Dear Monty: How to choose a real estate agent
Reader question: I am going to sell my home. One Realtor has an awesome marketing plan and a lower commission, but there was no chemistry. Another Realtor whose commission is higher, and marketing is not as vast, but good, established some chemistry. With whom do I go? Ashley B.
Monty’s answer: Based on your stated criteria of chemistry and marketing plans for making a selection, it is unclear whether you should choose either agent.
It is difficult to determine before one works with a real estate agent how well they will perform. Most of us experience hiring a real estate agent only two or three times in a lifetime. Inexperience and the myths in real estate may not allow us to conduct the best interviews. The best real estate agents are honest, knowledgeable and efficient. In your case, you want to identify an agent with these qualities that also has good chemistry and a marketing plan.
An agent lacking one or more of these qualities increases the chance of a less than favorable experience. The real estate process requires both right and left-brain skill sets. For example, evaluating property requires math, calculations, and logic that are functions of the left-brain. A home seller may be pleased their right-brain agent sold their home in a week but if the agent was not very good at evaluating property, was the home undervalued?
A specific selection procedure allows the best candidates to reveal themselves to you by what they do, rather than by what they say. A wise person once exclaimed about human nature, “Watch their feet, not their lips.” There are many good real estate agents, but they are not always easy to find. This same methodology follows in engaging service providers in every industry.
Here is the best method to hire a real estate agent:
1. Call people who have recently sold their home to share their experience. Drive through your neighborhood looking for sold signs. Knock on their door or leave a note asking them to call you. Here is an article at http://dearmonty.com/the-best-real-estate-agent-referrals to sort out quality referrals. Develop a list of five, six or more recommended agents.
2. Create a one-page description of your situation. Explain why you are selling, where you are moving and who is moving. Describe your home and why you bought it. Share items you have fixed or replaced in the home. Provide your contact information, the best time to call and state your expectations in an agent. Before they can ask, answer their questions.
3. Call or text agents on their cellphone. Most likely they will not answer their phone. Leave this message:
“I am selling my home. < name of referrer> told me you did a good job for them. Could you please share your email address with me? I would like to ask you some questions that may lead to a personal interview. My telephone is
If they answer the phone use this same script. Stick to the script and do not engage a long conversation or grant an appointment. You are testing them with this methodology and observing their responses going forward.
4. Email each agent:
The 23 questions in this article: http://dearmonty.com/finding-the-right-real-estate-agent/.
The one-page descriptions in point number two above.
This process is very different than asking an agent for the names of satisfied customers. Agents will not provide a reference from someone they knew was unhappy with them.
5. You will receive written responses to identical questions. The answers will not be the same. Do not be shocked if the returns shrink to two or three responses. Fewer responses in the process of winnowing out agents are expected. There are many reasons an agent will not respond to this approach, none of which benefits you. Ask yourself, “If the agent will not answer my questions when they are applying for a job, how will they respond to a request after they have a contract?”
One last tip
When you have three responses, you now have three recommended agents. You can pick from their answers or have a telephone or personal interview. Look for how well each agent listens and the quality of their responses. Your choice now is from a position of strength.
Richard Montgomery gives no-nonsense real estate advice to readers’ most pressing questions. He is a real estate industry veteran who has championed industry reform for over a quarter century. Send him questions at DearMonty.com.