Choosing the best real estate agent

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Buying and selling a home as is so often stated, is one of the most significant financial transactions anyone is every likely to undertake. It is also one of the most infrequent transactions. Most people only every buy half a dozen homes in a lifetime.

For this reason the process of choosing a real estate agent should be viewed as just such a significant decision. However it is likely that most people choose their agent with little more than a cursory evaluation, with minimal research and investigation.

Considering the fees, the seller will likely end up paying the agent in terms of commission alone upwards of $15,000 to $20,000, you would think more effort and critical performance review of individual agents would be undertaken.

Research, primarily by surveys over the years has found that people tend to rely on prior experience to select their agent. Second most common choice is based on referral from a friend. However despite this feedback from surveys; the most likely process undertaken is the subjective assessment of “who has the most presence in my area” – the agent with the high profile demonstrated by For Sale signs and profile adverts in the paper. However as the saying goes “Never judge a book by its cover” – just because you see adverts for an agent all over the neighbourhood may not mean they are the best agent, or the best agent for you. It just means they are likely to be spending the most money on advertising - themselves.

As stated in a prior article, agents are recognising the importance and value of profile advertising on property portals as they appreciate that this is where buyers are spending so much time searching property. The fact is the majority of buyers are also looking to sell their property. So it would make sense for sellers to use the web to undertake more extensive research as to the right agent to act on their behalf to sell their house.

When it comes to choosing an agent, I would recommend you approach the process in the same way you would if recruiting someone to work with you. Do your background research and then interview the chosen shortlist of suitable candidates.

Here would be my advice to choosing the right agent

1. Look online to see what houses are on the market that best match your house (price, location, type) – which agents are selling these? Recent experience of selling a similar property for a similar price in the same area is likely to direct you to an agent that knows that sector of the current market well – look for that match

2. Review the adverts for property online that attract your attention. Follow a logic – if the advert for a property appeals to you, it is likely it appeals to others by the way it has been put together. Agents that focus on online presentation of their clients listings are more likely to be progressive agents that understands the marketing process to maximize impact and visibility to prospective buyers

From these first 2 steps draw up a long list of agents, probably 6 -10 agents

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3. Check out the current listings of these agents from agent pages on Realestate.co.nz – take note of the number of listings each agent has, and how long these properties been on the market, each property shows the listing date. Be aware though that agents with a large number of listings may very well be productive, but on the other hand you may end up being a small fish in a large pond. Equally an agent with fewer listings may be a newbie, or could be may well be highly effective as they sell property quickly, equally they may not be that productive, so try and use the data to establish some performance criteria

4. At this stage you should be starting to narrow the list down to say 4 – 6 agents. You should then do more extensive research on each agent, check out their online profile. See if they have a profile on Realestate.co.nz or on their company website. Review their personal website (if they have one). Read testimonials, but as importantly look to see how they market themselves. If they are good at marketing themselves then they probably have a progressive view of marketing property

5. Don’t forget to do a name search for each of the the shortlist of agent candidates on Google to make sure there are no skeletons in their respective closet

By now you show have a shortlist of two or three, these are the ones who you should invite for an interview to present their proposal on how they would handle the sale of your house

6. Plan to invite them to come round on the same day (it is worth the time). Now I want to propose a somewhat different strategy for meeting agents, the traditional method is getting a group of agents to evaluate the property, my view is evaluate the agent first. Check out my article on evaluating your agent before getting a property appraisal. Trust me the evaluation of the property is best left until you have a chosen agent.

7. Look for the agent to give you a chance to better understand the personal chemistry between the two of you. Look for them to profile some recent marketing campaigns rather than looking for a marketing proposal for your house (that can come later). Ask about process they follow and also their reporting process. The greatest dissatisfaction from vendors after using an agent is very often the lack of reporting and being kept up to date on the process.

8. After this meeting follow up a couple of the testamonials that the favourite agent has provided – these are critical to give you a comfort to support your gut feel.

Then and only then let them carry out an evaluation and provide an current Comparative Marketing Assessment as is required under the REAA requirements. When you are completely satisfied, you have an accurate CMA, you have a detailed marketing plan and you have negotiated the commission or service fee; then and only then sign a listing agreement.

Best of luck in the selling process.