When interviewing agents to sell their home, most homesellers really only care about the answer to two questions:
- Who is going to sell it for the most money?
- Who is going to charge me the least?
The result of these narrow criteria is painful to the seller. Most people list their home at a price that is not realistic with a weak agent. Weak agents let the homeowner set the price (largely as a strategy to get the listing and work on lowering the price over time). In a declining market, sellers are chasing a ball that is rolling downhill. Weak agents can’t negotiate for themselves (they actually cut their own family’s income when they negotiate below market commissions). How tough do we believe they will be for the home seller, if they’re already not negotiating well for their own families?
Question the agent’s performance record
In today’s market, where a vast majority of homes on the market will sell this month, we need to change the criteria of how we choose an agent to list our home. Gone are the days of picking an agent we “like”. No longer can we judge agents based on price (of the home or of the commission). We need to start asking better questions, if we want better agents.
1. What is your average list price to sales price ratio?
This question will eliminate the agent who is just trying to get a listing with the hope of getting you to lower the price later.
2. What percentage of your listings expire without selling?
Whether you list the home for 30 days or a year, the expiration rate of your agent is a good indicator of their effectiveness.
3. What is your average days on market?
How quickly your home sells is important to you (sometimes more important than the actual price).
4. What percentage of your listings do you actually sell yourself?
Many agents don’t like this question because they want to list homes, not sell them. But, in this market, I would want to list my home with the agent who is most likely to bring me a buyer.
Let me warn you that most agents can’t answer those four questions. The average agent doesn’t “know their numbers”, and you can’t afford to hire the average agent today. The superior agent not only knows their numbers; they know the numbers for their office, their competition and the entire MLS.
Question the agent’s marketing plan
Beyond pure “numbers questions”, I suggest you listen to the agent’s listing presentation and see if they discuss the following:
5. Where do they feel the buyer is most likely to come from?
Great agents see migration patterns (people may move from one particular town to another more frequently than others). Great agents understand the shifts of culture or ethnicity in communities. Great agents see certain types of employment as dominating their buyer pool (teachers, firemen, policemen are active today because they have paystubs, W2s and little fear of layoffs).
6. Does the agent have a marketing plan that targets the most likely buyers?
Practically every agent has a shot gun approach….50 websites, MLS, print advertising, etc. That is the minimum operating standard. We need more than that.
7. Do they have a database of active buyers?
Great agents have listings. Listings attract buyers. So do Homebuyer Seminars and other strategies. Great agents have a plan in place, not only to attract buyers, but also to maintain contact with them. Ask your agent about their value-added program for their buyer prospects.
More than sales price, commission rate and likeability, you need to search for EFFECTIVENESS. I hope these questions, and the dialogue that results from them, help you make wiser choices. Better choices create better results.