Finding a real estate agent is one of the most important steps of selling a home, especially if you’re selling for the first time. A listing agent is a trusted, knowledgeable ally who can help you navigate the home-selling process with expert advice and smart strategies to maximize your sale and profit. But how do you find a listing agent who’s the right partner for you?
Understand what to look for in a listing agent.
Finding a real estate agent to help you sell a home is a bit different than the process you may have gone through when buying a home for a few reasons:
- A listing agent helps you prepare to sell.
- A listing agent is an expert on pricing homes.
- A listing agent, well, lists your home on the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS.
- A listing agent is a pro at marketing and staging homes.
If you’re a first-time seller, find an agent with serious teaching skills. When surprises come up or negotiations get tough, they’ll know what the best move is for you.
Another thing that differentiates a seller’s agent from a buyer’s agent: you’re directly paying the agent commissions this time. Sellers pay both agents’ commissions when it comes time to close on a house. When you had a buyer’s agent, you likely indirectly paid that cost through the sale price of the home, but when you’re a seller, the cost is a little more obvious to you. This gives you even more incentive to find a top-notch agent.
Start finding a real estate agent early.
When you’re selling, an experienced listing agent can be a huge help, even when you’re still thinking about if you’re ready to sell your house. They’ll help you decide how much your house is worth, they’ll help you understand how to market your home, and they can also make suggestions for minor fixes or upgrades to consider before listing it.
Give yourself plenty of time to weigh your options for finding a real estate agent. Start your listing agent search as early as possible—months before you plan to put your home on the market—so you have plenty of time to prep your home for sale.
Learn the lingo.
Not all agents are the same. Learning an agent’s official title—and what it means—can help you understand the level of expertise and accreditation they have.
- Real estate agent or salesperson — anyone with a real estate license.
- Realtor® — a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. This person has sworn to uphold the association’s standards and code of ethics.
- Real estate broker — an agent with extra education who has passed a broker’s license exam. They can hire agents to work for them.
Make a list of needs.
Knowing what you want will help you choose the right agent. Agents have specialties. Many work in particular neighborhoods. Some focus on condos, coastal homes, or fixer-uppers. Finding an agent with the right specialty will ensure they understand your needs and can respond to you quickly throughout the home selling process.
Make a list of the following things to keep on hand as you start your search:
- Type of home you’re selling
- How much work you’re willing to do to prep the home for sale
- Your neighborhood and neighborhoods similar to yours
- A budget for the costs of selling your home
- Characteristics in a real estate agent, like a tough negotiator, thoughtful listener, or speedy communicator
Start with friends and family and online reviews of real estate agents on Trulia, for example. Look at home-for-sale signs in your neighborhood or ones nearby, or similar in home style and size to yours, to see which real estate agent’s name appears most often. That agent is likely to know the area and type of home well.
Trulia can help you connect with trustworthy agents who will work hard for you through their Premier Agents resource. You can request to be connected with a Premier Agent on any property listing. These agents meet Trulia’s high standard for quality service, so you know you’ll have a great home buying experience with their personal support.
Do a little sleuthing.
Every real estate agent has a state-issued license. You can check with an individual state regulatory body online to verify their license. Or go to Arello, the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, and search by name and state.
Look on the agent’s Premier Agent or individual website to see if they’ve won any awards or have any special certifications. If they’re a member of the local Realtor® association, you can call to verify that the agent is a member in good standing. You can also find out how many years of experience the agent has.
Interview more than one agent.
You’re hiring someone to help you maximize the return on what is likely your biggest investment. So make sure they’re a good fit for your personality and needs. Arrange interviews with listing agents who look promising. Ideally, they’ll treat the opportunity to interview with you like a prospective employee would—eagerly and professionally.
Bring a list of questions for the real estate agent, and expect them to answer thoroughly. Ask them about their real estate background, but also about their personality and the way they work. You’ll be close partners with this person for months, so making sure you’ll enjoy working together is important. Also, ask for references to past clients.
Follow up with their references.
It may seem like extra busywork to call satisfied clients the agent provided to you, but you can learn a lot from chatting with real people who worked with a listing agent. For example, if they have anything negative to say, that’s a definite red flag.
More likely, they’ll say nice things, but encourage them to answer some serious questions:
- What was communicating with this agent like?
- What’s one thing you would have done differently during your home sale?
- What was the biggest challenge of working with this agent?
Not sure if finding a real estate agent is the best move for you? Here’s everything you need to know about the for sale by owner process to help you decide.