Ask to see an activity list -- a list of all the buyers and sellers they've represented, the areas of town and the price ranges. You don't want private details, says Tyson. But you want to see if they've worked in your neighborhood, in your price range and if they have a track record of successful sales.
How old are the comparable sales (often called "comps") they are showing you? A few years ago, you could study comps that were 6 months or a year old. This year, because many markets are changing, you want neighborhood comps that are no more than two to three months old, says Summers.
And find out how long each has been a professional. Experience counts. "If you're going to pay 5 to 6 percent, you might as well get the best your money can get," says Tyson.
7. Set a price. The rules are different in soft markets. "You don't overprice your house 20 percent to leave wiggle room for negotiating," says Tyson. While that kind of strategy might never be a good idea, it can really backfire in 2007. If your property is overpriced 20 percent, the buyer's agent "may not even show it to them," he says. Again, it's not a matter of being willing to negotiate. If your price is too high potential, buyers may not even look at it. And they may very well see a negative message in such a high price. "Those who overprice their homes in this market are wasting everyone's time," he says.
If you're not using an agent, get your own comps -- from the local paper, sites like Zillow.com and Realtor.com to see how similar houses in the area are priced. Also find out which paper in your area publishes notices when properties are sold -- sometimes it's the local daily or legal paper. Tracking those is a good way of tracking actual sales prices, as opposed to asking prices.
Then set a realistic figure. Your goal: to maximize the chances that the perfect buyer will actually see it, Tyson says.
To get an idea of what's going on now, you want recent comps. But you may also want to look at comparables from the last six months. "You will see trends," says Patricia Fitzgerald, broker/owner of Coastal Properties in Jupiter, Fla. "You also need to look at what is in the market" in that area, she says. Are properties moving? Are prices holding steady or are sellers dropping prices?
Pricing is strategy. And much of it comes down to just how motivated you are to sell -- or how quickly you have to leave.