Tips to Selecting the Right Agent to Sell Your Home

Tips to Selecting the Right Agent to Sell Your Home

Ken DeLeon and Michael RepkaJanuary 17, 2014
Palo Alto Daily Post


While many clients are more selective when it comes to choosing a real estate agent to list their home than they are when it comes to selecting a buyer’s agent, they sometimes feel that the decision is still a leap of faith.  Understandably so; they are often asked to enter into a long-term contract for the sale of their largest single asset with few specifics and no guarantees.  This article will discuss some key questions to ask and offer some recommendations.

Background, Experience and Statistics

Experience matters.  There are many moving parts to a listing and it takes experience to get it right.  An experienced agent will know how to prepare and market your property in a way likely to get the best price.  Also, an experienced agent will be able to flag potential legal or tax issues that could result in significant cost or exposure.  Plus, agents that do a large number of listings each year often receive priority pricing and service from contractors and other professionals.

All Realtors® have ready access to statistics and data and should be able to provide prospective sellers with their personal statistics such as:

Number of homes sold in the area;
Average price per square foot;
Average days on the market; and
Average price above or below the initial list price

House Preparation

Another key variable between listing agents is their ability to see the home’s potential and realize that potential in a cost effective manner.  In other words, can the agent unlock the potential value in a home and do it with time and cost constraints in mind?  Again, agents with experience and a strong team behind them will have an advantage over less experienced or connected agents.  Asking for “before and after” pictures may help if you have not seen the agent’s work firsthand.

Will They Double-End

Under California law, the same agent is permitted to represent both the buyer and the seller on the same real estate transaction (“double-end”).  This can lead to significant conflicts of interest.  Real estate attorneys are all too familiar with situations where unscrupulous listing agents dragged their feet in bringing a home to market because they had a buyer that expressed an interest or gave less than candid advice to one or both of the principals.  Although two clients mean double the commission to the agent, it can also lead to a lower sales price to the seller.  Further, it is difficult to imagine how an agent can zealously advocate for both clients while protecting confidential information.  A potential seller may want to inquire about the agent’s policy regarding double-ending. 


All agents say that they “invest heavily” in marketing their listings, but what does that mean?  An experienced agent should be willing and able to give a detailed plan including:

  • How many ads will be run (and in which papers) to promote the property every week of the listing contract?  This effective tool is expensive but most agents cover 100% of these costs. 
  • What will the brochures look like?
  • What photographer will they use?
  • Will there be a professional video tour and which videographer will be utilized?
  • What will the property website look like?
  • What is included in the agent’s online marketing campaign?
  • How many open houses will the agent host and what will be provided at each one?
  • Does the agent provide a staging allowance or staging consultation at their expense?

While these are only some of the potential marketing techniques, agents that are willing to answer these types of questions with specificity tend to invest more time and money in promoting their properties.  Agents that answer with platitudes should be avoided. 

Length of Listing Contract   

Savvy sellers may want to avoid signing long-term listing contracts.  Agents tend to be less aggressive if they know that they have the seller locked-up for an extended period of time.  On the other hand, a shorter contractual period should serve as a motivating factor.  In most circumstances, a properly prepared and marketed home in this area should sell within 60 days.  Additionally, an agent with a shorter contract will have an incentive to perform well because satisfied clients will have the option to relist with the same agent even if the home doesn’t sell.  However, that should be up to the client.

As with selecting a buyer’s agent, it is wise for the client to interview several agents before making a choice.  Providing each agent with the same questions will enable the potential seller to truly compare and contrast the agents in a neutral fashion.  The time the client invests up front can pay significant dividends in time. Money and avoided stress.

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