How to find the best agent to sell your property
The right real estate agent can make all the difference in the process of selling your home. Not only can the right agent make it faster, smoother and less stressful, they can also make a significant difference to the sale price of your home.
Finding the right agent isn’t as simple as walking into the closest office or picking the person with the flashiest advertising. There are a number of qualities that can help you sort through the plethora of agents to find the right one for you.
Real estate agents in Australia must be licensed or work under a licensed agent. While the specific qualifications for licensing vary from state to state, most states require at least a Certificate IV in Property Services. In addition to being licensed to operate, most agents will also belong to their state or territory’s relevant professional association.
A professional association usually holds members to a higher set of standards than general licensing requirements. It also provides consumers with a point of contact to help resolve disputes or submit complaints. Knowing your agent is the member of a professional association can give you peace of mind that they’ve attained a suitable level of expertise to manage your property transaction.
Finding association members
Each State or Territory has its own professional associations for real estate agents. When you’re considering an agent, check your local association’s register to make sure they’re a member.
In addition to local accreditation, some agents will have reached the level of national accreditation by the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA). The REIA has two levels of accreditation: Associate (AREI) or Fellow (FREI) of the Real Estate Institute of Australia. In order to hold this accreditation, applicants have to have held membership with their state or territory body for a certain period of time (five years for Associate and seven years for Fellow). National accreditation shows that your agent has a level of expertise beyond many of their peers. Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective agent about their industry association membership.
The way your agent advertises your property and the platforms they choose for marketing it can be instrumental in attracting buyers. When you’re courting a potential agent, find out whether they plan to invest advertising dollars in traditional platforms such as newspapers and window displays, digital platforms such as Domain and Realestate.com.au, or both.
Make sure you’re onboard with their marketing strategy, and find out how much of your own money they expect you to put on the table. If they expect you to take on all marketing and advertising expenses, you might be able to negotiate a lower commission rate on the eventual sale price.
You’ll also want to have a look at the marketing for previous properties they’ve sold. Make sure you feel they presented the properties well and advertised them through the most effective channels. Most of all, make sure the photos they chose to advertise the properties make them look appealing to buyers. A quick perusal of Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs will confirm that not all real estate agents have an eye for photography.
Sales strategy and history
The best indication you can have of an agent’s future results is looking at their past successes. Look at the history of the properties your prospective agent has sold. Get an idea for the time each property spent on the market and the eventual price it fetched.
You should also chat with potential agents about their preferred strategy for selling your home. Will they look to take it to auction, sell it through tenders or seek expressions of interest to gauge the market? You need to make sure you’re comfortable with whatever strategy they pursue, and that you understand the reasons they think their strategy will be most effective for selling your property. You also need to gauge whether their strategy is specifically designed for your home, or if they seem to be taking a “one size fits all” approach.
It’s also a good idea to get a look at a prospective agent in action. Before seeking out their help, you could consider attending an open home they’re hosting so you can see their sales techniques. If they seem pushy or disinterested when hosting an open home for someone else’s property, they’re probably not the right fit to handle yours.
Looking at an agent’s current listings can be helpful not only in assessing if they’re the right fit for your property, but also in making sure their workload will allow them to devote the time your property deserves.
When looking through an agent’s current listings, pay attention to the type of properties they usually handle. Do they fit the style of your home? If an agent’s listings are mainly newly-built units, they might not be the best fit to show your 100-year-old terrace house.
Current listings will also give you an idea of the agent’s geographic coverage. Do they have experience handling properties in your local area? An agent with in-depth local knowledge of your suburb will have a better idea of the market, and hence a better idea of the price you should expect. They might also know potential buyers who have shown interest in properties similar to yours.
Also look at the total number of listings a prospective agent has. Having a large number of listings is certainly an endorsement of an agent’s skill, but you’ll have to balance this with the amount of time the agent will have to devote to your property.
Perhaps the best way to separate the good agents from the bad is through referrals. If you have friends or family who have sold a property, ask them about the agent they used and whether they had a good experience. If you don’t know anyone who’s sold a property recently, you can check online forums to see if a prospective agent’s past clients have left any feedback.
If you’ve used a mortgage broker in the past, they might also be able to refer you to a real estate agent. One caveat, though, is that brokers and agents often have referral arrangements in place involving financial incentives, so your broker might not be the most unbiased source of advice. However, most brokers would be very hesitant to offer their endorsement to agents they didn’t trust.
Price definitely shouldn’t be the primary driver behind your choice of agent, but it’s still an important consideration. As discussed above, you need to determine how much money you’ll be expected to invest in marketing and advertising your home, as well as the commission your agent is going to charge.
There is no cap on the commission agents can charge, though the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania does offer its members a non-binding guide. Commission rates vary from state to state, but generally range from 2–3%.
There are a number of factors that can influence the commission an agent charges, and that can give you bargaining power. The amount of work you expect an agent to do to sell your home will be proportional to the commission you agree on. You might also be able to negotiate a fixed price. Many agents are willing to take a smaller commission on higher-priced properties.
Whatever you agree on, make sure to get everything in writing and be clear about what is and isn’t included in the agent’s fee.
One of the more important factors to consider is whether you mesh with your agent’s personality. You’ll be working together closely throughout the process of selling your property. While your agent doesn’t have to be your best friend, the process will be much smoother if you’re comfortable around one another. All other things being equal, your agent’s likeability goes a long way toward making your selling experience a positive one.
Finding an agent you like on a personal level isn’t just about your interactions with them, either. The way an agent comes across to you is also the way they come across to potential buyers. If an agent strikes you as untrustworthy, unlikeable or off-putting, odds are buyers will feel the same way.