The realtor you choose to sell your house can easily make or break your sale.
By “make or break”, I mean the realtor you pick can be the difference of:
- Tens of thousands of dollars in your selling price (sometimes more)
- Selling quickly vs. having your home sit on the market
- A stressful home selling experience vs. an easier one
But here’s the problem…
Home sellers are forced to rely on the number of homes an agent has sold and their online reviews as the only prerequisites for the realtor they select.
While both of these are important, they can be very deceiving.
Because experience and reviews do not mean a real estate agent will have your best interests when selling your home.
I’m going to show you what to look for in a realtor so you know what does.
Follow these steps to learn how to choose a real estate agent for selling.
1. Find more than one listing agent
The National Association of Realtors recently reported that 77% of people selling a home chose their agent without speaking to others.
This makes sense because who wants to spend time searching for real estate agents and speaking to several people.
But unless you have industry expertise and know exactly what to look for, you’re going to want to invest the time in finding a realtor.
Only speaking to one real estate agent will increase the probability of you picking the wrong listing agent.
You’ll boost your chances of choosing the right realtor by finding enough quality candidates.
Ideally, you should aim to find more than one listing agent.
Here’s how you can find a realtor to sell your house:
- Ask family and friends for a referral
- Search for agents online
- Save that mailer from your local neighborhood agent
The goal is to find a good real estate agent.
Compiling an initial list with enough candidates helps you do this.
Research the agents online
Once you have your list, the next step is to do a little research.
The goal here is to save time by weeding out the agents who don’t meet the minimum criteria.
Those minimum criteria?
Experience and reviews.
This is important because you don’t want a rookie or someone with minimal experience selling your most valuable asset.
Search for each agent online by typing their name followed by “realtor,” “real estate agent,” or “real estate.”
Look for these three things:
- Years of experience
- The number of properties they’ve sold
- How recent those listings were
But make sure that these are properties they’ve listed and sold – not ones where they represented the buyer.
Search for online reviews
Prioritizing reviews is a mistake that sellers make when choosing a real estate agent.
Because they can be easily fake or manipulated.
Many real estate agents will only ask for reviews from clients they know will leave five stars.
And many of these sites have a very weak vetting process or don’t have one at all.
But some reviews are legit.
You want to scour through that agent’s feedback to see if there is any common language that is repeated (communication, service, negotiating, caring, etc.).
Any negative ones?
It’s not necessarily a bad thing if there are one or two, but you want to see if that agent responded and how.
Narrow your list of potential agents
Now that you’ve done a little research, it’s time to compress your list.
I’d highly recommend not choosing any agents who have:
- Not been licensed for more than 2 years.
- Been licensed for 2+ years but haven’t sold a property within the last ~6-12 months.
- Been licensed for numerous years but have sold less than 10 properties.
- Multiple negative reviews.
- Only a minimal number of five-star reviews
So remove potential candidates from your list who meet any of the items mentioned above.
2. Interview qualified candidates
Approach choosing a realtor in a similar way to preparing for a job interview.
Because that’s what it is.
Interviewing potential candidates allows you to gather key information before you decide who you want to hire to sell your house.
Many sellers miss this because they don’t know what information to get and how to get it.
This is one of the things that causes them to pick the wrong listing agent.
Here’s how you can avoid that.
Ask the right questions
Most sellers ask questions before choosing their agent.
The problem is that they ask the wrong ones.
Most are generic and just a formality.
Remember, you’re interviewing real estate agents to sell your most valuable asset.
So treat it as such.
Here are several of the key questions to ask a realtor before hiring them.
How did you arrive at your suggested listing price?
You’ll get opinions about what your home should be listed at when meeting with real estate agents.
But you don’t just want a number.
You want to hear about the “how.”
If an agent can’t explain the “how,” there’s a good chance that they won’t be able to defend their recommended price (or higher) when speaking to the buyer’s agent.
How many homes have you sold like mine and near my location?
You want to get a rough estimate of how many sales that agent has that are similar to yours and in your area.
What I mean by this is property type, value range, and proximity.
How many single-family homes have they sold vs. condos/townhouses?
And how many of those sales are near your location and in your estimated value range?
How many times have you represented the seller and buyer in the same transaction?
There are tactics used by many listing agents who make this a priority so that they can get two commissions instead of one.
This can result in a much lower sales price for you.
I’ll tell you how to avoid this shortly.
But the goal here is to know these two things during the interview:
- How many times they’ve represented both the buyer and seller in the same transaction
- The percentage of these out of their total number of sales
Will you lower your commission?
You’re putting the agent to the test with this.
The person you’re going to hire will be negotiating tens of thousands of dollars for you.
If they can’t negotiate their money, what makes you think they’re going to negotiate yours?
You want to listen closely to their immediate reaction and take note of how they respond.
Do you have references I can contact?
A good real estate agent will always have past clients who are willing to vouch for them.
Request the names, emails, and phone numbers of three previous clients who have sold a home with that agent.
And here’s a bonus tip…
Before meeting with them, research their previous sales and write down a few addresses.
Then see if they’ll give you the names, emails, and phone numbers of those previous sellers.
Put any listing agent who does this at the top of your list to choose from.
What’s your marketing plan?
Not all real estate agents provide the same services.
So you want to know how each agent plans on marketing your home to buyers.
Who do they think the buyer will be?
What selling features will they use to enhance your home?
Which marketing channels will they use to reach buyers?
And what’s included in their plan?
Professional photos? Video? Brochures? Staging?
Don’t commit to a real estate agent during your first meeting
After you’ve gathered the information you need, don’t commit to choosing that realtor just yet.
Your goal during the interview process was to collect key information.
If you did what we discussed in this step, you’ll have the information you need to help you pick the best real estate agent to sell your home.
But now it’s time to assess that information.
3. Evaluate potential real estate agents
The next step in choosing your real estate agent is to evaluate potential candidates.
You do this by looking at some of the information you collected when interviewing them.
Here’s how to do that…
Assess their selling experience
The best candidate will have experience selling properties that are:
- The same property type as yours (house vs. condo/townhouse)
- In your area
- Near your home’s estimated value
Is your property a single-family residence?
Then you want a local agent who sells more single-family homes compared to other property types.
The same applies if your property is a condo or townhouse.
Compare how many of these listings they’ve sold near your location.
But more importantly, you want a realtor who has experience selling in your price range.
If your home is worth ~$500k, an agent who primarily sells homes much higher than this might not make your sale a top priority.
And if your home is worth ~$1M+, you don’t want someone with a track record of selling homes at a much lower price point.
However, at this stage, you probably shouldn’t eliminate any of the agents just yet.
Get a good understanding of how well their experience matches your home and location, and then do this…
Evaluate their negotiating skills
How did they respond when you asked about the lower commission?
Did they tell you why they’re worth what they charge?
Or did they immediately tell you that they’ll lower their fee?
This is where you want to start thinking about not choosing certain listing agents.
Sure, a lower commission might sound great – but choosing a real estate agent solely based on this can cost you so much more.
Because if a real estate agent can’t defend their financial interest, they won’t know how to defend yours.
Analyze how they arrived at their suggested listing price
Next, you want to evaluate each real estate agent’s recommended list price.
But don’t get tunnel vision about the exact number.
Instead, focus on how they got there in the first place.
Ensure that the listing price they chose is backed by data with a comparative market analysis (CMA).
This is an analysis that almost every listing agent will provide to you before or during your initial meeting.
Make sure there is some reasoning behind the number they’re suggesting.
If they’re not telling you how they arrived at their suggested price, it usually means one of two things:
- The real estate agent is inexperienced
- They are intentionally inflating the “value” to earn your business
Since you eliminated the agents without experience at the start of your search, it’s probably the latter.
You should consider this a red flag and seriously think twice about picking that real estate agent to list your house.
More on this in a minute.
4. Compare marketing plans
Marketing is key when selling your home.
It gets more buyers to view your listing, which can lead to a better offer in a shorter amount of time.
But not all real estate agents will give you the same service.
This is why you want to compare each real estate agent’s plan.
First, see how they’re going to showcase your home.
At a minimum, each agent should be including these to market your property:
- Posting to MLS and syndication of listing on all major sites
- Professional photos
- Professionally written property description
- Open houses and broker tours
But if this is all that’s included in their “marketing plan,” you should think about not picking them because this is considered the bare minimum.
Look for additional things 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 marketing tools that could make your property stand out to prospective buyers.
But what you really want is to choose a listing agent who has the best overall plan.
One that will attract the right buyer in the shortest amount of time.
What’s the agent’s plan?
Any real estate agent can sell a house.
Especially if it’s a seller’s market.
But there’s a reason why certain real estate agents have a proven track record of selling homes faster and for more money.
Their marketing strategy.
Well, their strategy and negotiating, but strategy comes first.
What you want (and need) is to see how each agent’s strategy stacks up against each other.
Do they have an actual plan?
Or are they just throwing your house up on the MLS and all of the real estate search sites?
The best plan has these 3 parts:
- Identify the ideal buyer
- List of selling features that are attractive to potential buyers
- Marketing channels used to maximize reach
Compare marketing plans and favor the real estate agents who you think have the best overall approach.
5. Eliminate realtors with red flags
Real estate agents have a fiduciary duty to their clients, and many of them hold this to the highest standard.
But just like with most professions, there are ones you need to watch out for.
These are the listing agents who are willing to risk their integrity for a paycheck.
Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult for sellers to recognize who they are.
But there are three things you can do to avoid choosing one of these seller agents.
Don’t pick an agent with an unrealistic list price
Some agents are very good at convincing you that they can sell your house for an inflated amount.
It’s a common tactic used by “top” real estate agents and local “neighborhood agents.”
They utilize their experience to make you believe that they can get a buyer to magically pay you an unrealistic price, hoping that this will convince you to not choose another listing agent.
They’ll show you a very modern and professional analysis and sound extremely convincing.
But in the back of their mind, they know that your house will sit on the market and that you’ll have to drop the price.
For the seller, this usually results in high stress and a selling price that ends up being lower than it would have been if it had been priced accurately from the start.
Why would an agent do this?
Because when it’s all said and done, you’re still going to pay them.
Here’s how you can avoid this:
Don’t choose a real estate agent whose listing price is substantially higher than the others.
The inflated dollar amount may seem tempting, but don’t fall for it.
Before I got into the real estate industry, I made this mistake when selling our home, and it was a nightmare.
Listing your home above market value will ignite a home selling experience that you don’t want to think about.
If the price that the agent has suggested seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Don’t select a real estate agent with a high dual agency rate
Usually, the agent you choose will only be representing you and your interests throughout the transaction.
But sometimes a real estate agent will represent both you and the buyer.
This is known as “dual agency,” and it means your agent won’t be able to protect you in the same way.
This happens much more often than you’d think.
Part of our vetting process to find the most trusted listing agents is analyzing every agent’s transaction history.
We look at numerous data points, and one of these is how many times that agent represented the seller and buyer in the same transaction compared to the total number of properties they’ve sold.
Many of the “top” real estate agents have a very high percentage.
Like, astronomically high (15-20%+).
You don’t want to choose a real estate agent with this stat stuck on their track record.
Because your agent will be in a conflict of interest.
They’ll need to get the highest sales price for you and the lowest one for the buyer.
As a result, they can’t negotiate on your behalf.
This will result in a higher commission check for your agent (two commissions instead of one) but can easily result in a lower sale price for you.
Don’t choose the agents whose ratio is at most 8%+.
The lower the number, the better.
You can completely avoid this by telling your agent upfront that you don’t want them to represent the buyer.
Don’t get locked into a contract
You’ll sign an agreement with the real estate agent you pick.
All home sellers do.
This agreement is usually for ~6 months (negotiable) and doesn’t include an option to cancel.
Having the option to cancel is one of the best things to know when selling your home.
Not so much because you might fire that realtor and pick someone else, but because having the option to do so will keep your realtor on their toes.
You want them to know that you can choose another agent at any time.
It’ll increase the chances of your agent making your sale a top priority.
So before signing the agreement with the agent you choose, make sure they give you the option to cancel.
If they don’t, then don’t pick them.
6. Contact their references
It’s difficult for sellers to know the type of service that a listing agent provides before hiring them.
You can discover this by contacting each real estate agent’s past clients and comparing the responses you get.
When you talk to them, don’t just listen to what they say – listen to how they say it.
Sometimes the voice inflection can tell you a lot more than the actual words they’re saying.
Here’s what you’ll want to know from those conversations.
Did the agent work for their benefit?
This can tell you a lot about how trustworthy that seller thinks that real estate agent is.
Any hesitation without hearing “yes” is something you want to pay attention to.
A quick “yes” with a detailed explanation is a great sign.
How helpful were they?
This is a great way to find out about the type of services that each agent provides that can make your sale a bit easier.
Did they provide useful guidance when getting their house ready to sell?
Did they help make the seller’s move easier?
If there’s something specific that you need help with, ask about it.
How were their communication and responsiveness?
Communication with a real estate agent when selling a home is underrated.
Many sellers aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.
This is an excellent opportunity for you to avoid this.
Did the agent answer their phone?
How long did they take to respond?
How quickly did they respond to email and text?
The last thing you want is to choose a realtor who doesn’t prioritize your business.
7. Choose your best realtor
Now it’s time to select your listing agent.
At this point, you have:
- Interviewed and compared several listing agents
- Eliminated the ones you shouldn’t choose
- Contacted their references
If there are still two or more real estate agents in the running, then you need to go with your gut.
Who made the best impression?
Do you have a better personality match with one of them?
Remember, you’re going to be working closely with this person, so you want to factor comfort into your decision.
As soon as you know which listing agent you want to choose, pick up the phone to let them know that you’ve decided to select them to sell your home.
They’ll go over the agreement with you and explain the next steps.
This is what will start your home selling journey.
Choosing the right real estate agent when selling matters.
Your decision will impact how fast you sell and how much money you walk away with.
If you need help, this is our bread and butter. SoldNest combines home sale data with your property attributes and our vetting requirements to help you find the most reputable realtor.
If you followed everything we discussed, you’ll be selling your house with someone who will prioritize your interests over a commission check.