After their home sat on the market for months with little activity and even less feedback from their agent, Gelardi and her husband, Mike, switched real-estate agents. With their new agent's help, the couple sold their home for the asking price, about $100,000.
Gelardi now thinks the low sale price made their first real-estate agent unmotivated to work on the sale. "She's the biggest seller in Aurora, and she sells a lot of very expensive houses," Gelardi says. "You got the impression she thought we were small potatoes."
Big mistake. The Gelardis turned around and bought a much more expensive house with the help of their new agent, for whom they have nothing but praise. How can you pick the right real-estate agent from the start? Here are four tips gleaned from the hard-won experience of home sellers like Gelardi.
1. Don't stop at recommendations. Sure, it's smart to get recommendations from friends and family. But that's just the first step in your search for the right real-estate agent. Call at least three, and ask them to come out to evaluate your home. A good real-estate agent will bring data on recent comparable sales, help you price your home, and suggest low-cost upgrades that will boost your home's value and help it sell more quickly.
Browse through photos of millions of home listings or search foreclosure listings 2. Interview agents like you're hiring them for a job. Ask agents about their qualifications. How long have they been selling homes in your area? Do they work in real estate full or part time? There are many good part-time agents, but you have to be comfortable signing on with an agent who may not be as available to you (and potential buyers) as a full-time agent would.
Also ask if agents have completed specialized training or earned industry designations in a particular area, such as negotiating, working with first-time buyers, or selling green or historic homes. Another sign of ongoing training and expertise are designations from industry organizations, such as the Graduate REALTOR Institute (GRI) or Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) from the National Association of REALTORS.
3. Make sure the agent is a good fit for your home. As Gelardi learned the hard way, a top seller's agent may concentrate on a particular type of home or price range. If your house doesn't fall within that specialty or price range, that agent may not be qualified or motivated to show your home. The agent also may not have a ready pool of buyers looking for a home like yours.
Ask how many homes similar to yours the agent has sold in the past year, along with how many in your price range and neighborhood. Also ask for MLS data on the average number of days the agent's listings are on the market before closing, and how that compares to the average "days on market" for homes in your area. And don't forget to ask for MLS statistics comparing the original asking price of the homes that the agent listed and the price they actually sold for.
4. Ask agents how they'd market your home. A good real estate agent will tell you the best way to market your home. Beware of agents who talk in generalities or brush you off with a "let me worry about the details" attitude. Get answers to basic questions: Will you hold open houses? If so, how often? Will you place ads in local newspapers or real estate websites and, if so, which ones are best suited for my home and why? (Also see "Top Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent.")
Gelardi is happy that she did her homework the second time she chose a real-estate agent. "I can't tell you everything she did for us -- we just love her," says Gelardi, who also learned a valuable lesson: "Sometimes it's not always best to go with the biggest."
Want more tips about working with a real estate agent? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help you, whether you're selling your home or shopping for a new one:
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