Agent

3 ways to use sales data to evaluate listing agents

REThink Real Estate

Q: I am considering putting my house up for sale. Is there a public record of housing sales in my area showing which brokers have been most successful in getting sales closest to the original listing price and within a reasonable time frame? Or is this information that Realtors prefer not to share? –Sue D.

A: Finding the right listing agent can be daunting, as your agent’s advice and marketing of your home can be critical to getting top dollar for your largest asset. I commend you on trying to take a data-based approach to finding and selecting yours. That said, I can’t speak for every single real estate broker or agent in the land about what information they do and don’t want to share, but I can say this: The agents who score well on these market metrics you’re talking about definitely prefer to share the information, especially with homeowners who are considering engaging them to list their home.

As you seek out this information, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. "Sale-to-list ratio" and "days on market" are the right metrics to watch, but they’re relative. The sale-to-list ratio is the measure of how close to the asking price an agent’s listings normally sell for. Not only is it a good indicator of a listing agent’s marketing prowess, but an agent who consistently sells his listings for near or above the asking price has a good understanding of how to price homes in the local market — a sign he might be trustworthy when he gives you his opinion of what your home’s list price should be.

Same goes for the number of days a home takes to sell ("days on market"). Homes that sell at, near or above the asking price, quickly, are homes that are well priced and well marketed, as a general rule.

But here’s the rub: There’s no absolute rule of thumb by which you can gauge whether an agent’s listing’s average sale-to-list ratio or days on market is good, bad or ugly. What you’ll need to do is to evaluate each individual agent’s metrics relative to:

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(a) the averages for homes similar to yours in your area, and

(b) the other agents you are considering to list your home.

2. This information is available directly from the agents. My short answer to your question: Technically, no, I don’t know of a public resource or website you can go to that will surface the agents in your area who have the best numbers in terms of days on market and sale-to-list ratio, or even one that will easily sort recently sold listings by these numbers and give you their listing agents’ information. However, local multiple listings services (MLSs) do keep this information, so it’s exceedingly simple and customary for individual agents to brag about their numbers and to use the area averages to educate prospective home seller clients.

Accordingly, the method I suggest for finding an agent involves first asking your circle of friends, colleagues and relatives if any of them have worked with a local agent they would strongly recommend; posting this on Facebook can be an efficient way to do this. Then, call several of these agents out to give you what insiders call a "listing presentation": a presentation of their marketing plan and list price recommendation for your home.

The best agents will present the information you’re looking for — their average listing’s days on market and sale-to-list ratio, and those same average numbers for nearby homes (not their listings) that were recently sold — as a matter of course, during the listing presentation.

But to make sure you’re able to compare apples to apples among the various agents you interview, you may want to let them know specifically what days on market and sale-to-list ratio information you expect them to provide you when you set the appointment.

For example, ask every agent to provide you with:

–The MLS listing from each home they’ve listed and/or sold in your town within the last three or six months;

–Their average sale-to-list ratio over the last three months;

–The average days their listings stayed on the market over the last three months; and

–The average days on market and sale-to-list ratio for homes sold within, say, a mile of your home that had a similar number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square feet to yours over the last six months.

Then compare what you get from various agents!

3. Tap other information sources before you make your decision. First off, these are just a couple of the numbers you should receive from agents; I’ve seen agents lately using all sorts of other compelling data points to prove their ability, like the average sale price of their listings compared with the average sale price of similar listings in your neighborhood or town. When you set up your agent meetings, feel free to let the prospective listing agents know that you’re interested in using any sort of data they can provide on their own listings, sales and your immediate market to help make an informed decision.

Additionally, make sure you’re paying close attention to the real world of real estate happening around you. Attend open houses in your neighborhood. Watch for those "just listed" and "just sold" postcards in the mail. If you see a pattern of homes coming on and off the market in your area pretty quickly, note the names of the listing agents from the yard signs or postcards, and consider asking those agents to come give you a listing presentation as well.

Finally, when you’re close to selecting an agent, ask them for references to other sellers with whom they’ve recently worked. Then, make sure you check those references, asking the agent’s former clients what their experience was like, whether they were happy with the outcome of their home’s sale, and whether they would work with the agent again or refer him to their own loved ones.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

                                                   

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