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11 Tips for Finding the Right Agent to Sell Your Home

By Thomas O'Shaughnessy | August 10, 2023

Selling your home can be a stressful experience. This is a complicated transaction that not only involves a significant financial change but also complex emotional, mental, and physical stress. Working with a real estate agent who understands how challenging this transaction can be is critical. Here are 11 tips for finding the right agent to sell your home. 

Realtor or real estate agent?

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. There are some key differences. 

Real estate agents are licensed in their state (or in multiple states). Getting these licenses requires training and certification in many areas related to home buying and selling. 

On the other hand, “realtor” is a trademarked name for professionals in the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Realtors who are members of NAR must also be licensed real estate agents who exhibit highly ethical behavior and:

  • Are in good legal standing (i.e., not in bankruptcy or with legal action against them)
  • Are actively involved in the business of real estate 

Realtors may be agents, but they may also be appraisers, property managers, or brokers. NAR also offers classes and additional certifications for members. These are helpful when an agent decides to work with a specific type of client, such as clients over age 50 or cash-only home sales.

11 tips for finding an agent to sell your home

1. Ask for referrals

Start your search for an agent by asking for referrals. Friends and family are the best sources of information on an agent’s abilities. Online reviews can be helpful, but these days it can be challenging to get a read on which reviews are honest. Personal recommendations (or warnings) from people who have used a real estate agent’s services are invaluable.

2. Check their license

Visit your state’s real estate commission to verify that the agent you’re considering is licensed in your state. This is a simple step that many trusting sellers skip, with disastrous results.

3. Verify local experience

When you’re moving for a job and looking for great restaurants or other amenities, the best guide is a local who knows the ins and outs of a place. The same goes for the agent you select to sell your home. You want someone who has experience in your town. They know the area and the market and will be better equipped to highlight your listing’s features and amenities. Understanding the local market also means they will price your home appropriately.

4. Confirm their track record

Has your agent been in business for a while, or are you their first home sale? An experienced agent understands the entire home-selling experience (including complications that might arise)and may be the best choice if you are selling a home for the first time.

But this doesn’t mean that agents with less experience won’t be a good choice. In some cases, a veteran agent assists a relatively new one, so you get two agents for the price of one.

5. Check their online presence

Marketing matters a lot in real estate, and potential agents must have a robust online presence and a good handle on the best way to sell your home. They don’t necessarily need their own website, but it should be easy to find their listings and get in touch.

6. Evaluate their communication

When selling a home, few things are worse than an agent who ghosts you or is unresponsive. You need regular updates and responsive contacts. Potential agents should be available via phone, text, and email for questions and progress check-ins throughout the process.

7. Review their marketing strategies

The majority of home searches start online, so marketing matters here. An agent’s home listings should be detailed and professional. Look for artful staging, professional photography, and vibrant descriptions. And because so much comes down to engagement with potential clients, their social media should also be engaging and responsive.

8. Test their negotiation skills

Does your potential agent crumble at the slightest hint of conflict, disagreement, or pushback — or do they rise to the challenge and stand firm in their position? Real estate agents need to be masters of negotiation with a skilled understanding of how to get the best deal for their clients.

9. Ask questions

Schedule a meeting with the two or three agents you are considering. Ask plenty of questions about how they would approach selling your home, any special considerations, and why they are the best choice for your specific home. It’s possible that some agents who are exceptional realtors may not be a good fit for you and your home, and this initial meeting can help you figure that out.

10. Consider chemistry

Research, referrals, and a look at an agent’s listings can help you choose the right person to sell your home, but in the end, chemistry matters. At your meeting with a potential agent, you can evaluate if the way they communicate (and their personality in general) is a good match for you. They will be holding your hand for however long it takes to sell your home, and you want to ensure that you are comfortable with them.

11. Review the contract

When you make your selection, take the time to review the contract they offer you. In most states, sellers pay the realtor’s commission, but that percentage can vary from state to state and agent to agent. This can dramatically affect your closing costs, so checking out the numbers up front makes sense. 

Another critical part of the contract is its length. If an agent suggests a contract of six months or more, that might be a red flag. That means either they are not confident they can sell your property in that time or that the market is slowing, and they are not optimistic about the chance of any sale. 

Picking the right agent for you

Do your research, meet the agents, crunch the numbers, and take one final step: Go with your gut. Some real estate agents might meet your major criteria — but simply do not feel quite right. You might need someone with a lighter touch, or you might need a more aggressive agent who gets results, with no playing around. Ultimately, you want to pick the right agent to sell your home, and only you can decide who will work best for you.

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