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Finding a real estate agent in a buyer's market: 6 keys

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5. Divine the marketing plan. When you're interviewing a prospective real estate agent, the most important questions have to do with marketing the property and pricing it correctly.

Ask, "show me the marketing plan for my house," Merrion says. "What do you have that's different or better than the next agent I'm going to call?"

Let the agent know if you expect an ad in the newspaper every Sunday. Will the agent prepare a brochure? If so, who do the brochures go to -- other agents, or potential buyers, or both?

"Get specifics," Razzi says. "Show me an example of the kind of brochure you're going to do, the kind of Web page you're going to do, the virtual tour -- all of that."

Experts say that about 70 percent of house searches begin on the Internet. For that reason, agents "need to have complete comfort on the Internet," Razzi says. "Not that they do e-mail and they check it once a day. You want someone who knows the technology and is completely comfortable with it" -- an agent who can take photos that make the house look good online and prepare a descriptive, immersive Web page that shows up on search results.

Ask where the listing will go online. "The answer you want to hear is, 'Everywhere I can put it,'" Razzi says. Don't let the listing appear on just the broker's Web site and the local Multiple Listing Service site. Make sure other brokers will be allowed to add the listing to their Web sites. Don't take no for an answer.

Many agents contend that they own the listing to your house and that they have the right to restrict the listing from appearing on competing brokers' Web sites. You don't have to hire an agent who subscribes to this notion and you probably shouldn't.

6. Determine the right asking price. Don't base your choice of an agent on who tells you the house is worth the most, O'Connor says. "The worst thing you can do is to price your home too high." Potential buyers will ignore the house or they won't even notice it at all if they're searching on the Web by price range and your house is artificially above their upper limits.

How do you know which is the right asking price? You can never know for sure. An agent who synthesizes a lot of data will make a convincing case. "I make a map of the neighborhood and list all the other properties that currently are for sale," says Diane Saatchi, senior vice president with The Corcoran Group on Long Island, N.Y. She lists each house's address and how long it has been on the market. The color-coded map shows which houses have sold in the last six to 12 months, along with sales prices and listing sheets.

"When you look at all that, the right price for a particular property kind of jumps out at you," Saatchi says.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Nov. 30, 2006
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