First, learn about particular specialties. Most experienced agents specialize in a particular price range, part of town, or type of housing, such as historic homes, starter homes, or retirement communities. It allows them to operate more efficiently. Newer agents tend to work with anyone who wanders through the door. They are less likely to be as knowledgeable as the specialists, but they are also less likely to write you off if they think you foolishly rejected a low but reasonable offer. Decide which attributes you want and choose accordingly.
In addition, some agents specialize in representing sellers, while others specialize in representing buyers. Many do both. The ones who specialize in buyers will usually not have the contacts or experience to effectively market your property.
Next, ask the closing companies for their recommendations. Which agents go to a lot of closings and never seem to have any problems? Compare that list to the specialists you have identified. Schedule about three interviews for the top contenders. Meet at the job site. Have a prepared list of questions, which should include the following.
• How long have you been a real estate agent (or broker)?
• Describe your specialty, and what makes you so successful with that specialty.
• What is your average annual production over the last three years, in dollar volume of houses sold? What was the average price of those houses?
• For the last year, what is the average time on the market for your listings? How does that compare with the community average? For the most part, what percentage of the asking price did sellers receive?
• Describe exactly what you will do to market my property. What makes you so good at capturing callers and turning them into buyers?
• Will you be working this listing, or will it be turned over to another team member? If you use a team concept, can I meet the other members of the team?
• Can you recommend an asking price?
• What changes would you recommend I make in order to maximize my sales price? How much more do you think the house will bring if I follow your suggestions?
• If I hire you, will you provide me with proof of errors and omissions insurance?
• Have you ever been sued by a client, or had a complaint filed against you with the licensing authorities? Will you tell me the details?
At the close of the interviews, you have to evaluate how you feel about the answers you received, and make your choice accordingly.
Million Dollar Producers
Do not be overly impressed with agents who tell you they are “million dollar producers.” That means they sold $1 million of real estate last year. With the average commission split among listing brokers, selling brokers, and the agents who actually did the work, someone who sold $1 million of houses made only $12,000 last year. Do you want to hire someone who is proud of making less than they would at McDonald’s?