Have you ever thought about your experience buying clothing, and compared shopping at say Nordstrom, to shopping at a discount clothing store? Did you notice the service difference – sure, the Nordstrom employee works on commission, but that is actually a benefit to you if you need help finding the right outfits. He or she will go out on a limb to pick the perfect shirt, slacks, tie or accessories to make you look your best.
Selling a home is the same. I always tell potential sellers when I meet them to discuss listing their homes that ANYONE can list a home – it is not rocket science. The part time mom/real estate agent who only works weekends, the new “green” 18 year old agent with his first client, or the experienced agent – they all can do it. But you have to make sure to ask the right questions and get the right information to assure that you truly get the best representation.
You may have noticed agents in your area who might boast that they will list your home for less than the competition – some for say a 1% fee, and others for flat fees. While this may sound great to you as a seller, make sure you interview a seasoned listing agent and compare what you will get from each – you may be surprised.
Here are the things you need to ascertain as a potential seller to make sure that your home will be marketed properly and survive the escrow process in order to close:
1. Responsiveness – Many discount brokers will take your fee and put your home on the MLS, but that is where the buck stops. If you have questions or concerns you may find it hard to ever reach them, let alone have issues responded to. Even “big” agents who list many properties have this issue – there are several of them in my area and I have helped clients sell homes who had worked with them before and were unsatisfied with their lack of responsiveness. This is important to you as a seller, because you need an agent who is your partner and can communicate both effectively and continuously throughout the entire process from listing to closing.
2. Marketing – Does the agent’s marketing budget mirror the commission you are paying? In other words, if the agent is taking a lower fee, is this going to cause your marketing to be less than superb? I can tell you that I get a LOT of real estate information in my mailbox, and about 90% of it is junk – poor quality, bad images/non-professional photography, grammatically incorrect/spelling errors. The way your home looks to potential buyers is what will drive them to want to see it – it is a feeling and a lifestyle that you are selling, not just a house with walls.
3. Communication with other agents and parties: Your listing agent needs to be able to effectively communicate with other agents, loan officers, lenders, escrow and title representatives throughout the sales and escrow process. This includes following up with showings and alerting agents of potential buyers of any changes or new developments with the property. Problems always come up that need to be addressed in order to stick to the time frames identified in the contract – make sure your agent knows how to do so and is willing to stay in touch on a daily basis.
4. Negotiations – This is a big one. Your agent must be a strong negotiator. Unfortunately many real estate agents are not strong in this regard, and many contracts do not come to terms or fall apart after agreement. Negotiation skills are needed not just at the start when a contract is received, but throughout the entire escrow period. Getting an offer is just one part – keeping those buyers excited about their new home until closing is another issue.
5. Paperwork – if you work with a discount agent/brokerage, make sure that your agent explains how the paperwork will be handled. Real estate transactions contain a LOT of paperwork, and they are all LEGAL documents! There are many consequences to filling out paperwork incorrectly, including law suits years after your home sells. You need to make sure your agent knows how to properly handle the paperwork and how to coach you in filling it out correctly so as to avoid legal ramifications.
The bottom line is that you usually get what you pay for – like comparing Nordstrom quality and service vs. Walmart quality and lack of service. Unlike buying a shirt however, selling a home comes with many legalities. Make sure you are protected and find an agent that will work hard for you to keep you informed, compliant and safe.