With over one MILLION Realtors working in the U.S., you probably have at least a couple dozen in your own community to choose from. Which of them will serve you best?
Consider these three major areas:
I know, other people will tell you to look at experience and number of transactions closed. Yes, maybe. But a new agent can often do a stellar job when he or she is not only excited about your home, but focused on selling it above all else - rather than being scattered and pulled in 17 directions by other listings.
If you do decide to go for experience, be sure to learn how much of that experience has been in homes in your price range. Some agents will take every possible listing, but only work at selling the high ticket homes. Shy away from them! They are just hoping that some other agent will sell the lower priced listings and they'll get half the commission.
Some people recommend working with a real estate team. I don't. But that is my personal bias. To me, working with a team to sell a house is the same as trying to work with large corporations where no one ever knows what anyone else is doing. For me, working with one agent who knows every detail of the activity on my listing (and sale) is worth far more than the presumed efficiency of a team.
You may feel differently.
Meanwhile, here's why I believe enthusiasm, marketing, and communication are the keys to success.
Enthusiasm: When an agent is truly enthused and excited about your home, it will shine through in all the marketing materials and in every conversation he or she has with customers and other agents. People listening will know they MUST see this house!
If, on the other hand, an agent comes through your house and begins pointing out its many faults, just say "next." This can be a tactic to push you into a lower price so the house will sell faster. It can also mean the agent just doesn't like your house. Either way, you don't need that agent.
*Note: Being enthused doesn't mean being blind. Your agent may love the layout, the view, the location, and many other things, but still give you recommendations for repairs before the house goes on the market. These are recommendations designed to show the house in its best light, so listen!
Marketing: A strong web presence is a must, and there is no excuse for being weak in this area. A good job means taking plenty of photos and writing descriptions that go far beyond the old basic "Three bedroom, two bath, deck" variety.
Your presence on the web should be in the form of a home tour that offers enticing details. Details that make prospective buyers drool at the thought of living in your home.
The MLS listing should include as much of that as allowed, and the flyers your agent hands out should radiate enthusiasm for the many special benefits your home offers. The flyer in the box out front should offer a glimpse of what buyers will find when they get inside… NOT merely show them a picture of the house they see in front of them and tell them something they can see from where they're standing.
When you're considering agents, ask to see their marketing materials for other homes. Then you will know if the materials they produce offer excitement and enticement - or are bland and boring fact sheets.
Ask where the agent advertises, and then ask why.
In some communities, newspaper ads work. In others they don't. Your agent knows which advertising mediums actually bring in customers, so don't be upset if he or she doesn't use a newspaper you read or a magazine you recommend. Agents have learned through trial and error - and countless wasted dollars.
In some communities open houses are a good tool. In others they are a total waste of time. Your agent knows, so don't insist on an open house just because your brother-in-law in some other town thinks you should have one.
Communication:You should be able to count on your agent to let you know all the news, both good and bad. A phone call after each showing is not too much to expect, nor is a monthly report outlining showings, ads placed, feedback, etc.
When you call, you should be able to count on a return call within a few hours. Remember that you are not the only client, and if your agent is out showing or attending a closing, he can't return your call until he's finished.
You shouldn't expect to be able to contact your agent 24 hours a day, but you should be able to count on a call back during the evening or on week-ends. Just don't demand immediate attention. Sometimes your agent will be out on a showing or a listing, and sometimes he or she will be spending time with friends and family. Even real estate agents have lives outside of work. If you leave a message in the evening, tell your agent how late they can return the call.
Possibly the most important deciding factor of all is one I didn't mention above. That is your feelings. Trust your gut to tell you if the agent you just met is "for real" and is a person whose company you can enjoy and whose advice you can trust. If you feel uneasy going in, it will only get worse.