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How To Choose A Real Estate Agent

By Andrew Huggins

So the time has come to sell your property. As in the vast majority of cases, that means you will need to appoint an agent.

For those poor hardened souls who think they can do it themselves, in around 80 per cent of cases you too will be looking for an agent in a month or two as well.

So what do you look for and how do you choose between many seemingly similar agents?

Ultimately your choice will depend on the level of trust you have for an agent and the level of risk you are prepared to take. This is why too many owners choose an agent who does not normally work in the area where they are selling. They have a relationship with or have been referred to an agent and therefore trust is high and they believe the risk is lower than the unknown local agents even though they may actually have a significant advantage with local knowledge and presumably a database of local buyers. It is human nature that we are prepared to pay for a presumed reduced risk.

Assuming you don’t have a relationship with an agent, which would be more than 60 per cent of people, then here are some important factors that you should consider when appointing one:

1) Do your homework. Most agents will try to convince you that they are the best in the area but remember their livelihood depends on being able to convince you to use them. Check the REIWA site for sales agents have made. You could also check to see if they rank in the top 500 agents in WA on this site. Other sites also list sold properties; check them out and check the dates and the quality of the advertising. Don’t just use an agent who has listings; they may not be able to sell them! Also beware of referral site rip-offs that slug the agent 20% of their commission so the agents need to jack up their fees to cover it.

2) Don’t go for the cheapest fee. Sometimes the best agent may offer you the cheapest fee but not usually. Some agents will sell your property for a lot less commission than others, but as with most things in life, you do indeed get what you pay for. In the vast majority of cases, the service you receive will reflect the fee you pay. Remember the adage: “The bitterness of poor service lasts long after the joy of a low fee”.

3) Pay for your advertising. However, make sure the agent itemises where the money will be spent. An agent who does not charge for advertising is a gambler. In most cases the advertising will be minimal and the agent will quickly lose interest if the sale looks difficult after the first week or two. Unless it is a boom market and property is selling very quickly then avoid this type of agent at all costs. For agents who do charge for advertising, make sure they justify and itemise where the money is spent. Some unscrupulous agents will charge you for such items as home open pointer signs (with big pictures of their faces on them); and some will charge you for “For Sale” signs with huge pictures of themselves rather than your property. Make sure an agent can justify advertising under a suburb in a newspaper if few if any buyers come from there. Many agents advertise themselves rather than your property – and use your money to do so.

4) Ask the agent to show you an example of a vendor report. Make sure it is comprehensive and shows that the agent is following up all buyers and recording all their information. To do this properly, an agent must be using a database. If an agent can’t produce such a report and promise to provide one to you weekly, then give them a wide berth.

5) Check out the agent’s website. A good agent will work in an agency with an up-to-date and functional website. You will find out a lot about an agent and the agency from its website.

6) Don’t lock yourself in for a long listing. If an agent asks for a listing longer than 90 days, you can be pretty sure they don’t think they can sell it – at least not now. A 60-day listing is enough time for an agent to sell your property. Remember that even if the 60 days go by, you can renew the listing if you are happy but you also then have the choice to change agents if you are not.

7) Beware the agent who has “a buyer”. A ploy some agents use is to appeal to your desire for a quick, easy sale and introduce a “hot” buyer for a quick uncomplicated sale. This approach is fraught with danger. As the property will not see the open market, there is a huge risk that it will be undersold. Even if an offer is above other agents’ quotes, going to open market is the only way to prove the price paid is indeed the best out there. Almost all agents would get this buyer too, once the property hits the market. Many agents have hundreds of buyers on their books so don’t get conned into listing with the agent who has “one”.

8] Avoid the over-quoter. Inexperienced agents, and some experienced ones, will overprice your property to encourage you to list with them. Sometimes it is inexperience but sometimes it is purely a ploy to get you to list and then hopefully during the listing period you will lower the price to get the buyer. This is preying on you at your most vulnerable time so be very careful that the price quoted is backed by a comprehensive CMA or comparative market analysis.

9) Avoid the bait advertiser – an agent who will try to convince you to underprice your property to the market. The justification given is that it will attract more buyers and push the price up with the extra competition. The reality is often quite different. The low price actually attracts a lot of the wrong buyers who do not have the money to pay what you want; and sometimes the best buyer for the property overlooks it because it is not advertised in their range. Undoubtedly the agent gets a lot of interest but it’s the wrong interest, and the hope is that you will be “conditioned” to take lower than you expected.

10) Go with your gut. This may sound contrary to what I have said before but I believe you should choose the agent you trust the most, rather than try to diminish your risk and outlay by going with a low fee and no advertising (mistakes number 2 and 3). Trust yourself to make a choice and stick with it. Listen to your agent’s advice and demand regular communication.

Happy selling.

Andrew Huggins is the Principal of Ray White Urban Springs based in Belmont. In 2011 he sold 67 properties and a market leading 55 just in The City of Belmont.

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