Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

Did you know that approximately 80 percent of all sellers interview only one agent before they list their home? If you want to hire the best agent to represent you on your real estate sale, here are seven important steps to take:

Virtually all sellers want to achieve the highest possible price for their property in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of hassle. The way that you do this is through maximum exposure to the marketplace. This means that your agent must have both a print and a Web marketing strategy. How can you know who has the best marketing plan for your house? Here are some key steps to take before you ever contact the agent.

1. Google the agent
Before contacting a Realtor to discuss listing your home, do your homework. Begin by plugging the Realtor’s name into Google to see if there are any negative comments. Also search whether the agent uses the Web to market other listings in your area. Avoid using search terms such as "Los Angeles real estate," which is too broad. Instead, search using the name of your subdivision or local neighborhood.

2. Visit the agent’s Web site
Some agents don’t have a Web site. Instead, they have only a single Web page on their broker’s site. These agents lack the necessary technology skills to help you obtain the best price for your property. If the agent does have a Web site, who is the site about: the agent or the client? If the site is about the agent only, look elsewhere. Potential buyers definitely will.

3. Does the agent’s Web site reflect the lifestyle where you live?
Gone are the days where an agent could effectively serve a large area with thousands of homes. Today, the most effective agent Web sites are those that serve a very specific niche. For example, if you live in a golf community, search for an agent who specializes in marketing golf properties. If you are interested in an urban loft, look for an agent who specializes in loft properties. Ideally, their sites should provide local listing information plus information on the local lifestyle.

4. Does this agent have a blog?
One of the quickest ways to learn more about an agent is to read what he or she posts online. If the agent you are considering has a blog, do her blog posts provide you with useful information? Do you like what she has to say and how she says it? If so, this Realtor may be a good fit for you. If not, then continue to look until you find someone who is a better fit.

5. Search the agent’s online presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
There are plenty of competent agents who are not into social networking. Nevertheless, if an agent does have an online presence, look at what he or she has posted online. When you hire a Realtor, you are inviting that person to become part of your family. She will learn many of the most intimate details about how you and your family live. The decision you must make is whether you are comfortable having this person as a "family member" for the three to 12 months it will take for you to list or buy a home. …CONTINUED

6. Who has the most signs in your neighborhood?
Research has shown that most sellers list with one of the top three firms in their area. The reasoning is simple: The more signs there are from a given brokerage, the more incoming buyer calls they generate. On the other hand, pay attention to how long properties stay on the market. If an agent has lots of signs and no sales, it may be smart to hire someone else to represent you.

7. Check out agent’s other listings
Does the property have a brochure box? Is it full or is it empty most of the time? Is there an 800-number on the sign rider? If so, that agent may have a system called "800 Call Capture."

When a potential buyer calls this number, the system immediately captures the caller’s number and sends it to the listing agent. This allows the agent to call the buyer back immediately, often when the buyer is still in front of the property. It’s also a good idea to call the listing office. Inquire about one of the agent’s other listings. This allows you to determine ahead of time how buyers on your property may be treated.

8. Check response time
Contact the agent by e-mail and/or text message to see how quickly the agent responds. Failure to respond quickly means loss of potential buyers.

Screening agents before you meet with them can help you identify the best person to sell your property.

Next: In Part 2, find out important issues to address when you meet the agent in person.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com.


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