How to Hire a Realtor

Other than deciding to stage your home for sale, finding a realtor to help you sell it is the most important real estate decision you'll make. There are numerous suggestions for choosing the best real estate agent for the job.

Here's what not to do.    

Don’t invite realtors to your home to interview them.

What you want most from a realtor – good communication, hard work, and an understanding of your market – may not be obvious at an interview.

Holding interviews to compete for your business is a little like hosting the Miss America pageant to find a wife. It’s easy to impress with a surface presentation.

In fact an interview puts a realtor in a defensive position, and does not begin a relationship that should be built on mutual trust. I know realtors – very good ones – who simply refuse to do interviews to get new business.

Don’t go to open houses to chat up with realtors.

This approach is one I have seen recommended, but one that I can’t endorse. The truth is that most realtors host open houses more for the purpose of connecting with new clients than for merchandising the home.

A realtor that you choose based on a referral will work harder for you than someone you hand-pick yourself based on initial reactions. The realtor who comes personally recommended knows she has a reputation to uphold. She knows she has a former client she won’t want to disappoint. She knows that you might be the next client who can recommend her once she sells your house.  

Don’t request a friend who is a realtor to represent you.

My personal opinion is that it’s asking for trouble to do business with a family member or a good friend. Keep them separate and everyone will be happy. Business decisions – and selling a home is like running a small business –  need to be based on objective facts, and friendships or family relations are riddled with subjectivity.

Don’t take a chance on ruining a friendship or causing ill-will in a family.

Don’t ask neighbors to recommend a realtor.

This suggestion is very popular, yet asking people who may have worked with only one or two realtors doesn’t make sense. No matter how quickly a neighbor's home sold, or how pleased he was with the selling price, his experience is too limited to shape a informed opinion.

I’d rather see you ask someone who has extensive experience working with realtors. Ask your banker, lawyer, lender, financial planner, or CPA. These people connect with realtors on an ongoing basis. They will give recommendations that are based on repeated dealings, not isolated incidents.
You can also research your state’s real estate commission to see if any local agents have black marks.

Don’t hire a non-local realtor.

Working with someone who is local is perhaps the best advice I can give you. If real estate is all about location, then it makes sense to hire someone who knows everything possible about your location.

Ideally, you’ll find a smart, hard working realtor who grew up in the area where your home is located.

A realtor should know what’s planned in the future for your city or neighborhood, as well as what’s gone on in the past. Has your area flooded? Is the county planning new roads? What’s the political history? How’s the job outlook? Is the HOA an effective one?

Good realtors represent your home in the context of its location, they don’t just market it in a vacuum.
Don’t think you have to sign with the big company.

Some of my most profitable dealings with realtors have been with brokers from agencies not affiliated with national chains.

Sure, the big guys can sweep you off your feet with impressive statistics, virtual tours, PowerPoint presentations, and other fashionable technology. But real estate is a people business, built on relationships and communication. Will an agent with 100 listings give you the same attention as an agent with 15 listings?

There are trade-offs, so don’t jump to conclusions.

Don’t judge a realtor by her website.

Yes, it’s important to have a site that gives accurate information in a professional way, but all MLS realtors are connected to the same information. House hunters today are techno-savvy. They can collect their own data.

What’s crucial is finding a realtor who will hustle for you, make suggestions (even demands!) to help you sell your property, take great photographs, and give you feedback at every step.

Don’t choose a realtor who doesn’t see the value of home staging.

A real estate agent who doesn’t support your wish to stage your property is not your ally. Your dream realtor is one who will make suggestions for staging your home based on her experience with sellers and trends. She’ll be current with what buyers expect in your locale and price range. She’ll understand the economics of your sale and possibly even know sources for staging furniture and accessories.

Don’t forget to order your copy of my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You’ll get valuable tips on cleaning, organizing, and staging your home from start to finish.

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