8 Tips for Hiring a Great Real Estate Agent

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Once you’ve decided to work with a realtor who specializes in working with a senior clientele, it’s time to compile a shortlist of candidates and begin scheduling interviews. Let’s consider eight essential rules of thumb that you’ll want to keep in mind for these next crucial steps in the hiring process.

1. Ask someone who works with seniors if they know a great real estate agent.

There are two reasons for this. First, real estate agents cannot give or get kickbacks for referrals. Because of this, the only reason real estate agents get referrals from other professionals is because they’ve earned a reputation for doing a great job. Second, professionals who work with seniors are a wonderful resource because they know firsthand how the needs of a senior can differ from the needs of the general public. It’s very important for the real estate agent who gets referred to a senior client to do a great job; otherwise, both the senior professional and the referral look bad.

2. Get to know the real estate agents you’re considering for the job—and interview at least two of them!

While you may expect to find some big differences between brokerages, keep in mind that real estate agents are independent businesspeople. As such, you may find two agents from the same brokerage who do things very differently. It’s worth spending the time to get to know the professionals whom you’re asking to handle the sale of one of your largest assets. Ask whether the person you’re considering is a full-time agent, who will be your main point of communication, and ask for references from past clients. Don’t forget: work with someone you like!

3. Get to know the brokerage firm.

Although the brokerage you go with isn’t as important as the real estate agent with whom you choose to work, there are certain factors that may influence your decision. Here are a few questions to consider: How long have they been in business? What are their hours of operation? (They should be open seven days a week for your potential buyer.) Are they local and reputable? What is their market share in the neighborhood where you live?

4. Understand the marketing plan.

Creating the marketing plan is one of the most important things your listing agent will do for you. It should identify who’s the most likely buyer for your home, how your buyer usually shops and how your buyer will be targeted. Depending on the kind of home you have and where it’s located, you may want ads in the paper, print ads in real estate magazines, open houses, mailings, Internet advertising or a combination of these marketing efforts. Your listing agent should make information about your house available seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. By the way: get the marketing plan in writing.

5. Establish how you’ll get updates on the market and on feedback from showings.

One of the biggest complaints consumers have is that they don’t hear from their real estate agents often enough. Ask your agent how you’ll be informed about the market in general and how many times your home was seen on the Internet, feedback from open houses and realtor open houses, and feedback from buyers’ real estate agents.

6. Stay in the driver’s seat.

A good real estate agent knows the local real estate market and stays on top of the most recent technology to market your home effectively. A great agent knows how to show you information about the local market and the most recent trends in marketing so you’re in a position to make informed decisions about your home. If your real estate agent makes recommendations and you’d like more information, just ask. For example, “I understand your recommendation. On what information are you basing that recommendation?” Never be afraid to ask why something is or is not being done to sell your home. You are the client, and you are in charge.

7. Ask whether your agent offers any other services to simplify your move.

Real estate agents run their own small business, so you’ll find some, particularly those who specialize in working with seniors, who offer additional services. These services could include staging your home, helping you find a senior housing community, and hiring movers or an electrician, plumber or handyperson to get your home ready for market. If your real estate agent does offer these additional services, ask whether they cost extra or are included in the commission.

8. Ask about commissions—but consider all the factors before making your decision!

Many consumers who are shopping for an agent make the mistake of comparing them solely on the basis of what they charge for commission. For example, if Rick Realtor charges 8% and Sally Seller charges 3%, you may decide Sally is a much better option. But what if Rick pays the buyer’s agent 4%, and Sally pays the buyer’s agent just 1%? What if Sally is a part-time agent and her office is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon until 3:00? Is it still a “good deal”? Make sure you understand how long the listing agent wants to have you under contract, how much he or she will pay the buyer’s agent, and what will be done for you from the time the home is listed until the home clears escrow.