Where do I begin my search for a Real Estate agent to sell my house? I would like to know his/her success at

Asked by M, Bellevue, WA Fri May 30, 2008

selling houses. As a future seller, it's difficult to decide. Some Real Estate agents don't have enough information on their websites. For example, I would like to know about their past listings (e.g., what was the asking price vs. the actual price that the house sold at)
What are the most important qualifications of an excellent listing agent? Should he/she be local? How can I find a top agent?

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Mary Sunde, Agent, Bellevue, WA
Sat May 31, 2008
There are many ways to start your search for an agent that best meets your needs. You can visit open houses in your area and see how that agent markets another property, you can call an office and ask for an agent that would best meet your needs, you look in the newspaper or magazine, you can ask a friend, family member or co-worker for the name of an agent they used, you can look on the web and see how other houses are advertised and presented with the photo galleries.

You can certainly ask the agent to provide their statistics on listing to sold price and any explanations they wish to give or what their particular stats are for the past year. It does not mean that an agent with higher volume, which is the average definition of a "top agent", is the best agent for you. Many agents that do higher volumes are not able to provide the personal, hands on committment that many sellers desire due to their volume. If "hands on" is important to you ask the agent if after you sign the listing agreement who
will you be in contact with and the same after you accept an offer on your home. Some people, even though they are receiving excellent service, feel that they have been dropped if after they sign a listing or sale agreement their main contact person is an assistant or transaction co-ordinator. This is not the truth but this is how they feel....they want to work with the person they interviewed. If this is important to you ask the question.

I also think it is important for an agent to show you all the people they have worked with in the past couple of years. You can then pick and choose a few sellers you wish to contact to discuss their feelings about
the agent. If the agent simply gives you a list of references why would they give you someone who would provide a negative response. I have been in the business for 30 years and not everyone I have worked with thought I was an excellent agent. There are bound to be some personality clashes and or market conditions that we don't have control of that color the scoop of our work. It may also depend if the agent has kept in contact after the sale. I would make up a list of questions of things that important to you to ask these previous sellers. As you are doing now you might want to ask agents you meet what top things they feel make an excellent agent.

I am assuming that by "local" you mean an agent that is very active in your particular neighborhood. This can be an advantage but does not necessarily mean that an agent that "farms" a particular neighborhood
is a better agent than someone with a broader base.

You also might want to ask the agent if they do dual agency if there were to sell your home or what do
they do if an open house buyer wants to make an offer (who do they represent). What if a prospective
buyer contacts the listing agent and says their agent is busy or can't show the home; how do they handle this.

What will the agent do to prepare your home to be listed? I suggest that all my sellers have a pre-
listing building inspection and address any significant items that a buyer will likely ask to be corrected.
The advantage of this is that you remain in control and do not have a major surprise after you have
negotiated a sales price. As an example if you need a new roof or furnace you can do it but add it to your asking price when listing as a major amenity.

I also believe that professional showcasing (staging a home for sale) and professional photographs are critical to maximize your profit and minimize your marketing time.

You have been given lots of good ideas and excellent input from many agents and I hoped all of us have been able to help you.
Mary Sunde
2 votes
James Hsu, Agent, Bothell, WA
Tue Jun 3, 2008
I'd like to challenge the assertion that a designation automatically makes an agent more ethical, with higher integrity and just overall better. I cannot argue that in getting a CRS or any other agent designation, that agent has gone through more coursework than a run-of-the-mill agent. However, education alone does not make anybody better than the next ...it is the application of that education and the performance/knowledge of an agent that qualifies them as being "good".....not how many classes one can take.

One of the paths to get CRS requires only 10 transactions within any 2-year period...that's 5 deals a year. That's not a lot. Then the class work consists of: business planning and marketing, listings, sales, wealth building, financing, technology and referral. ...and also classes called , creating value for your clients, putting technology to work for your clients.

The most crucial aspect in buying a home for many of today's buyers is market knowledge and information. How does any of those classes create the knowledge and skill set of figuring out market trends, or red flags that markets are about to implode, or understanding what things are wrong or good about a house? How does...those classes HELP the buyer or seller in what they want. The class titles mostly imply how to improve the business side of real estate. The last two ..sort of sound like they're designed with the clients best interest, but the others aren't.

How does taking those classes plus stuff from their electives list create a more ethical agent with higher integrity? I have the same issue with the Realtor designation. To use it...we have to pay our dues and abide by the vaunted code of ethics. Do we...as an industry...really need to have a written set of code of ethics? Shouldn't that be simply inherent with the work we do? Obviously not so that's why there's a written code, but to insinuate that taking more classes makes someone abide by a even higher code of ethics ... what's higher than being ethical??

Getting a CRS also does not require THAT much experience. 10 deals in 2 years? $25 million in volume in 5 years? The only semi-impressive one is 75 transactions in 5 years...that's 15 a year ....now that's pretty healthy. So what is the benefit of doing more transactions verses the 10 deals in 2 years path? ..You are allowed to take fewer courses. So wouldn't that imply experience trumps coursework. So... if you take an agent that has done 10 deals in 2 years and taken a series of classes and compare that to someone that does tons of deals a year but has no extra classwork ....the CRS person is automatically better?

Sorry...making wholesale comments that a designation makes someone automatically better by leaps and bounds just strikes a nerve...especially real estate designations.
1 vote
James Hsu, Agent, Bothell, WA
Fri May 30, 2008
You ask an important question, but your criteria is flawed. Asking price to sale price is not a very accurate reflection of how good the agent is. For example, if the listing agent somehow convinces the seller to underprice the house and it sells for over asking...does this make the agent an awesome agent? Or if the house is priced fairly, but the seller suddenly needs to get out fast and takes a much lower offer ...does that make the agent a bad agent? Obviously not.

There are indeed a few qualifications that separate the the good from the not-so-good ...some of these have already been mentioned:
1) Ability to grasp and comprehend market conditions and how it applies to your individual situation
2) Communication and the quality of what they communicate to you during your listing
3) A documented marketing system and why they've chosen the individual elements in their system, preferably something the agent can show you examples of ... saying you have a proven/effective marketing plan is worthless without any explanation of what it is and why it works
4) ...also the biggest key is ...how well you get along with the agent. Personalities have to match. It is a joint effort and if you and the agent clash from the get go...imagine what happens when hurdles or problems start coming up.

How do you find out these attributes of a listing agent. Interview them and trust your gut. Get references from their past clients. Some agents talk a good talk, but when it comes time to execute they fall flat.

Okay...now I am far from being a "top" agent, but I'm disturbed at the overall bad wrap a top agent is getting here. A top agent usually becomes a top agent because of the quality of their work and the effectiveness of their system. Maybe they won't mesh with your individual needs, but casting them aside simply because they have a top agent label is quite frankly foolish. I do not mind going head to head with a top agent for a listing, ..I believe in my work and I believe what I can bring to the table is better or just as good as a top agent. A top agent reputation usually comes about from a consistent stream of results. They don't just wake up one day and transcend to top-agenthood.
1 vote
Keith Sorem, Agent, Glendale, CA
Fri May 30, 2008
You need a Realtor that knows three thingsL
1. Your personal situation
2. Your local real estate market trends and can articulate them
3. Your home's marketing points and how to expose them

They need to have a firm grasp on what it takes to sell a home for top dollar in your market. That means, in most cases, they need a plan that demonstrates:
1. That they know that another Realtor will show the buyer that purchases your home 90% of the time.
2. How to sell your home in the first 30 days on the market because that is when offers come closest to asking price.
3. How to get 10-12 showings in the first 30 days, or what to do about it.

Top agents sometimes have so many listings that you can get lost in the shuffle. You want results, not reputation. You want a Realtor that you feel good about, communicates well, and one who is confident they can sell your home.
1 vote
Julie Hall, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Fri May 30, 2008
All of the previous agents have answered your questions well - I agree! I think that a good listing agent is balanced in a few ways:
1. The ability to accurately analyze the market's current and sold competition for initial pricing strategy AND analyze the market for the duration of the listing...the market is quite dynamic & competition changes during a listing;
2. The ability to differentiate your home in the marketplace;
3. Communication is very, very important and is overlooked by clients - we'd like to think that communication is an easy thing and everyone does it, but they don't always, so keeping you regularly up-to-date on feedback, marketing results, market conditions, etc. is key;
4. Negotiation. Your listing agent should be able to keep your situation confidential and help structure mutual acceptance where it's good for both parties, but where you are protected in case the offer falls apart -- understanding the ever-changing contracts is very important.
5. Honesty, ethics, integrity, whatever you want to call it, is important. We are hired to tell you the honest truth and hired to tell you what you don't want to hear! Sometimes the truth is unfortunate, but it is our full-time job to help you reach your goals.
6. Selling your house is one of the biggest investments you have -- have a great Realtor on your side that you feel comfortable with and you know has your best interests in mind. Your Realtor should be able to show you his/her advanced, on-going real estate education.
7. Your agent should be willing to do the small things...it shows they really care. I'll mow your lawn if I have to! :) Do what it takes to get it done!
1 vote
Daniel Jeung, , Woodinville, WA
Fri May 30, 2008
Good questions!

You should find an agent with whom you have a good rapport and confidence. There are many good agents that work the Bellevue area. Each agent should be able to provide you with their stats on previous listings and references of past clients. There are many agents who have lots of listings, and many who only have a few. I don't think that is a good indicator of a successful agent, just an indicator that the agent is good at marketing themself. What you want are results (i.e. your home sold). Knowledge and experience are important, but I've seen many new agents work their tails off to sell homes, proving that resourcefulness can be just as important. The bottom line, is that your home will sell if it is properly priced and exposed to the marketplace. One big mistake I see (especially in this market) is sellers listing their home with the agent who quotes them the highest list price. This is called "buying the listing", and you don't want an agent who does this. Make sure that whoever you interview can provide a Comparative Market Analysis with lots of accurate data. They should also be willing to drive you around your neighborhood and show you the competition.

Check out the profiles of agents on Trulia, and ask friend for referrals.

Best of luck!

1 vote
Patrick Beri…, Agent, Seattle, WA
Wed Aug 27, 2008
At this point, you've asked a few different questions about finding an agent. It seems that you now have heard from quite a few agents on this site. Maybe it's time to actually call some of them lol.
0 votes
Sarah Jones, Agent, Anacortes, WA
Tue Jun 10, 2008
You are asking excellent questions and a good agent should be able to answer all of them. If an agent is a participant in NWMLS, all of their statistics are easy to obtain and they should be able to provide you a written report showing their listing and sales activity. You want an agent that knows your particular market and most importantly, knows who buys homes in your market. They need to have an excellent web site, that's easy to navigate, and directs potential customers to your home. Probably the first step I would take is to pretend you are a buyer for your home and do a search for comparable homes and see what web sites pop up. Look them over carefully and send some e-mail inquiries and see how the agent responds...If you like their response, set up a personal interview with them and ask them for referrals of satisfied customers and fellow agents. Good luck!
0 votes
Lydia Treadw…, Agent, San Rafael, CA
Tue Jun 10, 2008
You ask very good questions. I have some answers for you in my article "How to Select A Realtor" which is on my website http://www.HomesMarin.com. You should look for a full time professional Realtor who know the local real estate market thoroughly. Experience does make a huge difference. Selling your home is a very important decision and may have a big impact emotionally as well as financially on you. Find a person who is comfortable to talk to and who listens to your point of view. They are going to represent your home to other Agents and should have a network of many people in the business who will spread good words to promote your sale. Are they well established on the internet? Will they actively and personally market your home with Open Houses and amongst Brokers in your area? How accessible are they to you and do they keep you informed about the process? Ask these questions and be satisfied before you sign up for their representation. Also demand to have a release clause to end your contract if you decide that you are not being treated in a professional manner. This is a service business and the Realtor is investing a great deal of time and professional knowledge with no money upfront from you. They get paid only when the home completes Escrow and then they must divide the sales commission with the Buyer's agent and the Broker's office too. Six percent is the average commission in San Francisco Bay Area. I would go with a well established Realtor and pay the full commission rather than settle for a cut-rate which must be necessity reduce the personal service to you and their cost of marketing your property. There is too much on the line for you to risk placing your home in the hands of a second rate Broker or Agent. If they do not have good testimonials and enough information on their website, go to someone else. You are the one to decide who will work for you to get your real estate sold!
Lydia Treadway, M.F.A.
Real Estate Consultant, Pacific Union Real Estate Group
Marin County, California
Web Reference:  http://www.HomesMarin.com/
0 votes
Patrick Beri…, Agent, Seattle, WA
Sat Jun 7, 2008
I really enjoyed reading the posts to this question--And you sort of answered part of it in your question. I have to agree with James in that experience trumps education. If you're choosing between 2 agents with similar experience, then sure, go with the agent with more designations. But I personally believe that my being a "REALTOR" doesn't have much bearing on how well I can sell your house. As for me, I'm proud of the transactions I've been involved in so I assume other agents you interview would also be happy to talk to you about their experience.

The other designations and associations that I'm a member of are really just another marketing tool. I'm not smarter or better at negotiating because of these things--I'm a better negotiator because I've done a lot of negotiating.

Just my 2 cents.
0 votes
Linda Carroll…, , Lacey, WA
Thu Jun 5, 2008
Some out of the box ideas...

Start talking to agents. When you see signs on homes for sale that are similar to yours, call that agent and ask a few questions about the home--how long on market, how big is it, have there been any offers. The way they talk to you will tell you a lot about how they represent the Seller. Do this for several agents. Visit open Houses. Talk to the agents there--same sort of questions.

When you have spoken to a few, go to more open houses or phone more agents, and ask them about the other agents you have spoken to! The agent you are asking the question of will reveal more about himself or herself, than they will about the agent you ask about! For instance, if the agent you are asking, says "oh agent X? Stay away from her--she's awful" then you will know that the speaker doesn't work well with other agents--which can mess up the sale of your home. Or, if the speaker says, "I've never worked with agent X, but she has a good reputation," then you have an agent who is at least diplomatic or discreet.

That is a way to do some research sort of "under cover" so you can pick out your top candidates.

Put a For Sale by Owner sign in your yard. You will end up with the most aggressive agents calling you and you can interview them at your leisure!

There are SO MANY agents, and there are lots of good and great ones. You should be able to find some good candidates without too much trouble. They will know that there is competition, so they will be on their toes! Be sure that they have shown you the Blue Pamphlet, and told you about The Law of Agency in Wa State. That will weed out the careless ones. Ask if they are full time agents. That will weed out the ones with priorities that don't match yours. An agent can moonlight and still be a great agent--just listen carefully to the answer to see where their priorites are.

Make sure that you can communicate well with your agent. Without good communication, you won't know if they are doing a good job or not!

Best of luck!
0 votes
Jane Tobin, Agent, Seattle, WA
Mon Jun 2, 2008
Hi M

You are asking to correct questions and the agents below have given you some good answers. I would suggest that you also make sure the agent is a Realtor with a Certified Residential Specialists (CRS) designation. This designation takes experience and education. CRS agents have a higher code of ethics and have high integrity. They have the experience and would be able to give you the information you are requesting. http://www.crs.com is the national website to search for agents in all areas or you can contract me and I would be happy to give you some names. You do want someone in your local area. Personality should be on your list. You must like and trust the person that is working with you.

Jane Tobin CRS
WACRS President 2009
Coldwell Banker Danforth
Web Reference:  http://www.CRS.com
0 votes
James Hsu, Agent, Bothell, WA
Mon Jun 2, 2008
Be aware that when you call the managing broker to get a referral, they will very likely charge that poor, new, full-time agent a hefty office referral fee. ...25% to 50% is not unheard of. THEN, ...because they are a new, agent, ..they are likely on a crappy split program... often (at least i know with Bain) 50%.
So... The agent to sell your house will only get ...a quarter of the listing commission. (half of the original because of the worst case referral fee, then half of whatever is left for their split). You're doing the agent a favor if you just start calling the agent directly...skip calling the office.

Best way is to just get referrals from friends and family and start interviewing.
0 votes
Don Dutton, Agent, Puyallup, WA
Sun Jun 1, 2008
I'd like to go against the grain a little and recommend you work with a full-time new agent who has never sold a home before. They will be enormously enthusiastic and 100% dedicated to selling your home. They won't think the market is in shreds because this is all they've seen. Call a local managing broker from Coldwell Banker Bain or Windermere and ask for a referral. That manager will take a personal interest in the marketing of your home and all sales negotiations since he/she will be getting their new "star" off the ground. You will have great service coupled with managements wisdom and counselling.
0 votes
Julie Hall, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Fri May 30, 2008
OH! The agent should definately be familiar with the area that your home is located. They don't necessarily need to live in the exact city your home is in.

My top agent rant, for fun: please remember that during your interview process that "top agents" are created from the experiences they have and how they learn along the way...hiring a newer agent that has the skills that each agent has mentioned below can be everything that a "top agent" is, just without the # of years; also, does the # of years represent full-time status? I feel that some newer agents can think outside the box, they adopt technology, and often understand the internet better -- not always the case, but that's the consensus I've heard. Good luck!
0 votes
Chuck Sparks, Agent, Bellevue, WA
Fri May 30, 2008
I would like to echo the sentiments of the first two professionals that responded to your question. They are both right on with all the points they made. Good reputable realtors from good reputable firms are more common then you think. Friends referrals are a good place to start. Office Brokers or Lead Staff can make recommendations too. Interview a few to see who makes sense and is responsive to your needs. Do not go by reputation or years in the business alone. Look at your own career experience. Are the senior staff always the best? Good luck with your search.

Chuck Sparks
Keller Williams Rlty Bellevue
505 106th Ave NE Ste 210
Bellevue, WA 98004
Primary: 206-719-5061 Secondary: 425-454-0911
Web Reference:  http://csparksforhomes.com
0 votes
Jami Robson, Agent, Gig Harbor, WA
Fri May 30, 2008
Not to speak ill of top agents, but I find that many of them aren't "hungry" enough to give personal service to their clients. They have a wonderful list of properties they have sold but if you dig a little deeper, you many find that they have assistants and other agents on their team wo do a lot of the leg work. Sometimes a newer agent will be much more eager to please and do you a great service, since you are doing them one by giving them a chance! Obviously you want someone who is a member of NAR so they are held to a high ethical standard, but interview a few agents and see who you will be most comfortable working with! Ask for some personal and professional references and trust your gut feelings!!
0 votes
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