< Back to market reports

How to Hire a Listing Agent to Sell Your Home

Some questions to ask and characteristics to look for when looking to hire the best listing agent for your home:

What are the most important skills and resources you offer your clients?

Selling real estate is an incredibly complicated financial transaction with large sums of money at stake, including the brokerage commissions you will pay an agent to represent you. Your agent should be able to clearly explain what it is they bring to the table on your behalf and what they specifically do in return for their commission. First and foremost, should be the commitment and ability to protect and represent your interests above all others—to sell your property at the best possible price and terms. Are their other qualifications focused on helping you? Do you get the sense they are consummate professionals in the business? Do they listen carefully to your wants, needs and circumstances? Are they thoughtful and straightforward in their explanations? And, since you'll be working together for some time on this project: Do they seem to be a good personality match for you?

How exactly will you prepare and market my home? How much money will you be spending in doing so?

To reach every prospective buyer and every agent who might have a buyer, your listing agent should offer a comprehensive marketing plan far beyond putting the listing in MLS, sticking a sign in the front lawn and holding an open house. You deserve to hear the details of his or her marketing plan across all media--online, broker to broker, neighborhood marketing, print media, promotional materials, showings and so on--and furnish you with a clear budget he or she will commit to spending. How will the property be photographed? (This issue is so vitally important to marketing nowadays, that you should only hire an agent who will pay for a professional real estate photographer.) Who is the target market? How will the target market be reached? And how will the right impression be made on those buyers to create a sense of urgency to come and see your home right away?

Tell me your strategy behind pricing my home.

Correct pricing is an imperative, and it is based on a thorough understanding of current market conditions and trends, supply and demand, and values of homes in your area. A prospective listing agent should be able to clearly explain the reasoning behind their pricing conclusions. Are they straightforward? Do they know what they're talking about? Do NOT automatically choose the agent who simply tells you the highest price, since bad agents often base their entire pitch on this ploy--and overpricing can have very negative ramifications for selling your property at the highest price. It is far more important to have a knowledgeable, skillful and honest agent, with a great marketing plan, than an agent who simply tells you what you want to hear about price.

What is your area of expertise?

When selling in San Francisco, you want a Realtor® who works San Francisco. Out-of-town agents are bad representa­tives. No exceptions. Everything about real estate is specific to location: values, community, legal issues, the different options in property type and neighborhood within a given county, the other agents they will deal with. No agent can be an expert everywhere. You deserve an area expert to represent you.

Tell me about the last deal or two you closed?

This is an excellent open-ended question to help you determine how the agent works, their enthusiasm for the business, what they focus on as important, the skills they bring to bear for their clients, and how they interact with clients and other parties during the transaction. Do they completely and calmly own and manage the process? Do they negotiate effectively? Work hard and make special efforts? Good at explaining options and strategies? Motivated by doing a great job for their clients?

Why are you with the brokerage you’re with?

Brokerage firms come in many qualities and it can be insightful to know why your agent chose theirs. Did they pick it because it allows them to provide a higher level of service and resources to you? Are they focused on reputation, exper­tise, ongoing training and skill improvement, liability management and integrity?

Is this your only career?

Many real estate agents are also mortgage brokers or have other second careers. Some are part-timers. This is a very bad sign for a transaction where so much money is at stake. Real estate is a business which takes all of a good agent’s professional time, energy and resources to do the job right. You don’t want, and don’t deserve, an amateur or part-timer. Pick your real estate agent like you would your financial manager or attorney—hold them to that standard. What would you think if your attorney also sold cars? Would you want your sister-in-law—who went to law school 10 years ago, but never practiced law—to defend you in a big, complicated lawsuit?

References, References, References!

The best indication of the job an agent will do for you is the job they did for past clients. Feel free to ask to speak to some of their recent clients. According to the bestselling book, House Selling for Dummies, good agents: educate you; don’t make decisions for you; tell you when you need to consult other experts; restrict themselves geographically; are full-time professionals; have contacts for skilled, high integrity resources; and have the time to serve you properly.

Characteristics of a Good Listing Agent

In one of the largest, most complicated financial transactions of your life,
what exactly does a good real estate agent do when you're selling your home?

A good listing agent…

  • Cares more about your priorities and goals than their commission. (The smartest agents know that if you take care of the client, the commission takes care of itself.) Indeed, a good agent’s goal is to, by their efforts and expertise, save and make you more money than what they cost.

  • Knows the market in your geographic area and property type inside out—its values, market trends, neighborhoods, pros and cons, legal issues, its agents.

  • Renders honest and expert counsel on market values, conditions and pricing in order to achieve the strongest market response and highest possible sales price. Provides you with excellent market analytics to substantiate their counsel and assist you in your decision making.

  • Provides professional know-how regarding preparing your property to show: wherever buyers or agents first see your home – online, in ads, mail pieces, brochures or in person – it must look its absolute best.

  • Spends more money on marketing your home than the typical agent, money invested upfront in professional photography, comprehensive online marketing, gorgeous promotional materials, direct mail and other buyer and broker advertising campaigns to reach every potential buyer and every agent who might have a buyer, make a compelling impression, and create a sense of urgency to act quickly to make strong, clean offers.

  • Performs proactive buyer qualifying and pre-sale disclosure management to reduce the odds of accepting an offer from someone who will not perform, and help preclude buyer attempts to renegotiate after offer acceptance.

  • Negotiates effectively and, at your instruction, aggressively to achieve the best possible price and terms. A skillful negotiator committed to your interests can easily make a 3%-5% difference in the sales price, and sometimes much more.

  • Never makes decisions for you nor pushes you to make decisions a certain way, but lays out all the information, options and strategies for your consideration.

  • Never pressures you to accept offers too quickly, i.e. before the home has been fully exposed to the market: a single additional buyer can add substantially to the sales price. (You are the sole decision-maker as to which, if any, offer to accept.)

  • Ensures you understand what’s happening, what’s necessary and what’s at stake at every step.

  • Tells you the truth as best as can be discerned—positives, negatives, upsides, downsides—even what you might not want to hear or might change your mind about proceeding with a transaction.

  • Offers an array of qualified professional resources—inspectors, lawyers, escrow and loan agents, etc.—and advises you when their counsel is required.

  • Coordinates, manages and controls—based upon your decisions—every aspect of the process. Provides buttoned-up transaction management to minimize unpleasant surprises, delays in close of escrow and any potential future liability (in the most litigious state in the country).

  • Diligently maintains the security of your home during all showings and open houses.

  • Gives you the time and attention you need.

  • Keeps his or her promises.

  • Works hard. Works on your timeline. Works to minimize your effort and stress. Works to make or save you more money than they cost.

  • Ideally, loves the business of real estate—because it’s simply much more enjoyable to work with someone who loves what they do.

  • These are the standards we try to live up to at Paragon.

    Because the quality of the agent working on your behalf—his or her competence, integrity, work ethic and commitment to your interests—can make an enormous difference in the outcome of your home purchase or sale: in money, stress, time and future happiness.

    The simple truth is that, just as with lawyers, doctors, contractors and the other important professionals you use when needed, some real estate agents are much better than others--and it shows up in their results.