Hiring a Realtor to Sell Your Home: What’s The Process?

Joseph Alongi
By Joseph Alongi
Updated November 28th, 2022
Hiring a realtor to sell your home

Maybe you’ve got a new job (congrats!) and are moving out of state. Or, you’ve found your dream property but need to sell your home before purchasing a new one.

Whatever the case, you need help hiring a realtor to sell your home, ASAP.

If you’re feeling a sense of urgency, that’s understandable for two reasons…

  1. Many markets aren’t as hot as they once were, with U.S. home sales steadily declining in 2022. 
  2. The National Association of Realtors predicts an increase in interest rates, a downturn in sales prices, and a drop in the number of homes sold in the coming months.

This makes hiring the right realtor even more important. 

But what does the hiring process look like, from engaging a real estate agent to signing your listing agreement? And how do you ensure you hire a realtor who can sell your house fast and for the most money?

I’ve gone through the process of being hired to sell homes — and I’ve employed realtors to sell my own before getting into the industry — so I’ve seen the undertaking of employing an agent both as a realtor and as a seller.

Let’s go through the process of hiring a realtor so that you can engage the right agent to sell as soon as you’re ready.

What to do before hiring a realtor

Some home sellers get stuck with the wrong agent because they jump the gun and make an irrational decision.

Making a rational choice will help you avoid that.

Here are a few things to do before enlisting a real estate agent to increase your chances of hiring the right agent.

Determine what you’ll need help with

When you hire a realtor to sell your house, you’re establishing a relationship with an agent you’re hoping you can count on throughout the entire selling process.

You want to make sure that the agent knows what you need help with before hiring them.

For example…

Suppose you’re selling a rental property or have already purchased your new home (and moved out) before your house will be listed. In that case, you may need help:

  • Meeting service providers (handyman, inspectors, etc.) at your property
  • Checking in on the house (if it’s vacant or has tenants)

Or, if you’ll be living in the residence while it’s on the market, you may need:

  • Advice on items to remove (or add) from the home to enhance its appearance
  • An agent to accommodate showings only at certain times (especially if you work from home or need to round up kids/pets)

Defining what your needs are will help you hire the agent who is best for you.

Plus, it helps set the expectations for the partnership early on.

Change your mindset

Many home sellers base their hiring decision on how much they like a real estate agent. While likeability is important, it doesn’t mean the realtor is the best fit.

Instead, reframe your mindset to view the arrangement as a business decision.

This can remove emotions and put you in a better position to hire the right agent: the one who is best qualified to get your house sold quickly — and for top dollar.

Do your research 

You’ll want to do your homework before committing to a realtor.

Why?

Because conducting the right research will ensure you hire an agent with the right qualifications.

Specifically, seek out an agent who:

  • Has experience selling real estate in your area
  • Is experienced selling properties near your price range
  • Maintains a track record of positive feedback from sellers
  • Doesn’t have an alarming history of representing the seller and buyer in the same transaction
  • Won’t lock you into a contract

You’ll increase your chances of a successful home sale if you hire a realtor who checks these boxes.

It’s fine to conduct research before or after meeting with potential agents; what’s most important is that you do it before you hire an agent.

Agent services: What to expect when hiring a realtor

When you enlist a realtor, you’re essentially paying them a commission in exchange for services that will help sell your home.

But not all listing agents will provide you with the same services…

This can depend on several factors:

  • The realtor’s experience
  • How much an agent is willing to invest in marketing your home
  • The effort the agent is willing to put in
  • An agent’s reputation

Knowing which services are standard — and which ones aren’t — can help you make a better-informed decision when hiring a real estate agent.

Services to expect from your realtor

You can (and should) expect your listing agent to do the following:

Arrange photos

House photos should be taken by a professional photographer and paid for by the agent — though some real estate agents will snap pictures themselves to save on out-of-pocket costs.

Provide interior/exterior recommendations

If you want to boost your home’s appearance, an experienced realtor can advise on what repairs, improvements, and decor updates to make that will bring the best return on investment.

They should also be able to suggest reliable service professionals.

List on the MLS

Any real estate agent you hire will post your listing on the MLS (multiple listing service), which gets syndicated to all major websites. 

Hold open houses

They should be available to host open houses to make it easier for potential buyers to visit your home.

And they should be able to answer any question pertaining to your property and home sale that might come up during any of the open houses.

Handle paperwork

Your realtor will provide and manage all documents, including real estate disclosures and offer contracts.

Coordinate and supervise inspections

If you plan to get inspections before putting your house on the market, your real estate agent should help coordinate with inspectors and meet them at your property. And a reliable agent will also be present if the buyer has any inspections done.

Meet the appraiser

Although the appraisal is for buyers, it’s a good idea for your agent to be at the property to meet the appraiser.

Some appraisers are open to agent feedback about recent home sales; if your listing agent is able to share this, it can reduce the chances of the sale falling through because your home didn’t appraise for the selling price.

Services your realtor may not provide

Depending on which agent you hire, you may or may not get the following services…

Heavy marketing

Despite what many sellers believe, not all agents provide the same marketing.

This is because agents pay for marketing expenses up front (and out of their pockets).

Also, some real estate agents simply won’t want to pay for additional marketing — often because they are newer or may only sell sporadically.

So, while some marketing support may be included, the degree from different agents may vary. 

  • Drone photos: Your realtor may use them if you have a large lot or home, or to show proximity to someplace.
  • Custom video: Professional videos (shot by a videographer) or 3D walkthroughs aren’t part of a traditional marketing plan when selling a home, but they can be beneficial if your property is in good condition and has a desirable layout. 
  • Custom brochures: Basic flyers to pass out at open houses/showings are standard; customized brochures aren’t.
  • Social media ads: Although they may get your listing more exposure, not all real estate agents utilize digital ads.

Home staging

It’s common for realtors to arrange free consultations with a home stager in some medium- to higher-priced markets.

If you’re in a pricier market, an agent may even offer complimentary home staging as a perk in their marketing plan.

Trustworthy negotiating

Every agent will tell you they’ll negotiate for you — but not all of them will.

This is because some agents make it a priority to also represent the buyer in the same sale so they can make more commission.

These sales have a lower average sale price than sales where the agent only represents the seller.

A good agent has a track record of not doing this.

How to hire a realtor in 6 steps

Prepping for the hiring process will increase your chances of selling with the right agent.

But now it’s time to execute the necessary steps to accomplish that.

Here’s how to hire a realtor who’s experienced, reputable, and best equipped to sell your home.

1. Arrange the initial meeting

You’ll want to contact a realtor once you’re fairly confident you’ve narrowed down real estate agents to consider (or found “the one”).

You can get in touch with an agent via text, phone, or email, and you should expect a pretty quick reply if you don’t make an immediate connection on the phone.

The reason for your initial outreach is to set up a time for your first meeting.

You have two options:

  1. Schedule a brief phone call. This can help gauge your level of comfort before meeting an agent in person.
  2. Skip the phone interview and schedule a time to meet at your home.  

Many home sellers will speak to a realtor on the phone before meeting with them, but it’s really a personal preference.

No matter which route you go, expect an agent to ask about your selling situation when you reach out (are you selling and buying, moving out of the area, etc).

And they’ll most likely ask questions about your home (property type, condition, etc.).

Your answers will give agents the information they need to compare your property to recently sold homes before meeting with you.

This is important because it helps a realtor provide you with their best list price recommendation during your initial consultation.

2. Walk the realtor through your house

Walking a prospective agent through your home is a must for two reasons:

  •  It helps the agent confirm their recommended list price.
  •  It gives you a better sense of the agent’s expertise.

A home’s layout and condition have a big impact on its value and appeal to prospective homebuyers.

Going room-by-room will allow an agent to verify their list price recommendation and give you a better idea about your estimated selling price.

Share any improvements you’ve made and mention upgrades or repairs you’re considering while touring your property with a prospective agent.

Pay attention to the agent’s feedback…

  • Are they pointing out selling features? 
  • Do they give reasons why they’re suggesting (or discouraging) particular fixes or upgrades? 
  • Are they telling you what buyers may or may not like?

Assessing the agent’s evaluation of your home can impact your decision of which realtor you ultimately hire.

3. Ask qualifying questions

Asking the right questions is key to hiring the right realtor.

Why?

Because it helps you qualify the agent who will put you in the best position to sell for the highest price, quickly. 

For example, an agent with relevant selling experience meets the basic minimum qualifications you need in a realtor. So, inquiring about their experience selling in your local market and price range is essential. 

But if you want the best price, hiring a realtor who doesn’t prioritize their commission is even more important. 

This is why you’ll want to probe about the percentage of sales where they’ve represented both seller and buyer in the same real estate transaction.

Hiring a realtor who has a low percentage of these sales ensures you’re getting an agent with a track record of prioritizing their client’s best interests.

You’re hiring someone to sell your most valuable asset, so don’t take this step lightly. 

To help you prepare for interviewing real estate agents, here’s a list of the best questions to ask a realtor when selling your house.

4. Review the realtor’s services 

Remember, you’re hiring an agent to do a job — to get your home sold for the best price and as quickly as possible.

This means you’re the employer; the agent is the employee. 

It also means you should understand which services you’re getting before you decide to hire a realtor:

  • What is their marketing plan?
  • Are they committed to helping you prepare your home to list?
  • How often will they be available once you sign the agent agreement?

Reviewing and verifying the realtor’s services ensures you’re both on the same page and prevents any surprises.

5. Agree on the listing price

Many sellers fear their realtor will intentionally underprice or overprice for their own benefit.

This is a legitimate concern because there are real estate agents who do this.

But some sellers’ thoughts become so clouded by this fear that they base their hiring decision solely on the realtor who recommends the highest price.

Don’t do this. 

Instead, consider how each realtor comes up with their suggested list price.

Every hiring candidate should provide you with a comparative market analysis, a report that includes recent sales of comparable homes (and sometimes neighborhood market trends).

The most useful number in this analysis is the agent’s list price recommendation.

While obtaining a realtor’s opinion of your home’s value is good, learning how they arrived at that figure is better.

You want to hire an agent who provides an honest price recommendation, backed by data.

The data is crucial because it’s what your realtor will use when negotiating with a buyer’s agent to get you the highest offer.

So, when you’re discussing what price you should list your home at, approaching it from a buyer’s perspective will help you arrive at the best “asking” price.

6. Sign the listing agreement

The final step of hiring a realtor is putting pen to paper by signing a listing agreement

Think of this agreement as an employment contract — because that’s essentially what it is. 

The realtor you hire should walk you through your agreement so you understand what you’re signing. 

Some important things most sellers don’t know:

  • The agreement is exclusive (you can’t hire another agent during the duration of the contract)
  • The timeframe is negotiable (most agreements run six months)
  • Most listing agreements don’t include a cancellation clause (so firing your realtor can be difficult and uncomfortable)

When should I start the process of hiring a realtor?

It’s best to back into a timeline of when you want your property on the market. This can depend on how much home prep is required.

If your home needs…

  • Zero to minimal upgrades → Hire a realtor 6 weeks before
  • Major upgrades → Hire 3 months before

While every selling situation is unique, use these estimates to determine your timeline:

  • Major upgrades (kitchen, bathroom): 60-90 days
  • Minimal home prep: 14 days 
  • Research: 1-3 days
  • Vetting/hiring a realtor: 4-14 days
  • Staging: 7 days
  • Photos and marketing prep: 7 days
  • Home inspection/signing disclosures: 7 days

Red flags to look for when hiring a realtor

While you’ll want a somewhat aggressive realtor, be wary of any agents who are extremely pushy about signing the listing agreement during your first meeting — especially if you’ve hinted (or stated) you want to think about it.

An overly assertive agent is more likely to pressure you to accept a lower offer so they can move on to their next sale. 

In other words, those agents are liable to have a history of prioritizing their commission over their sellers’ best interests

Additionally, you may want to think twice about hiring a realtor who’s not responsive. 

Generally speaking, if an agent takes longer than half a day to reply, they’re too busy and can’t give your home sale the attention it deserves. 

Knowing what to look for in the agent you engage is key because it helps you choose the best realtor.

12 signs you’re matched with the best realtor to hire when selling

Here are 12 signs you’ve hired the right agent to put you in the best position to sell fast and for the best price.

  1. They’ve sold homes in your area. Location, location, location. Homebuyers will want to know every last detail about your neighborhood — and so should your realtor.
  2. They have experience selling near your price range. An agent accustomed to selling properties at higher price points may not be as motivated to sell a lower-priced house; alternatively, an agent who tends to sell at lower prices may not have the experience to market to a different type of buyer.
  3. They’ve sold homes like yours. If your property type is a single-family residence, hiring a realtor who primarily sells condos probably isn’t the best fit — and vice versa.
  4. They have a track record of only representing the seller. Some real estate agents make it a priority to be the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent in the same transaction so they can get two commissions instead of one. These scenarios can hurt sellers because the higher commission reduces the agents’ motivation to look out for the seller’s best interests. The reputable agents have a lower number of these sales compared to the average listing agent, boasting a track record of not risking their integrity for more commission. This is why we make this critical statistic a prerequisite for anyone who applies to join our network as a partner agent.
  5. They’re responsive. When hiring an agent to sell, someone answering their phone or replying immediately is a great sign. The quicker the response, the better. 
  6. They’ll play an active part in preparing your home. You want someone who’ll guide you at every step. The best real estate agents will help you tackle a plan to make the prepping process easier.
  7. They’ll put in the maximum effort. The right realtor will put in the extra time and work, however that looks for you — whether sharing home selling tips, tapping into their network, or meeting contractors to perform work at your home.
  8. They’ll let you cancel your listing agreement. Sellers sign an exclusive contract with their realtor, and it’s not easy to cancel. Most agent contracts run for four to six months (minimum) and “guarantee” the agent’s commission. Unfortunately, some realtors overpromise to entice sellers to sign but soon thereafter, put the seller’s listing on the back burner to focus on scoring their next sale. Having the option to cancel at any time will keep your agent motivated. This is just one reason why we require that all SoldNest partner agents let a seller cancel the exclusive agreement if they’re not satisfied.
  9. They’re a master negotiator. Hiring a realtor who knows how to negotiate can drastically improve your bottom line. A good agent knows what to say to buyer agents (and when to say it) to get them to come up on price or agree to better terms. 
  10. They’ve got a good reputation. Getting feedback from the realtor’s past clients is crucial to get a feel for their service. The best agents will have online reviews with precise language that exemplifies how much they cared about their past selling clients. This is why we analyze all review platforms before allowing real estate agents into our network.
  11. They’ll prioritize and support your unique needs. You want a realtor who listens to your needs and understands your expectations. Does it seem like they want to help, or are they in it for the money? Are they listening, or do they like to hear themselves talk? Feel them out in your initial meeting and enlist a realtor who is aligned with your selling goals.
  12. They’re trustworthy. Selling your home is one of the biggest (and most stressful) financial decisions you’ll make. It’s imperative you hire the agent who is best qualified to get you the maximum price, quickly.

The Bottom Line

Enlisting a realtor can have a big impact on how fast you sell your home and for how much. 

Remember, at the end of the day, you’re hiring a realtor to work for you.

This means partnering with an agent who understands your needs and will work with your timeline. 

While it can be stressful, with the right guidance you can quickly secure the services of the best-suited real estate agent.

If you’re looking to skip the guesswork and stress of hiring the right realtor, check out our recommendation engine to get matched with the three best realtors for you. It’s free and there’s no obligation.

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Joseph Alongi
Joseph Alongi

Joseph is the CEO of SoldNest. He holds a real estate broker's license and has over eighteen years of experience in the real estate industry. He's married to his beautiful wife, Erin, and comes from a big Italian family. His biggest weakness is his mom's homemade pasta.

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