house for an unrealistic price.
I fell for this tactic before I got into the real estate business.
Here’s what usually happens (and what happened to me)…
The seller will get an opinion about what their home is worth from one or more real estate agents.
And one of those agents persuades the seller that their home’s value is higher than it is.
So the seller chooses that agent.
The overpriced listing hits the market, and the price discourages buyers from visiting.
Then after the home has been sitting for longer than it should, the agent tells the seller that they should reduce the price.
The end result?
A stale listing with a final sale price that’s lower than it would have been if the home was priced right from the start.
And the agent still gets paid a commission.
Here’s how you can avoid this…
Don’t choose a real estate agent whose price is substantially higher than other listing agents you consider.
The convincing speech about pocketing more money may seem tempting, but don’t fall for it.
Because here’s the thing…
Your home is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it.
And if that price is substantially high, then a real estate agent with the right qualifications will get it for you.
5. Compare home selling plans
Many experienced real estate agents can sell a house.
But there’s a reason why some agents have a proven track record of selling homes faster and for more money.
One of those reasons?
The individual blueprint they come up with for each home they sell.
Your goal should be to select a realtor to sell your house who has a specific strategy.
That strategy should look something like this:
- Identify the ideal buyers
- Determine what’s most appealing about your home to those potential buyers
- Maximize the marketing reach through the right channels
But not all real estate agents will have the best approach.
This is why you should analyze an agent’s plan before deciding which one to pick.
What’s their selling strategy?
The listing agent you choose should tell you how they plan on reaching your ideal buyers.
Here’s what should be included in their marketing plan:
- Posting to the MLS (multiple listing service)
- Syndication to all major real estate search sites
- Professional photos
- Professionally written property description
- Open houses and broker tours
But I’d consider those the “minimum.”
Look for additional marketing tools that could help separate your property from other houses for sale.
Some of these might include:
- Drone photos/video
- Custom brochures
- Floor plan
- Plan to improve your value before listing
These are great ways to showcase your home if it has a good layout and/or is in good condition.
They can make your home more appealing to prospective buyers.
And those prospective buyers probably fall within a certain target audience.
For example, the ideal buyer for your house might be:
- A young family upgrading from their starter home
- An older couple looking to downsize
- A younger couple looking for their first house
- An investor looking for a rental property
- A family looking for a vacation home
So it’s important that you listen to how a prospective listing agent talks about who they think might be interested in buying your home.
Pay attention to how they plan on marketing your home to that audience.
You should lean toward choosing a realtor who can thoroughly explain how they plan on implementing the best selling strategy.
One that will attract the right buyer in the shortest amount of time.
6. Pick a listing agent who won’t lock you into a contract
You’ll sign a listing agreement with the real estate agent you choose.
All home sellers do.
The contract is usually for ~6 months (negotiable) and doesn’t include an option to cancel.
This makes it difficult (and awkward) to fire your agent.
And essentially “guarantees” the agent’s commission as long as your house sells.
Some real estate agents will take advantage of this.
They do this by not giving your sale the attention it deserves and instead spending that time generating new business for themselves.
The potential result when the agent you select doesn’t prioritize your listing?
A home for sale that sits on the market.
Or a lower selling price.
So here’s what you should know before signing a contract with a listing agent…
Make sure the realtor you pick to sell your house will let you cancel the agreement at any time.
And get this confirmation before you finalize the hiring process.
This isn’t standard, but a good listing agent will do this.
And you’ll reap the benefits.
Because it will keep your agent motivated since their commission isn’t “guaranteed.”
They’ll know you can choose another realtor at any time.
And it’s a subtle reminder that they need to prioritize getting your home sold quickly and for the best price.
This is why one of our agent screening requirements is allowing a seller to cancel at any time (without owing any commissions).
It shows a sense of trustworthiness, which gives a seller confidence that they’re working with the right agent.
The real estate agent you choose to sell your home matters.
Your decision will impact how fast you sell and how much money you walk away with.
If you followed everything we discussed, you’ll be selling your house with an agent who possesses the qualities you need:
- Experience selling in your area and price range
- Stellar feedback from sellers
- A low history of dual agency
- Won’t lock you into a listing agreement
Now that you know how to pick a realtor to sell your house, your next step should be knowing when to initially make contact.