Interviewing Selling Agents Over the Internet

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Interviewing a listing agent (seller’s agent) over the Internet offers several advantages for you as a seller. You can do a little pre-qualifying before you meet the agent in person and you can see how your agent will use the Internet to communicate with you and to market your home. With more buyers turning to the Internet to view homes, shop for loans , and learn about the home buying process, the agent whom you choose to market your home can’t afford not to be in command of this powerful tool called the In ternet.

Although many agents will tell you that they can market your home effectively, you need an agent who can meet several criteria including:

  • Being familiar with or specializing in your neighborhood
  • Having an office nearby
  • Being current and a regular user of the Internet, e-mail, and Internet marketing techniques
  • Having a list of clients who can give you their recommendations

There are several techniques to help you determine which agents you want to interview.

Ask around the neighborhood, and of your friends and family, if they have ever used an agent and if they are happy with the ones they chose. Make it clear that you want a specialist in your neighborhood. That way you will get someone who has an established reputation among the neighborhood, and among other agents. Agents make their specialties known to other agents and to the public through advertising and reputation.

Look in the newspaper and see if you can spot an ad that appeals to you. Most agents will announce a neighborhood specialty in their ads, so you can quickly weed out the ones who are not in your area. See what the ad says and look at the listings that accompany the agent’s photo. Are a few in the range you think your home would sell? Does the agent emphasize a Web site, e-mail address and/or Internet marketing techniques such as “See more homes at http://www.theagent.com?” One clue you can follow is to look for is an agent whose name, city or community is part of the domain name. This agent has paid extra for a personal domain name, and is probably putting some effort toward Internet marketing. This is important because this agent will also be attracting buyers.

Observe the for sale signs in your neighborhood. Is there one agent who seems to command the lion’s share of the listings? Chances are that agent “farms” the neighborhood and has made your area a personal specialty. Although any agent would be glad to take your listing, the simple logistics of stopping by your home to drop off papers, interviewing with you, showing the home to buyers – especially on short notice all make more sense if the agent works or lives near your home. Consider a close-by agent a necessity. The agent who farms your area and lives or works close by is definitely one you want to interview.

Write down the names, phone numbers and Web addresses of the agents in whom you are most interested. Visit their Web sites. Are their listings on their sites? Do you like the way the listings are presented?

Do not waste your time with any agent who requests that you fill out fields of information before allowing you to view homes or to gain access to other information. This agent is out of touch with how things are being done. Ditto anyone who is still using a “hit counter.”

Look at the services offered. What services seem to go the extra mile? Some agents create a special Web page for their clients through a service called Realty Connection, http://www.realtyconnection, so they can put information, new listings of interest and other private information just for them. Needless to say these agents have plenty of buyers and sellers.

Another agent in Scottsdale, Arizona has an award-winning Web page with useful information about relocating to the Scottsdale area. She updates her Web site daily with news, fun facts and the latest tips on buying and selling.

Think of a few questions you would like to ask and e-mail each agent. You can start with “I live in X area. Is now a good time to sell?” “Do you know what the economic outlook is for my area?” “How quickly are homes selling in this area?” or “I’m looking for a listing agent in the X area. Why would you be the best one for me?” Which agent responds the most quickly? Which one answers your questions in the most honest manner?

When the agent communicates with you, don’t blame her/him for asking a few questions, too. After all, an agent only has time and expertise to sell. They need to know quickly if they are wasting their time. Their questions will be of a qualifying nature to determine your readiness to sell. “Are you thinking of selling? When? Have you interviewed other agents? Have you looked at other homes? Have you contracted to buy another home? What are your goals?”

Be honest about what you are looking for and where you are in the selling process. If you have looked at homes, say so. Tell the agent where. See what s/he does. Does s/he respond with listing URLs you may not have seen? With news of interest from the area you want to live in? When you have communicated several times, pick the agents with whom you feel you have the most rapport. Ask for a phone interview, and then you can meet them in person to provide a listing presentation for your home.

When the agents arrive (separately, of course) be ready with a few basic questions.

  • How will you arrive at a selling price for my home?
  • How do you plan to market my home?
  • How will we communicate?
  • How frequently will I hear from you?
  • May I see your references?

Give extra points to the agent who arrives at your listing presentation with a CMA already completed. Give big bonus points to agents who have already scoped out your competition (other homes) in person. These agents are prepared to answer objections and are more likely to arrive at an asking price for your home that will sell the home and help you meet your goals.

Don’t expect an instant evaluation of what your home will sell for. Give the agent a chance to look around the home. Some agents may ask you to fill out your disclosure form to help them price the home, especially if the home is over ten years old.

The agent will ask you to sign a listing agreement. The length of the listing agreement should reflect the time it takes to sell a home in your area. Three to six months is not unusual. In slow markets, listing agreements are six months to a year.

Any reputable agent will allow you out of the contract if you are truly unhappy with his/her service or if your plans should change.

An agent who combines Web marketing with local expertise in a smart manner is the right agent for you.

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Are Your Pets Soiling Your Chances of Selling Your Home?

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Pets are often so loved by their owners that they are allowed the run of the house. At their worst, doggie and kitty dictators mark their territory with pungent odors and unsightly stains.

When you love these little furry friends, it’s hard to realize how much these pets may be hurting your marketing efforts in selling your home. If you are like most pet lovers, you may be a little on the sensitive side.

If your listing agent is having a hard time communicating with you about your pets and their effect on buyers and other agents, perhaps a look at this neutral third-party list of suggestions may help you understand the problem better:

1. If it smells, it won’t sell. Your pet may be perfectly well mannered, but that doesn’t mean your home is odor-free. Most pet odor comes from fur and dander. Pets mark their territory by rubbing their fur on objects. That’s why your kitty rubs your ankles with her sides. Minimize pet odors by not allowing your pets to sleep on couches and carpets. Provide them with a cuddly bed of their own and reward them lavishly whenever they use it. Deodorize often with Febreze, a product found on most grocery store shelves. Keep pets bathed and groomed more often than usual, so as not to add to existing pet odor.

2. Stains don’t have to be permanent. There are many good products to clean pet stains. Just visit your local pet store or key “pet stains” into your favorite search engines. What you will find are companies with advice and products, such as Planet Urine , featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Pet stores sell a product called Nature’s Miracle which also works beautifully. Hospital supply companies are also a great source for heavy duty stain and odor control products.

3. Vacuum daily. While your home is being marketed, vacuum the carpets daily with an odor deodorizer. You can find them in the cleaning supplies section of the grocery store. Remember to change bags more frequently than usual. Treat your home to a professional carpet cleaning. Also, open the windows and let some fresh air in. Pull back the drapes. Open vents. A closed in home will hold more odor than it should.

4.Keep pets from showings. Many buyers are suggestible. If they don’t see a pet, they’ll look at the home more objectively. If they spot your dog or cat, they will be alerted to look for stains and odors. Arrange to have your pet off the property for showings, and put their food dishes and toys out of sight, too. Keep cat boxes and backyard doggie loos scooped daily. If you have to board your pet to it from doing further damage or soiling new replacement fixtures, do so. You will be rewarded with a higher selling price for your home. When you are in your new home, you can welcome your pet back from its “holiday” with a favorite treat and lots of snuggles.

5.Stains and odors may have to be disclosed. In many states, stains and odors that can’t be removed must be disclosed to the buyer or you may be held liable. That will automatically put you in a poor bargaining position with the buyer. If you aren’t sure what the extent of your pet’s damage is, you can purchase, rent or borrow a hand-held black light to shine on carpets and other fixtures. Some carpet cleaning kits include a black light for this purpose. Viewing your carpet this way will help you decide whether to clean or replace the carpet. Your agent will most likely advise you to replace the carpet. It will cost you much less money than a buyer’s discount.

6. Perception is everything. If your home doesn’t pass the sniff or stain test, it will adversely affect the way other agents and their buyers perceive your home. Your agent is depending upon other Realtors to show your home to their buyers. Many Realtors insist on showing only pristine homes to their clients. Once word gets around, you may find yourself with few showings which will cause the value of your home to drop.

7. Be realistic about your home’s value. A home is only really worth what a buyer is willing to pay. If your home has suffered damage due to your pets, it may be devalued in the marketplace. The only cure is taking action to eliminate the problem before your home goes on the market. Listen to your Realtor and follow his/her advice about the most cost-effective ways to manage your pet’s damage to the home. She or he will have suggestions and solutions that will put you right back on the marketing track.

 

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It May Be Over Your Head, But Your Roof Is No Laughing Matter

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Remember El Nino ? – Meet La Nina, the new weather pattern on the block.

After El Nino’s surge of warm Pacific Ocean water churned storms that found all the leaks in your roof, the cooler but just as powerful La Nina weather pattern could bring on more storms to finish the job.

Rain isn’t really the chief culprit responsible for your roof’s demise . The rainy season merely reveals what you neglected all those sunny, arid years.

The hot sun’s ultra violet radiation, gale force winds, soggy condensation, mold, mildew and debris from over-hanging trees really stick it to a roof.

Unfortunately, if you need to find help for your roof now, good luck. After a banner year, thanks to El Nino, roofers are swamped heading into their busiest season. After coming home from vacations and sending the kids back to school, home owners’ thoughts turn to their only line of defense between them and the elements.Unable to obtain good help, you might consider stop-gap patching and repairs.

That might not be such a good idea. “Anytime you do a patch on the roof, the edges of that patch winds up being the weakest point of roof,” says Paul Elmore, owner of Responsible Roofing, in Mountain View, CA. “New material sealed onto old material isn’t as good as the original seal. It will fail where the patch meets the old material,” Elmore said.

Patching a tar and gravel built-up roof can create an ever-so-slight slope disrupting the roof’s natural incline, forcing water to settle into pools elsewhere. Then, the leak appears to move, while actually, the additional stress on the aging roof springs a new leak.

Rather than patching, consider your roof’s age.

The most popular composite tar-and-gravel shingle tops last only about 20 years. Wood shingle and shakes last longer, up to 40 years and clay, concrete and slate tiles, aluminum and other metal roofs can last a life time, according to the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Replacement costs generally increase with a roof’s life expectancy from a few thousand dollars for the popular composite shingles to tens of thousands for roofs with a longer life span.

If you roof is nearing the end of it’s life expectancy and showing its age, keep looking for professional roofers. It’s likely time for a new one and wet weather has already hit some regions.

Choosing a roofer

The association says shop around for referrals to contractors with solid track records. Make sure the contractor plans to obtain a permit and is financially stable, licensed and insured with both workers compensation and liability insurance. Ask for written proof of his or her credentials and coverage.

The non-profit, Washington D.C.-based Center for the Study of Services conducted a survey that revealed the more bids roofing shoppers received, the greater the spread between the high and low bids — sometimes by as much as $2,000.

From each roofer obtain an estimate based on a thorough roof inspection — inside and out. The inspection should generate a detailed report, as well as a bid.

Visit roofs the contractor installed and seek clients’ opinion of the work. Also visit the contractors office or shop. If it’s neat and organized or trashed, that will indicate the level of professionalism you can expect on top of your house, advises Jack Robinson, director of technical services at the National Roofing Contractors Association in Rosemont, Ill.

Robinson said insist on a written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and material specifications. Request the name of the site supervisor and the number of workers expected on the job. The contractor should also explain project supervision and quality control methods. Get in writing an approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.

The payment plan should match the work in progress. Never pay for the job before it’s complete. “We believed the (El Nino) predictions and had our roof redone last September. Our roofer did an excellent job. He came when he said and finished when he said. Maybe this isn’t as interesting as a horror story, but I sure liked it when I was warm and dry all winter,” said Judith Wasserman, an architect with Bressack & Wasserman in Palo Alto, CA.

For more information

The National Roofing Contractors Association , offers a free information kit, including a 12-page booklet “Buying a New Roof,” and referrals to member roofers.

The Center for the Study of Services’ 1996 Winter/Spring, Vol. 7 No. 2 San Francisco Bay Area-edition and the 1996 Winter/Spring, Vol. 9, No. 4 Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area-edition offers “Roofers,” an in-depth article that takes a hard look at roofing problems, roofing parts and techniques and tips for finding and hiring roofers. The article ($5 for members, $15 for non-members) also offers a consumer satisfaction survey of roofers. Checkbook’s Web site is http://www.checkbook.org .

 

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