How to Avoid Choosing the Wrong Realtor to Sell Your Home

How to Avoid Choosing the Wrong Realtor to Sell Your Home

The real estate agent you choose to sell your house will make or break your sale.

You probably already know this. 

But did you know that many home sellers end up picking the wrong real estate agent?

By “wrong,” I mean the listing agent was the reason why the seller:

  • Went through an extremely stressful experience 
  • Made less money than they should have
  • Had their house sit on the market

Do you know why this happens?

That’s what I’m going to share with you.

Follow these steps to learn exactly how to avoid picking the wrong real estate agent to sell your home. 

1. Find at least three real estate agents

Your goal shouldn’t be to only find a good real estate agent. 

You want to find the right real estate agent. 

A professional you can trust and who will make your sale a top priority. 

In order to do this, you need to find enough quality candidates. 

The National Association of Realtors recently reported that 77% of people selling a home chose their agent without meeting with others.

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 perfect realtor by finding more than one. 

Ideally, you should aim to find at least three.

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

You probably have over a hundred real estate agents within close proximity to you (no exaggeration).

So it shouldn’t be too difficult to compile a list. 

But you’re not done yet.

Research the agents online

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. 

I’d highly recommend not choosing any agents who:

  • Haven’t been licensed for more than 2 years.
  • Have been licensed for 2+ years but haven’t sold a property within the last ~6-12 months.
  • Have been licensed for numerous years but have sold less than 10 properties.

The total years of experience are important, but recent experience is much more important.

Search for online reviews

Prioritizing reviews is a mistake that sellers make when choosing a real estate agent.

Why?

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 definitely want to see if that agent responded and how. 

You shouldn’t stop until you find at least three quality candidates to interview who have the following: 

  • Years of experience 
  • Recently sold listings
  • Online reviews

But a real estate agent who has the experience and who might be considered a “top” real estate agent can be very deceiving. 

That’s why the next step is key.

 

* Want to skip the hassle of finding the most trusted realtors to sell your home? We’ll do the heavy lifting for you. Each agent on SoldNest goes through a four-step vetting process that uses an amazing combination of AI and in-person interviews. There’s no cost or obligation, and agents cannot pay us to be listed.

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

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. 

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

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.

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 make a commitment to hiring 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 house.

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 definitely 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. 

Why?

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
  • Signage

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:

  • Video
  • Drone photos/video
  • Custom brochures
  • Floor plan
  • Staging
  • 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.

That reason?

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

The best seller agents know exactly how to do this, but they don’t get enough credit for it. 

Compare marketing plans and favor the real estate agents who you think have the best overall approach. 

5. Eliminate agents 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

There are agents who 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 four-step 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.

Why?

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 up front that you don’t want them to represent the buyer.

Don’t get locked into a contract

You’ll sign an exclusive 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 if an agent doesn’t give you the option to cancel, 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 help prepare the house for sale? If so, how?

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 be working with a real estate agent who doesn’t prioritize your business.

7. Choose your best match

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.

Conclusion

Choosing the right real estate agent to sell your house matters.

Your decision will have a major impact on the results you get and how easy or stressful it’s going to be.

So don’t take it lightly.

If you need help, we use an amazing combination of AI and in-person interviews to find the right real estate agent for you and your exact house.

If you followed everything we discussed, you’ll be working with someone you can trust, who will make your sale a top priority.

Joseph Alongi

CEO/Co-founder at SoldNest

Joseph drives the strategic vision and works closely in all facets of our business as we continue to grow and build the SoldNest platform. He holds a real estate broker's license in California and has over seventeen years of industry experience. He's dedicated to making the entire real estate experience easier, faster, and more profitable for everyone.
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