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.
Written by Blanche Evans