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Finding a good real estate agent to sell your home

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The exterior of a 1920s Craftsman bungalow home with white pillars
adamkaz/Getty Images

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Whether you’ve sold a home before or it’s your first rodeo, a knowledgeable real estate agent can provide vital assistance. But with so many to choose from — the National Association of Realtors has 1.5 million members and counting — it can be challenging to choose the best agent for your specific needs. Here’s everything you need to consider when looking for a real estate agent to sell your home.

Benefits of hiring a listing agent

You’re not required to hire a real estate agent to sell your home. However, you’re probably better off working with an agent for several reasons. The right agent can help price your home appropriately, market it effectively and increase your chances of earning top dollar on the transaction. They can help you prepare your home for viewing before it’s listed, and then help you sift through offers from potential buyers after. Seller’s agents — also called listing agents because they manage the listing — also handle several other facets of the home-selling process, including:

Do your research

Be sure to do your due diligence to find an agent who meets your needs and expectations.

You could spend hours searching online for real estate agents in your area, but it might be smarter to start by asking friends and relatives for referrals.

You’re looking for agents that are not only well-versed in the local market, but have experience with the type of home you’re selling. (You wouldn’t want to hire someone to sell your 4-bedroom house only to find out that they specialize in condos!) An agent who’s a good fit will understand exactly what you’re selling, including comps of similar homes that have recently sold in the area.

You’ll also want someone with specific experience in, or at least near, your exact area. Take note of “for sale” or “sold” signs in your neighborhood — the Realtors representing those listings could be worth contacting, especially if they have a track record of local success.

Real estate commissions

It might be tempting to simply choose whichever agent charges the lowest commission fee. But that can backfire on a seller: Agents put in a lot of work to earn those fees, and in return, the seller ideally gets the best possible price for their home. The amount you pay in commission will likely be much less than the amount you stand to lose if your agent doesn’t do their research, set the right asking price or market the home effectively. In other words, you get what you pay for.

Interview several candidates

Don’t settle for an agent that simply looks good on paper. Conduct several interviews, and ask questions to help you make an informed decision. John Myers, a Realtor with Myers & Myers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, recommends that you start by inquiring about the type of experience each agent has in the current market — including their recent sales volume.

“You don’t want to [just] hear that they’ve been in real estate for 20-plus years,” Myers says. “Years of service does not mean a lot. The real estate market is constantly changing, and you want an agent who is active in the market and has knowledge of what is happening now. The market is shifting as we speak.”

Also, ask each agent how they would resolve challenging situations with prospective buyers. You want someone who knows how to respond if hiccups arise to ensure the deal reaches the closing table. Communication is another important factor to consider. Does the agent have a preferred method of communication, and does it match with yours? How quickly do they respond to inquiries? If an agent has subpar communication skills, the transaction is unlikely to go smoothly.

Check references

Request a few references from each agent, and reach out to them to discuss their experiences. Be sure to inquire about the services that were provided, the agent’s level of communication and whether their methods were effective. You might also ask if there was anything the agent could’ve done to provide a better experience. If you like, you can even check the status of the agent’s license online.

Hire the best listing agent for you

The final step in the process is to hire the listing agent that best suits your needs. Before signing on the dotted line, review the agreement in its entirety to ensure you understand the terms and timeline. Also, reiterate your expectations to confirm that you are both on the same page. In the end, the right agent for you is one who you click with and trust.

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Written by
Allison Martin
Allison Martin's work began over 10 years ago as a digital content strategist, and she’s since been published in several leading financial outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSN Money, MoneyTalksNews, Investopedia, Experian and Credit.com.
Edited by
Senior real estate editor