Every listing agent has a similar goal sell your house for the most money in the least amount of time. But there’s much more to it than that, and many things set a good or great agent apart from an average one. Sellers evaluate real estate agents based on the services they offer, their skill level, their expertise and their character. Ultimately, the right real estate agent for you is the one who best understands your goals and expectations.
What services to expect from a real estate agent when selling
All agents should provide the following basic services. If you’re considering working with an agent who doesn’t cover the following items, consider trying to negotiate a lower commission. Here’s what to expect from your real estate agent.
Provide a comparative market analysis
Your agent should come prepared with a comparative market analysis (also called a CMA). It’s a report that outlines recently sold homes that are similar to yours, in the same area. Real estate agents use it to help you determine an appropriate listing price for your home and to inform you about the price range you can expect given your local market conditions. The agent should talk you through factors that can increase or decrease the price you’re able to get, like your home’s condition, location and features.
Attract and screen qualified buyers
There are many ways agents attract buyers, but it’s standard practice to list on the local MLS and to make sure the listing also shows up on major real estate portals like Zillow and Trulia. Your listing should always have a complete and clear listing description and professional photos.
Bringing in qualified buyers is one of the most important tasks any listing agent has. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2018, 89 percent of sellers rank bringing buyers to the seller’s home as an extremely or very valuable agent service.
Your agent should talk to every potential buyer’s agent to vet the offer and gauge their interest — this is especially important if you are selling in a sellers market, where you’re likely to get multiple offers. Your agent should be able to find out how much money a buyer is putting toward a down payment, how much earnest money they’re willing to put down and how soon they want to close. Serious buyers usually have definitive answers to these questions, and they’re more willing to put money on the line.
Your agent should coordinate showings, always giving you an agreed-upon amount of notice ahead of time. Depending on how your agent’s team operates, it may be your actual agent, a team member or an assistant who shows the home. If you’ve agreed to it, your agent may also allow lockbox showings, where the buyer’s agent lets themselves in using a private code. This is more common in situations where the seller has already vacated the home.
Sell in a reasonable time frame
The ideal selling time frame depends on your real estate market. In hot markets, homes can sell in as little as 30 days. But in cooler markets or rural areas — or if you’re selling a luxury home with a more limited buyer pool — it can take longer. Your real estate agent should tell you what the average time on market is for your area and provide an estimate on how long they think your home should take to sell. Then they should do their best to deliver on that estimate.
Convey offers, handle paperwork and facilitate negotiations
Your agent is legally required to tell you about all offers. It’s also their job to handle all negotiations between you and the buyer and guide you through actions that need to be taken to close the deal, like signing paperwork and arranging inspections and appraisals. According to the Zillow Group Report, sellers say that facilitating paperwork is the second-most valued service an agent provides, and contract negotiations are fourth.
ADDITIONAL SERVICES THAT GREAT REAL ESTATE AGENTS OFFER
While the services discussed above are standard in all listing agent-seller relationships, the best agents go above and beyond to provide additional benefits.
Understanding of new technology
Leading agents incorporate new technology into the selling process. Not only do technology tools help agents find more clients, but they also help sellers find buyers quickly, which is a benefit for you.
VIDEOGRAPHY AND VIRTUAL TOURS
Beyond providing real estate photography (which is standard in today’s online-focused marketplace), great agents also understand how multimedia entices buyers. They will offer videography or 3D tours for their listings, which pique buyers’ interest and minimize showings from buyers who end up not being interested. They can also help you attract out-of-town or international buyers who can’t tour in person.
Access to private off-market networks
Great agents are usually ranked in the top 10 percent of their market, which gives them access to specialized networking groups. With a large network of other top agents at their fingertips, great agents can test buyer interest in your listing before it even hits the market, which can limit your home’s days on market — a plus when it comes to attracting buyers before the listing becomes stale.
What skills to look for in a good real estate agent
In addition to the baseline services they provide, a great real estate agent has skills that set them apart from an average one. Agents with these skills are diamonds in the rough, and they use their expertise to ensure that every client has the best financial and emotional outcome from their home sale.
A great agent knows the importance of good communication with their clients. That means they clearly set expectations, field questions whenever you have them, take calls when you need their help, provide feedback on everything from pricing to home improvements, and give suggestions to help you get the most money from your sale. It’s no wonder that 81 percent of sellers say responsiveness is extremely or very important.
In addition to their communication with you, a listing agent also needs to be skilled at communicating with the buyer and the buyer’s agent. They should speak clearly during negotiations, communicate your wants and needs, and avoid making false promises to move the deal forward. They should be as responsive to the buyer’s agent as they are to you, promptly answering calls and quickly responding to showing requests.
The best real estate agents operate a retention- and referral-based business, which means that most of their clients are repeat buyers and sellers or people referred by friends and family members. These agents are likely to have outstanding online reviews on sites like Zillow, Trulia, Yelp and Facebook. According to the Zillow Group Report, 28 percent of sellers learn about their agent from a friend, relative, neighbor or colleague, and 23 percent have worked with the agent before in some capacity.
A great agent will also have valuable recommendations for real estate attorneys, stagers, contractors and other vendors who can help you get your home ready to sell.
Local market knowledge
A good agent will know what sells in your area and will know how to highlight your home’s best features to get top dollar. They’ll also be aware of seasonal trends in your market and can help you determine the best time of year to sell for more money and in less time. According to the Zillow Group Report, 80 percent of sellers look for an agent who is an expert in their local market.
Strong marketing strategy
Professional photography: Good agents include the services of a professional photographer in their commission fee, and sellers recognize the value in this offering. Sellers ranked having photos taken as the third-most valued service agents offer.
Social media marketing: Today’s top agents have a strong social media presence and are eager to post your listing on sites like Facebook and Instagram. Seventy-one percent of sellers said social media marketing was an important thing for their agent to handle.
Willing to host open houses: 80 percent of sellers say hosting open houses or private tours is a valuable service. A good agent should offer to host an open house soon after your home is listed.
What character traits make a great real estate agent?
In addition to their service offerings and real estate industry-specific skills, the best real estate agents are dedicated, determined and eager to help. Consider these top character traits that sellers rank as extremely or very important.
Trustworthiness is the top quality sellers say is important in an agent — it’s extremely or very important to 86 percent of sellers. A trustworthy agent won’t try to persuade you to work with them by giving you an unattainable listing price. They always set reasonable expectations, outline their responsibilities and give you time to review the listing agreement before deciding to work with them.
Great agents are always honest, even if it means saying things you don’t want to hear — like your home isn’t worth what you think it is or that it needs improvement. They build a relationship with you based on honesty and keeping your best interests at heart.
Top agents put their seller’s needs above their commission. That means they will go above and beyond to move a deal forward, whether they’re physically pitching in to help get your home staged or buying a new light fixture the buyer wanted.
Real estate is not a nine-to-five job, and a great agent understands and embraces this. They won’t resent clients for reaching out to them outside of traditional working hours, and they won’t take off for a vacation without telling you.
Good agents know that sometimes plans change and not every deal works out. They’ll understand if you decide to take your home off the market, and they won’t hold you to the commission agreement if you have a change of heart.
What makes the best real estate agent for you?
Services, skills and traits aside, the best real estate agent for you depends on your goals, your communication style, the level of support you need and your personal values. And the right agent for you isn’t always the right agent for someone else. Consider these additional attributes that can help you decide if you’ve found the right agent.
Personality match: You want an agent that “gets” you. You communicate easily with each other, they can adapt to suit your needs and you generally have a friendly, comfortable rapport.
Attentiveness: The right agent for you understands how much support you need and is honest about what they can and cannot offer. Many sellers, especially first-time sellers, are looking for someone to hold their hand and answer many questions about the process. In fact, 84 percent of sellers said they rely on their agent to guide them through the process from start to finish. Some sellers, especially the ones who have sold before, may just want an agent who can take the reins and get the house sold without much back and forth.
Similar values: 76 percent of sellers say it’s important that their agent respects their personal values.
Financial flexibility: Sellers often look for agents who are willing to negotiate their commission rate or create a custom agreement that will help them sell in a way that meets their financial needs.
An alternative to selling traditionally
While most sellers end up selling with an agent, the traditional selling process is not a perfect fit for every seller and every situation, especially if you need to sell quickly. It takes time to interview agents, identify the best agent for you, get your listing agreement signed, get your house prepared and listed, and then wait for a great offer. And once you’ve accepted an offer, it takes an average of 45 days to close, but that figure could be shorter or longer depending on individual circumstances.