You’re thinking about selling your house. What steps can you take to locate the right agent to represent you on the sale of your property?

Part 1 of this series outlined eight steps to take to find the best Realtor to market your property. The next step is to meet with at least three agents to see who is best qualified to represent you.

1. Presentation or interview?
The best agents will approach your appointment as an opportunity to learn about the property and to get to know you better.

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

You’re thinking about selling your house. What steps can you take to locate the right agent to represent you on the sale of your property?

Part 1 of this series outlined eight steps to take to find the best Realtor to market your property. The next step is to meet with at least three agents to see who is best qualified to represent you.

1. Presentation or interview?
The best agents will approach your appointment as an opportunity to learn about the property and to get to know you better. They will ask questions about improvements you have made to the property, what you have liked about living there, and about issues that you are required by law to disclose. Be wary of agents who talk exclusively about their achievements and how great they are. If the agent doesn’t listen to you before you sign the listing, he won’t listen afterward either.

2. Avoid White Knights
A "White Knight" is an agent who acts as if he or she is the seller. Key words to listen for include "I" or "we," as in "When I/we list your house." Agents who have a high need to control or to be right can actually interfere with closing the transaction. Instead, search for agents who believe "it’s your house and your decision."

3. Look for a detailed comparable market analysis
Virtually all agents will provide you with a comparable/competitive market analysis (CMA). While it may be tempting to rely on sites such as HomeGain or Zillow for the value of your property, those sites have no way to evaluate the quality of your improvements or thousands of other factors that influence price. These online estimates of your property’s worth usually have a margin of error of +/- 7.5 percent. On a $200,000 house, that would mean that there is a 95 percent chance that the house will sell between $185,000 and $215,000.

In contrast, competent agents are usually much more accurate. An excellent way to do this evaluation is with a square-footage CMA. The challenge is selecting the right type of comparable sales. The most common mistake is selecting properties where either the lot size or the size of the improvements (i.e. structure) is not within 10 percent of the size of the subject property. When this happens, it results in incorrect pricing.

For example, assume that two properties have exactly the same floor plan. One property has a 6,000-square-foot lot and the other has a 7,500-square-foot lot. If the major portion of the area’s value is in the land, the failure to use the 10 percent guideline can result in a major pricing error. Furthermore, small houses almost always sell for more per square foot (usually due to the land value) as compared to big houses.

4. Ask for testimonials from past clients
The best agents will have testimonials from past clients. Ask for permission to contact three of the agent’s most recent clients. Contact them and get detailed feedback about the experience they had with the agent. …CONTINUED

5. Does the agent or the brokerage offer a "service guarantee"?
This is a common practice among top brokerages. If you are dissatisfied with the agent representing you, does the agent’s firm allow you to be assigned to another agent? Does the agent’s firm do a post-closing survey? If the agent offers either of these services, there is a fairly high probability that the agent will provide you with better service as compared to those agents who don’t offer these services.

6. What is the agent’s traditional marketing plan?
In other words, what will the agent provide besides placing a sign in your front yard, an ad in the paper, and putting your listing on the multiple listing service (MLS)? The very best agents will have a written marketing plan outlining when the agent will hold the broker’s open house, when there will be client open houses, as well as how your property will be marketed using print media.

7. What is the agent’s Web marketing plan?
Top-notch agents will post your listing on more than 40 different real estate portals, including your local MLS, their company Web site, Realtor.com, and sites such as craigslist, Trulia and Zillow. An important component is to ask how the agent tracks their Web marketing. There are a number of services that provide tracking information. If the agent cannot provide it, look for someone who can.

8. What type of virtual tour would you like?
Would you like a number of still shots of your home put to music? Would you like a 3-D virtual tour of your property? Does shooting a professionally produced video make sense in your price range? To see some samples visit RealEstateShows.com, ZingDing.com, UnitedLane.com, Obeo.com and TurnHere.com. If your agent shoots a video, ask the agent about where he or she will place it. The best agents have resources for at least 15 different video sites, including YouTube, Google and Yahoo Video.

9. How many pictures does your agent recommend of your property?
The optimal number to get the most Web visitors is at least 20. In fact, according to a study from Point2Agent.com, the difference between 15 and 16 pictures of your property is 33 percent more page views.

10. Object!
Whether it’s the length of the listing, the commission or some other factor, finding out how the agent negotiates is crucial. Did the agent become angry when you raised your objection or did they provide you with a solid explanation for their position? Did the agent focus on their needs when confronted or did they direct your issues directly in a calm and professional way?

Choosing the right agent takes time and effort. On the other hand, when you sell what may be the most valuable asset you own, don’t you deserve the very best Realtor that you can find?

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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