Selling your home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. To ensure a smooth sales process and a higher sales price, you need to choose a trusted, reliable and professional real estate agent to help you through the sale from start to finish. And this isn't such a simple thing to do. There are so many real estate agents, and they are not all created equal.
What to look for in an agent
Take a drive around your local neighbourhood and check out the ‘For Sale’ signs adorning front yards — it won’t take you long to realise that there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to real estate agents. So how do you know which agent is the right person to sell your home?
“The most important qualities a prospective owner should look for when choosing a real estate agent are enthusiasm, experience and skill,” says Aris Dendrinos, Licensee in Charge at Richardson & Wrench, Marrickville.
“There are many young and enthusiastic agents with developing skills and low levels of experience. There are many mature agents with plenty of experience but stagnant skills and diminishing enthusiasm. But there are only a few that combine all three — that's the person I would be looking for to sell my home”, he says.
There are numerous services and duties that a good agent performs to help an owner sell their house. “From the method of sale to the presentation of the property, marketing strategy, pricing, open for inspection times and so on, a good agent will cover all of those 1% extras that add up to not only a successful sale but at an excellent price too,” Dendrinos says.
Some of the services of a good real estate agent include:
- Providing recent sales data in your area
- Connecting you with a large number of buyers
- Advertising and marketing your property
- Assessing buyers to determine what they are looking for and whether or not they are serious about your property
- Advising you on how to advertise and present your home
- Helping you choose the best method of sale
- Holding open house inspections for prospective buyers
- Presenting offers to you
- Overseeing negotiations between you and potential buyers
- Ensuring that all legal and financial requirements of the sale are met
Tips for finding an experienced real estate agent
From personal recommendations and Google searches to pursuing an agent’s shopfront windows, there are plenty of tools you can use to help make an informed decision when choosing an agent.
Dendrinos says the way you source a real estate agent is very important. “If you ‘find’ an agent through a referral from a trusted friend or associate and are happy with what they have to offer, there may be no need to shop around,” he explains.
“If, however, you have no one agent in mind, it is best to ring around. I would recommend speaking with no more than two to three though, as they will all start to appear the same and you can get caught up in the ‘fashion parade’ where you pick the most attractive agent based on both price and fees quoted rather than the one who can get you the best price”, he says.
Keep the following tips in mind when comparing agents:
- Do your research. You wouldn’t buy a house without researching it first, and you shouldn’t choose an agent before reading up on what they have to offer. Look at the services an agent offers, their recent sales success, how much they charge and whether or not they have testimonials from previous customers.
- Rely on local knowledge. A real estate agent who regularly works in your area will know all the ins and outs of the property market in your suburb. Local knowledge is key to a successful sale, from determining the best time to sell and determining a fair price, to knowing the strategies to use to attract potential buyers.
- Watch an agent in action. Instead of just relying on an agent’s PR spin about the services they offer, go along to an open house in your area to see how they interact with prospective buyers. Are they friendly and approachable? Are they happy to answer questions about the property? How hard are they willing to work to make the sale?
- Review results. Actions speak louder than words, so sales success gives you a much better idea of an agent’s effectiveness than any other factor. How many properties in a similar price bracket has the agent sold in your area? Did they help other sellers achieve a higher price than expected?
- Will they work with you? It’s important to find an agent who is committed to helping you achieve your goals, not their own. The right agent will want to do anything they can to meet your needs and help you sell your property for an attractive price.
- Advertising options. Consider the methods an agent will use to attract potential buyers to your property. The more people who are interested in your property, the greater your chances of a successful sale at a higher price, so look for an agent who will actively promote your property.
- Read the fine print. Before you sign any agreement with an agent, make sure you know exactly what you’re agreeing to and what you’re paying for. This is the best way to ensure there aren’t any unpleasant surprises in the future.
- The highest valuation is not necessarily the best. It’s easy to get sucked in by a surprisingly high valuation, but remember that this is not the only factor to consider. An agent’s services, fees, professionalism and communication skills all need to be taken into account. It’s also worth pointing out that putting an unreasonably high price on your property won’t help it sell.
- Find someone you trust. This is a crucial step to consider when selecting a real estate agent. You want to find someone you can be upfront and completely honest with throughout the sales process, so look for someone you can communicate with easily. If you have a bad feeling about an agent or they just don’t seem like quite the right fit for you, look elsewhere.
Questions to ask a prospective real estate agent
Once you’ve shortlisted a few agents who you think will be capable of handling the sale of your property, arrange a time to discuss your sales goals and expectations with them. This is also a good time to get a better idea of the services they offer and the experience they bring to the table, as well as whether or not you feel comfortable with them.
Dendrinos says there are several key questions an owner should ask an agent when considering selling their home.These include:
- How many years have you been a real estate agent?
- How will you achieve the best price for my home?
- Will I be dealing exclusively with you throughout the sale?
- What properties have you recently sold in my area?
- What is my home worth and how do you justify that figure?
- What fees and other costs do you charge?
The answers each agent offers to these questions will help you narrow down your shortlist and make a decision about the right agent to handle your sale.
Rob finds an agent
Rob wants to sell his four-bedroom family home in Sydney’s north-west, so he decides to get his home valued by three agents in his local area. The first two agents value his home at $975,000-$1 million, but the third prices it at $1.1million-$1.15 million. Instead of conducting a thorough comparison of the three agents, Rob opts to go with the third agent who gave him the high valuation.
He fails to take into account the agent’s fees or the effort that will put be in to sell his home. So, three months later, Rob has paid a significant amount in fees and his property still hasn’t sold.
Having learned the importance of considering what an agent has to offer, Rob goes back to the first two agents and takes the time to discuss the services they offer. He eventually chooses the agent with whom he strikes up a rapport and is able to communicate most effectively. Two weeks later, his home is sold for $1.05 million.
How to get the best out of your agent
Once you’ve signed an agreement to enlist an agent’s services, you should expect to be in regular contact with each other as your property is advertised and sold. A good agent will provide feedback on potential leads with buyers, the success of marketing campaigns and the turnouts at open house inspections. Your agent should also be willing to adopt a different strategy if plan A fails to deliver the desired results.
“The biggest tip I can offer to an owner looking to choose an agent is to worry about the selling costs they charge last and their ability and strategy to deliver the best price first,” Dendrinos says.
“It's like imagining all the agents you speak to charge the same fees and then picking the one who you think can do the best job rather than worrying about who has the most attractive costs. Ultimately, the ‘cheapest’ agent will always be the one who gets you the highest price”, he says.
With some thorough research and knowledge of what it takes to get the best price for your property, you’ll be able to select the right real estate agent to handle the sale of your property.