July 17, 2008

What to ask before you list your home

By Marcie Geffner - Cyberhomes Contributor

Real estate agents aren’t all alike. Here’s help to figure out which one you should hire.

Home sellers are understandably concerned about the asking price at which they’ll list their home for sale and the commission they’ll have to pay the real estate agent when the sale closes. But selecting an agent just because he or she promised you a high price or low commission may be “the single biggest mistake a seller makes,” warns Jean Bourne-Pirovic, an assistant manager at Long & Foster Real Estate in Silver Springs, Md.

With that in mind, here are some questions you should ask before you sign a listing agreement with a real estate agent:

Ask: What is your marketing plan for my home? Which websites will my home be displayed on? Which newspapers will my home be advertised in and how frequently? How many open houses will you hold for other brokers and the public? Will my house be included on your office tour of new listings? If I haven’t received any offers for my home after 30 days, what else will you do?

Why? Many agents cut back on advertising in slow markets, and some won’t do much beyond placing your home in the local multiple-listing service (MLS). That’s why you should “try to negotiate for a higher level of marketing commitment,” suggests Bruce Hahn, president of the American Homeowners Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Arlington, Va., that educates consumers about residential real estate. “Get the marketing plan in writing and incorporate it by reference into the listing agreement. That way, there won’t be misunderstandings as to whether the Realtor has been meeting [your] marketing expectations,” Hahn says.

Ask: How long have you been in the business? Which professional certifications or designations have you earned? What sets you and your company apart from the other agents and brokers in the area? What is your negotiating style?

Why? Good agents continue their education throughout their careers and negotiate with their colleagues in a professional manner. “The last thing a seller needs in this market is a rookie with a GED who got lucky and passed the real estate exam on the third try,” Hahn says.

Ask: What are your business hours? Are you accessible at other times? How will you keep me informed?

Why? Successful agents want to build long-term business relationships. Consequently, they understand that “it’s critical for [you] to feel comfortable throughout the process,” Bourne-Pirovic explains. An agent who is accessible and prepared to stay in touch with you may make all the difference in how happy you’ll be with his or her services, especially if your home isn’t easily sold right away.

Ask: How many homes have you listed in this neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods this year? How many of those did you sell? How many were comparable in size and condition to mine?

Why? Successful agents don’t just list homes, they sell homes. An agent who is active in your local market should be knowledgeable about the market and help you find ready, willing and able buyers who want to purchase a home such as yours.

Copyright 2008 Marcie Geffner. All rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted or used in any way without permission of the copyright holder.