Choosing an agent, particularly on the listing side, can be very tricky. We’ve been asked quite often how to actually go about picking with whom to work, so we’ve put together some thoughts on the matter that we hope you will find helpful. This section is split up between general thoughts, and questions you may wish to ask agents before making a decision.
Does the firm matter? Yes and no. On one hand, you want to make sure that your listing will receive the adequate marketing dollars to get sold, and will be represented professionally. The real question here is how helpful is the firm to your agent? How many resources are dedicated to making your agent’s life easier in doing the best job of marketing your property, or does the agent need to reinvent the wheel with each and every client? Also, ask yourself this: do you remember the firm representing the seller when you last bought your property? Probably not. You DO likely remember that agent’s demeanor, how (s)he worked through the negotiations process, etc.
Online statistics: With the internet being such a powerful resource for buyers and sellers alike, it’s no wonder that every firm is bending over backwards to come up with the best online stats that showcases their prowess in attracting buyers. The truth is (we should instead say, “our belief is”) that do-it-yourself buyers, i.e. those with no representation, doing all of their own homework, are likely to avail themselves of aggregators like Streeteasy, Trulia, or Propertyshark. They are unlikely to be wed to any one brokerage site to find listings. Further, such buyers make up but a tiny portion of transaction volume. Having a fantastic online presence is great, but it shouldn’t be the decision-maker. Infinitely more important is the description of the property that they find on the site (written by an individual agent), the accessibility of the agent representing the property, etc. In other words, finding the property is merely the beginning.
Commoditized services: Though everyone has a different way of listing a property, certain services are largely commoditized (i.e. if you don’t get them, something’s wrong). All agents should take professional pictures of your home for use in show-sheets, online advertizing, etc. All of them will conduct some kind of mailing to the building and surrounding properties. All agents will host open houses on your behalf. All of them will (via their brokerage firms), make sure the listing is accessible on Streeteasy, The New York Times, the broker-to-broker listing system, etc.
Team or no team?: Some people swear by teams because they can make sure not to skip a beat in terms of showing the apartment, being available 24/7 among the different team members, having multiple minds all working for your, etc. If you choose a team, make sure you don’t get pawned off to underlings once your listing is “won”. Other people prefer working with an individual to have only one point of contact and a continuity of experience. If you choose to work with an individual, make sure (s)he has the capacity to handle your listing and that you have a strong relationship with him/her.
The bottom line, in our view, is that you’re working with an individual or a team of individuals. They are the ones who matter in the process of selling your home. Don’t get swept up by the glossy brochures or the fancy statistics. Try to find the real human being(s) behind the pitch by asking some of the following questions:
- Why are you in real estate? (something beyond “I like people” would be preferable here)
- Give me an example of a time when you told your client something (s)he didn’t want to hear. How did you do so and how did things turn out?
- Give me an example of when you were wrong or made a mistake – how did you rectify it?
- What is your take on the current economic environment and market dynamics? Why should I sell now and why should I not? (Test for market knowledge beyond the transaction, itself. The agent should be able to argue the other side of the equation, as well.)
- What do you feel is your greatest value-add in your working to sell my home?
- Give me an example of your being proactive with your clients. How do you partner with them?
- How do you track activity on my property? How often should I expect to hear from you?
- What is your philosophy on co-broking and working with other brokers, in general?
- May I please have three references to contact?
As you listen to the answers given, look for authenticity, depth and compatibility with your personality. You are about to embark on a journey that will likely test your emotions, ego and patience. Make sure you find the right partner for that experience.