What Do I Look for in Chosing a Realtor?

Updated on September 24, 2010
I.O. asks from Bothell, WA
16 answers

My husband got a job out of state and we'll be moving within the next few months. We'll be putting our house on the market and although I have a few recommendations for realtors, I really don't know what questions to ask. What qualifications do I look for? Is there anything you wish you had known before chosing a realtor?
Also, any tips on selling a house? I'll be going online to search, but I thought I'd ask the always-helpful parents on this site.
TIA,
I.

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M.J.

answers from Sacramento on

One who works as a realtor full-time. You want the person available when you need to talk and see homes, not when it fits around other commitments. Ask about the person's availability in the coming months, since you'll need to travel to see homes. You'll want your contact available when you are and not have a lot of vacation or business travel plans.

Experience. Go with someone who knows a market inside and out. The one who found us our house served on local real estate boards and had lived in our area 30+ years. She'd been a realtor all of that time and was very, very savvy. We ended up buying a house one block away from her own home! Ask realtor candidates which neighborhoods have the top-rated schools. They should know this off-hand.

Look at the realtor's website and see if the person is a good match to you. For instance, there's a local realtor who sends a newsletter in our neighborhood. This person bashed our government in that newsletter recently (not so smart to assume everyone has your political views), so that was a huge clue to me we wouldn't get along. It's amazing how candid some people can be, so use this info. to see if you have a personality match.

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L.G.

answers from Austin on

We have moved more times than I would like to admit so we have used a lot of realtors. Personal recommendations are good as long as it is not "my brother." Ask what they liked about the person and what they didn't. The main thing is to get someone who does real estate full-time and has all those initials after their name. Not only will they have more time to devote to you but it is their sole source of income. Those initials after their name mean they have invested time and money to learn all the ins and outs of the business. We have had some very creative realtors in the past that have come up with clever ways of selling a home. Ask them how they would market your home. This is very important and you probably already know this: do whatever the realtor tells you to do. One time we had to put stuff in storage to make the home look bigger. One time we had to "stage" our home with dishes on the table, different pictures hung on the walls, etc. One time we had to paint in order to make the home brighter. One time we had to plant flowers right by the front door. Usually I have to remove all of our family pictures since there is something that keeps new people from visualizing the home as theirs. I have always been asked to remove every last bit of anything off of my fridge. (It always looks bigger and cleaner!)

And these are my best tips if you have people that show up with not much notice. When my kids were 2 and 4, we had people looking at a house across the street and the realtor would ask if they could come right over!
Keep an empty drawer in the kitchen that you can swoop all the counter clutter (mail, etc.) into. Throw dirty clothes into the washer, clean clothes into the dryer, dirty dishes into the dishwasher (don't bother pulling the racks out, just shove in quickly), and clean dishes into the oven. Those are the places they never check. Organize your closets to look 3/4 full and very organized. It gives the impression that they too will be able to keep all of their things neatly with room to spare. Put all of your kids' toys into smaller containers that they can play with one or two at a time. Then toy pick up is quick and they can help. (After 7 mos. of showing that house, they thought it was a fun game and raced around the house like me...) Always have a bag ready to grab and either go outside to play or take off in your car.

When we have looked at houses, I prefer to have the people gone. I also saw a clean house as a clue that the house was well taken care of. If it was messy, it made me wonder if there were repairs that weren't taken care of.

Start packing now and get all the clutter and out-of-season stuff into boxes. You can sort through the boxes at night when people aren't looking at your home. Or maybe you are one of those very organized people and your home is already "show ready." Then I say, congrats and maybe someone else can benefit from my suggestions!

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A.S.

answers from Denver on

For selling?
-Do you have a realtor.com account with featured homes? Just because MLS feeds realtor.com doesn't mean the Realtor has taken the extra step to have your home featured. Realtor.com is the top site for people looking for homes, and if your realtor doesn't know about the "featured homes" or that realtor.com is the top site, they haven't done their homework. Over 90% of people start their homebuying process on the internet....make sure your agent is savvy to this.
-What websites do you advertise my home on? Are those auto-populated form MLS or do you have an account with them? Again, it makes a difference as each site will feature homes for people who have their own account.
-Do you do virtual tour? (something like 80% of website ads that are clicked on are the ones with a virtual tour) And realtor.com feature listings will showcase the virtual tour.
-Do you advertise my home on Craigslist?
-How many listings do you currently have?
-Do you have a stager come to my home? Gotta have a nice looking house!
-What is your unique selling proposition?
-How did you determine a value range for my property?
-Now that you've seen the house, what is the feature which sticks out the most and will entice buyers in todays market?

Most good realtors will have a presentation they want to walk through. I personally would make them ditch the presentation with all the glowing things they do, and make them talk to me. I want to know if I can work with this person, not if they can put together a slick presentation.

With something like 40% of the homes listed ever getting to the closing table, remember your home has to be the best on the block. The best. Only the pretty girls get to dance, so start sprucing up *everything* now. Also, you need a realtor who can negotiate their way out of a bucket to keep your deal from falling apart. GL :)

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M.G.

answers from San Antonio on

As a Real Estate Professional, I will tell you that they will all do just about the same things. They will put your home on a Multiple Listing Service, where it will in turn go to Realtor.com. There may be other websites that they may post your listing so make sure you are getting the coverage you feel appropriate. Make sure that they will put fliers outside your home so drive by people can get information. The most important thing is that you like and trust your Realtor. You probably want someone who is a Certified Residential Specialist, CRS, as they TEND to have the most education when it comes to sales. You don't want any surprises during a transaction. If not, then just make sure they have the experience of at least 2 years. If they have a Top Producer credential that will also work. That means that they at least have a good number of transactions under their belt.

I've heard some people mention that you want a Realtor that is full time. Even if a Realtor is full time, they will not be full time working on your home. Nor will any Agent be available always around when you want to go out, so make sure you understand that they are a professional and have other Clients as well. I'm sure there will be times when you both have availability as long as you know they are not putting you off.

Keep in mind that this market is very slow for Sellers. Its definitely a Buyers Market. Even if you price your home to SELL, it still may take time so stay optimistic and remember your Realtor is on your side. Also, make sure you depersonalize yourself from your home. As long as you continue to think of it as YOUR home, then you will have a lot of emotional attachment and attachment tends to hinder the negotiation process. Good Luck.

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P.O.

answers from Harrisburg on

One that works for the seller and not the buyer.

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M.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I would look for a realtor that needs to feed his/her family with his job. I bought my first home from a realtor that my parents are friends with and it was really her "jobby" (hobby/job). She did not do nearly enough for us. ANd besides that b/c she was a friend I didn't feel I could be tough on her.

Tips to sell-make sure to "stage" your house. I have turned down so many houses b/c it is tough for me to imagine myself in a place b/c it had either crazy decorations, clutter on the counter, stuff on the bathroom vanity, etc. IT should look as much like a showhouse as possible. Ask your realtor to help you or someone else that can take a critical eye to your place. Watch some of those shows on HGTV for advise also-I think it is "designed to sell" maybe? the one where they secretly tape people before and after the designers makeover the house. And they never spend too much $ either.

Good luck!

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A.B.

answers from San Antonio on

Good luck! Our house has been on the market for several months. It's driving us nuts.
Make sure your realtor acts like she totally loves your house so that you know it will be on the top of her list to show people. Make sure he is willing to work full-time on selling your house. Make sure she cares enough about your house selling to provide you with info on the properties around it that are for sale or have just sold. Ask him what he does when houses aren't selling. Does he just say "lower the price; you should paint this room, etc." or does he say that in addition to talking about how he will change his own marketing strategy? They will all talk about sprucing up the house and lowering the price, but is the realtor also going to do something else on his/her end to try to sell it?

We pay for a large climate-controlled storage room and we've put as much extra stuff and clutter in there as we can (including family pictures). It is totally full. We work on our clutter piles regularly, but it's been very hard to have them totally gone because I have 2 small kids and we both work full time and we don't have much closet space to hide stuff. It has helped (if you can afford it) to hire someone to come and clean our house once a week, so we can concentrate on things like clutter and laundry when we're home. We bought one of those benches with storage space inside it to hide toys so there aren't any in the room where you enter the house. We LOVE that. From benches.com, which is part of hayneedle.com.

We also had the outside of our house painted. Anything "big" that is new is a plus. Out a/c was replaced less than 2 years ago, so that looks good. When we bought the house, it had a new roof, so that looked good to us. Any outdated decorations that can inexpensively updated would be good. Our realtor has suggested that we install some new ceiling fans near the entry, and she thinks that will help. If people are looking at 4 houses in your area in one day, what will make them like yours best?

Good luck! I hope you are able to sell fast. We know that part of our problem is our neighborhood, and hopefully that isn't an issue for you. We're the biggest house in our neighborhood, so it's hard to sell for a reasonable price. We got it for a steal ourselves for that very reason but it was worth it to us because it was so close to where we used to work. We're not quite willing to go that low this time, which may be the reason we're having such a hard time, coupled with a slow market.

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D.B.

answers from Houston on

First call your husband's new employer Human Resources department and ask for their relocation service(which could include helping you handle the home sale here), Employee Assistance Plan number, or any assistance they offer in their location to help you make the move and locate a reliable realtor. Many mid-to-large companies have this service for free. If the company has this, they have usually screened the realtors for basic good business practices.

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L.B.

answers from Austin on

We've used more realtors than imaginable. Basically, when it's time, we interview 3-4 and ask them what they think the house will sell for and how they plan on doing it. We've ended up working with people who are OK, but we really enjoy them, people who are great but awful to be around and people who just get the job done. In the end it's a mix of which personality you like (selling becomes insanely stressful and you will get into it with your realtor) and can they meet your needs (ie: must sell in 2 weeks, must get a high price, will only show at certain times,etc...)

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V.M.

answers from Erie on

You might want to ask about the communication after you have a showing to sell your house. Friends are selling right now and never hear back about how people liked their house or not. Our realtor called or emailed as soon as she had contacted the realtor of the person who had walked through, and we got some great feed back, some we could do stuff about and some we couldn't, but she kept us in the loop and showed in the little details like that that she was working her butt off for us, and had great business relationships with the other realtors, and just generally was an on top of it, personable lady.

tips for staging if you have kids is to pack up all but 10% of their toys, leave out things that will keep them busy by themselves while you race around picking up before showing, toss it all in a box and store it under your couch or in your car. As long as stuff is boxed up neatly you can store things in the attic or basement or a spare room, but get rid of half of your knickknacks and family photos etc.
use a good plug in air freshener. Oh, maybe i misunderstood, will you move before you sell? I would consider leaving some furniture to stage with. but a good realtor can help wiht that decision. make arrangements for lawn care if you are gone.

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S.O.

answers from San Antonio on

daveramsey.com

look under "elp"'s

for endorsed local providers

these are all folks pre-screened to be on the up and up and agree to follow the financial guidelines Dave Ramsey teaches....that work for the client's well being and NOT for their own fat commission check

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T.V.

answers from San Francisco on

The absence of white shoes and belts made of shiny, fake leather.

Blessings.......

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C.1.

answers from Minneapolis on

Staging advice:
When we were house hunting, there was one immediate turn off when we would walk into someone's home...the lingering odor of cigarette smoke. So if either of you smoke or let anyone smoke inside your home, don't do it!!!! There were even a few that tried to mask the smell with air freshners, whether plug-ins or sprays, it was almost as putrid smelling as the cigarette smoke smell.
Put all personal items away, mostly your family pictures. I am a hgtv addict, and they always say, buyers want to picture themselves living there and it's hard when they see your families photo's.
Down size what's in your closets. When they're not jam packed, they appear to be bigger and buyers love big! Pack up many of the kids toys so buyers can see the how big the space really is, less clutter makes everything roomier.

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V.N.

answers from Chicago on

Since you are moving from out of state you will really need someone to be proactive since your time will be limited.

I would find someone around the area and ask references.

The reason my agent was so great was they went to the houses before I did and did a drive by. If it did not meet my specifications it was taken off the list and we did not look at it. That way any power lines, backing up to a street, unkept neighbors were eliminated and my time was not wasted.

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L.W.

answers from San Antonio on

Judy Dalrymple and her team are great! They will tell you exactly what to do. Call them!!!

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R.L.

answers from Houston on

It's too bad your not in the Houston area. Our real estate agent was AMAZING! and really went the extra mile when we bought our new house. One major thing I found that indicates a good agent is one that calls you back! When we were looking for an agent we made lots of inquiries but never received calls back. The agent we found not only returned our call, but called after she shoed us the house to see what we thought and if we had any questions, and she wasn't even our real estate agent at that time. We were really impressed.

Hope you find a great agent for a quick sale!

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