It wasn’t too long ago when it didn’t matter as much which real estate agent you chose to sell your house if it was located in one of the many hot seller markets. Listings sold without much assistance; many soon after the for-sale sign went up. Today, choosing the right agent for the job can make the difference between a sale and no sale.

There are many factors to consider in selecting an agent today. One is that many of the agents working now entered the business recently. They’ve never seen a softer home-sale market before. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use an agent who doesn’t have decades of experience. But, it means you need to find an agent with a definite set of skills.

Most sellers in this market want and need an agent that will provide an aggressive and broad-based marketing plan. However, some sellers may not be aware of how important it is to hire an agent who is an adept communicator. Today’s successful agents don’t stop selling when they find a buyer for your home. They manage the transaction carefully and skillfully until the sale closes.

It’s not enough for an agent to promise to hold your home open every weekend until it sells. In fact, this might do more harm than good. In a slow market, a listing can be overexposed to the market and become shopworn.

The stress level of selling can be intense, particularly if property values are declining. Buyers can be demanding. You need to have confidence that your agent is representing your best interests and negotiating on your behalf in a professional manner.

Negotiating a purchase contract in this market can be an arduous endeavor. It may take multiple counteroffers back and forth to hammer out a deal. And, the fall-out rate is higher today than it was a few years ago.

Selecting an agent who is a good negotiator, who is patient and who will explore all options before letting a deal fall apart gives you a leg up. It helps if your agent has a good working relationship with other agents in the area. One of these agents is likely to represent the buyer for your home.

HOME SELLER TIP: Many agents, and real estate brokerage companies, will leave the business when they discover that they can’t make enough money in the current market. Real estate agent ranks swelled immensely in recent years. For example, in California there are now 50 percent more real estate agents in the business than there were five years ago. Make sure that you work with an agent and a brokerage firm that is in the business for the long term.

Ask any agent you consider to provide you with a detailed marketing plan to let you know how he or she will accomplish the sale of your home. Don’t even consider listing with an agent that doesn’t market extensively on the Internet. Studies show that Internet buyers discount listings online that don’t have photos. They assume that something must be wrong with the property. Check a sample of an agent’s Internet marketing before signing up.

You may find that agents want longer than 90-day listing periods if sales are very slow in your area. This is understandable; agents typically pay for the marketing, and it’s generally taking a lot longer for most homes to sell. Keep this in mind when you select your agent. You could be working with this person for some time.

THE CLOSING: A reliable source of agent recommendations is friends and associates who sold recently in your area, and would hire their agent again.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.

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