Finding a Real Estate Agent

One of the big decisions we had to make after we decided to sell our house was finding a seller’s agent. We decided to interview four agents to see what they could do to sell our house quickly for the maximum amount possible. We picked 2 agents that worked in our area, 1 agent from the area we wanted to move to and 1 agent that was a referral from a friend. Before we started, we had a number in mind for what we wanted to list the house and another number for the lowest we’d sell.

All of the agents had the same data for sales comparables. Each one chose to interpret it differently; our area only had about 20 houses sold all of last year and very few for the size of house we had. 1 agent basically used the data from houses for sale and not sold houses as his first number, but then revised his number based on average depreciation since we bought. His number turned out to be pretty good. The next agent who worked in our area for 30 years, used data for the last 90 days and came up with a number that was about 10% below what others said. The other agent from our area also came in low. The agent we ended up using who didn’t quite know our area all that well, used data from the last 9 months (I think) and came up with a number that was pretty much on target for what we were thinking.

We quickly discounted one agent because she came in thinking that we had four mortgages on our property; she either didn’t read the reports on our house correctly or didn’t think about what they said. We refinanced a few times, so in the time we owned the house, we had a few mortgages, but never had more than 1 at a time. Anyone that would have looked at the data would have seen that no one would have let me take out 4 mortgages for about the same amount on our property. Even with the loose lending rules of the recent past, it just wouldn’t have happened. In addition, this agent had the lowest listing price and used comps from the last 90 days which really wasn’t enough data. This agent also said that she and her husband loved doing open houses, despite her telling us that 80%+ of buyers start their searches on the Internet.

Another agent we discounted had never sold a house before. While people have to get their start somewhere, we didn’t want it to be with us.

So that left us with 2 agents, neither of which worked in our area. Both agents gave really good sales pitches, but there were a few things that made us pick our agent. First, while he said that most buyers start their search on the Internet, his firm also worked with a lot of relocations which could have brought a buyer. Also, he and his partner had a very good track record of selling houses in the last year. Lastly, we just felt comfortable with him.

In the end, does it matter which agent we picked? Yes and no. Once a house is put in the multiple listing service, it ends up on various websites and then people find it. We had one open house which almost seemed like a last ditch effort as our agent said that less than 5% of sales start with an open house (the agent for our buyers told them to goto our open house, so maybe it helped). Our agent handled most of the paperwork electronically which is probably the norm these days; it made things very convenient. We also found our agent kept us informed all the time which was very comforting. Since we believed that our house was priced well, was in a good location, and in good condition, finding a buyer was basically a wait and see game. Our agent (and probably most seller’s agents) aren’t really bringing in potential buyers, but guiding the seller through the process.

Luckily, we had an offer within about 30 days. I have no regrets on our choice of agents as we received our asking price for our house and it sold relatively quickly.

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