Sell your home for top dollar (part 1)
Sell your home for top dollar

Selling a home is a major transaction. Sellers make mistakes that cost them money because they don't often sell homes. Choosing the right Realtor to sell a property and negotiate the sale is the most important step in putting a home on the market.

Show me the credentials
Many sellers choose a friend or family member who is a Realtor to sell their home, be careful when doing this. Friendship alone is not enough to establish a realtor's credentials. Use the same standards when selecting a realtor that you would when choosing a doctor, accountant or other professional. Another reason to think before using a friend or family member as your agent is what if a problem develops while selling your home? Do you want to risk causing friction in that relationship?

Don't be impulsive.
Consider more than one realtor and listen to more than one presentation. Later evaluate the advantages of one agent over another. Making a rash decision after meeting with just one agent could limit your success. Since you will be signing a contract to list your house with the agent for a set time period, you may be unable to change to another agent if you don't like the quality of the service you receive.

Get references.
Don't completely judge a realtor by your own meeting with them. Ask and check up on references. But, keep in mind the agent will only give you positive ones. In order to do a more valid check ask for a list of recent sales and call them! Ask the agent's customers how they feel about their selling experience.

Also keep in mind that experience is not everything. New agents sometimes have the most energy and drive to sell your home quickly and for the highest dollar.

“I am going to list with the agent who has the lowest commission.”
You get what you pay for. Paying a cut-rate commission will often get you a sign in the front yard and placement in the Multiple Listing Service, but little additional effort from your agent.
Realize that agents and real estate companies put up their own funds to market and advertise your home. Marketing and advertising costs money -- the lower the commission, the less incentive for an agent to put up his or her own money to market your home. Incentive plays a very important role in sales. A “full service” agent earning a full commission will often “drop everything” to handle any challenges that come along - an agent earning a small commission does not have that same incentive.
Incentive is also important to the buyer's agent. Since there are almost always two agents involved in every sale, they split the commission according to the listing agent's instructions. One agent is your listing agent. The other agent is the buyer's agent. When your listing agent dropped his commission, did he also reduce the commission that will be paid to the buyers' agent? If so, you won't find as many agents willing to show your house - they will be showing houses that offer a customary commission to the buyer's agent. Finally, negotiating ability is an important skill in a listing agent. Are you willing to put your faith in an agent who can't even negotiate his or her own commission?

“The agent is what counts - not the company.”
Agents who work for large well-established companies with lots of agents do have some advantages. Large companies generally have longer office hours, so someone is always available to answer an ad call on your home. Large offices often have larger budgets and can spend more on advertising. The ad space for your particular home might not be huge, but because the total ad is so large it gets lots more attention.
Large real estate companies often have lots of agents. This is important because when your house is newly on the market, the company may stage an “office preview” where every agent in the office comes through and tours your home. Every agent who views your home and is impressed is another agent on your sales team.
Additionally, larger companies are often better at offering ongoing education to their agents. As a result, your agent may be better qualified and prepared to offer a quality service. Although most states require real estate agents to enroll in “ongoing education” to keep pace with changes in the real estate market, many agents only take the “bare minimum” in ongoing education courses. Sometimes, large offices are better at convincing their agents to go beyond the minimum.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Some very effective agents go off on their own and open private offices or “boutique” agencies.

“All realtors passed the same test so they must know the same things.”
The real estate profession is constantly changing and, as mentioned above, the best real estate professionals stay abreast of those changes by continuing their education. Some go beyond the required minimum requirements. Many agents acquire “professional designations” that show they took additional specialized courses.

“This agent will hold an open house every week.”
Open houses can and do sell homes, but usually not your home. Only a small fraction of the homes held open are sold as a direct result of the open house. More often, “open houses” are a way that real estate agents “prospect” for potential clients. If they develop a rapport with those visitors to your open house, they can find out about their housing needs and sell them the home that most closely matches those needs. Meanwhile, the person who eventually buys your home may be visiting someone else's open house. Good agents know better than to pin all their selling efforts on an open house. They use their time in more effective marketing methods. The most effective marketing is not directly to the public, but to other agents. By getting other agents interested in your home, your listing agent multiplies your sales force beyond just one individual.

“I want an agent who lives in my neighborhood.”
Knowledge of the local market is not only acquired by living in the immediate neighborhood. Sure, your agent should have intimate knowledge of recent sales, models, schools, businesses, and so on, but that is easily achieved through extensive research. Convenience should not be the primary reason for choosing an agent.

“This agent sold more homes last year than anyone else.”
That should only be the beginning. What is more valuable -- an agent who listed 32 homes and sold 25 - or an agent who listed twelve homes and sold all twelve? So you need to ask some questions. How many of their listings did not sell? How many were reduced over and over before they sold? How long were the houses on the market? How smoothly was the process handled? How accessible was the agent when there were questions or problems?
Quantity is important, but only if all of the quality questions have been answered satisfactorily.

The best agent is the one who will do the most effective job of marketing the property, negotiating the most favorable terms and conditions, and communicating with the seller to make the process as smooth as possible.