How to Find a Great Listing Agent

It’s time. You’ve outgrown your place, you’re headed for the other side of town, or you’re relocating for the next step in your career. Congrats! 

This means you’ve got to part with your first home. It can be an emotional time, we know. You’re allowed to take some time to reminisce about all the memories you’ve made. The good news is: you can take those memories with you and there's a new experience out there calling your name. How exciting! Let’s get you ready to sell your first home.

Remember how clueless you were when you bought your first home? It’s going to be a little bit like that this time around, too. Finding a listing agent who you can trust is a great first step. A listing agent's role is to look out for you and get the best terms for the sale of your home. Let’s discuss how to find a great listing agent. 

Get referrals

Start by asking for referrals from friends and family. As you solicit feedback, keep in mind that there’s a difference between knowing an agent and having worked with an agent. While it’s nice to hear about your friend’s neighbor’s cousin who’s a great guy, the best referrals come from people who have worked with the agent. They’ll have a better perspective on their communication style, quality of work, and interactions with other people in the process. 

Set up interviews with agents

Do your research. You wouldn’t install a new HVAC unit or remodel your kitchen without getting quotes and talking to specialists, so my goodness, don’t sell your whole house without sitting down with some agents. The reality is that not all real estate agents are created equal. Some are savvy, efficient, and thoughtful, and they go the extra mile, and many do not. The good news is, in most circumstances, it doesn’t cost more to work with an exceptional realtor than an average realtor. Interviewing agents is your chance to identify the exceptional ones. 

Prepare a list of questions 

When you sit down with agents, work from a list of questions that will help you determine their value, work ethic, and approach to selling homes. Check out some of the questions that we think are the most helpful. 

How much do you think you can sell my home for? 

Look for an agent who has comparable sales (“comps”), pending sales, and active sales from your neighborhood on hand. Ask them: what do you think my home is worth and why? Listen to their rationale and research, and resist the urge to immediately go with the agent who gives you the highest list price, especially if the agent has no research to justify the figure--the agent may be distorting the truth to get the listing. 

When discussing the value of your home, remember that you're more emotionally attached than anyone else in the process, and that's okay, even expected. But, the reality is that your buyers won’t care about the blood and sweat you poured into that bathroom renovation or that your firstborn took her first steps in the living room. That’s why it’s important to have an agent who can both speak candidly about the value of your home and even challenge you, all while still supporting you.

Tell me about your track record selling real estate 

Experience in real estate matters. There is value in working with the agent who’s sold the most homes in your neighborhood, but we’d argue that a solid track record is a better indicator of how hard your agent will be willing to work for you. Ask telling questions like: How many homes did you sell last year? How many days, on average, were the houses on the market? What was the average ratio between the listing price and the selling price? 

How will you market my home?  

It’s important that your agent understands your target buyers and how to reach them. Ask for examples of marketing materials and scope out their websites and social media to get a feel for their approach. You'll want a robust plan that includes signage, staging advice, open houses, professional photography, digital marketing, and so on. No single method sells homes, so look for an agent who recommends a diversified approach. 

What’s your commission rate? 

The typical rate is around six percent. The listing agent often splits this amount with the buyer’s agent. Even then, keep in mind agents rarely pocket exactly half the commission – they’re using it to pay brokerage fees as well as marketing, insurance, and licensing costs. 

While it’s important to understand how you’ll be charged for an agent’s services as well as what’s included for that rate, don’t be too disheartened if the agent isn’t willing to negotiate, after all you’re looking for a tough negotiator, right?  

Trust your gut 

As you work to schedule and meet with agents, pay attention to how they communicate with you. Are they patient, thorough, and responsive? These cues may be the most informative of the whole selection process. Trust your intuition here. If your agent demonstrates respect, confidence, and competence with you, it’s likely these characteristics will carry over to other aspects of your agent's work--negotiating, communicating with other agents, and completing day-to-day grunt work.  

Once you've selected the agent you'd like to work with, you'll likely sign an agreement that outlines the services you've discussed at a specific commission rate. Keep asking questions if you have them, and when the dotted line is signed, relax and let your agent get to work for you.