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What to Expect at a Listing Interview

If you are planning on selling your home, one of the first things you'll likely do is start interviewing agents. You probably did a little internet research to find one. Maybe another was recommended via a friend. And perhaps the agent who helped you buy is still in contact with you. Regardless of whether or not you've settled on an agent or if you are looking at 12, you'll want to meet with them to discuss what to do to list your home, and what they'll do for you.

But if you've never sold your home before, or never done so happily and successfully, then you may not even know where to start when it comes to discussing this with an agent. You want to pick the best agent but you don't even know what criteria to make that judgement on! 

So here's a general introduction to what you should expect in when talking to a real estate agent about listing your home....


Styles Are Definitely Different


And thats ok. I suppose we should get that out of the way first.

Agents present things differently and that's to be expected, if not preferred. An agent's style will help you decide if they work for you or not.

For instance, some agents like to do the entire listing appointment in one go. Others prefer 2-visits. Personally, when I get a call to list a home, I prefer to visit the home in person first, and then go back and gather comparable data based on that walk-through, presenting this data on a second visit. Sometimes, though, if you are listing with a friend or in a development where most homes are relatively similar, it may make sense to forego a separate walk-through.

Some agents also prefer technology to present. One agent may bring a binder of papers while another may share data over a tablet. Either are fine and certainly have their merits. Similarly, some agents like to drop off paperwork on agency, company policy or even more information on pricing strategies to get you ready for the meeting.

Regardless of how its presented, lets get on to what should be presented.


Price 


This is the big one. While you are definitely interviewing the agent sitting across from you, you are also looking for the big ticket answer: Whats my house worth? In fact, many sellers simply don't care about who lists their home or how but who gives them the biggest number. The is a HUGE, HUGE mistake, and on to why in a minute, but the point is that its pretty obvious to most agents and sellers alike that this is a must-do in any meeting.

However, most sellers don't really understand where that million-dollar answer comes from. How does an agent come up with that number?

Well, the short answer is the agent doesn't. A good agent will explain in a listing interview that they are simply providing data from the market that would advise a particular placement (ie price) in that market. An agent can give you all of the data you need to make a decision, walk-you through that data and advise you, based on their knowledge and experience, where your home might best be placed on a pricing spectrum to sell for the most money, fastest. But you, the seller, pick that final number.

If you pick the agent who simply gave you the highest number, or simply asked you what you wanted to sell at and agreed to list it at that number, then they aren't really working for you to review that data, give you advice, or give you the best course to succeed. Generally, though not always, agents who do this just want to get their foot in the door, knowing its easier for them to talk you down in price when you are frustrated and worn-down from the market. Thats not an agent who is working for you. If an agent simply agrees with the number you spit out at first-go, ask them to back up their agreement with comparable data.


Comps

Speaking of which, this is the key item your agent should be presenting, and presenting well. Pricing your home correctly, based on data as opposed to feeling or being agreeable, is the #1 thing your agent should do for you. If this goes really wrong, no amount of marketing can undo the bad marketing that comes from poor pricing. 

Comps, or comparables, are the comparable home sales from which the agent can derive a general idea of fair market value. In general, comparable properties are the most similar in size, condition, bedroom count and amenities that have sold in the last 3-6 months within a mile or less. If you live in a specific neighborhood or development, then ideally comparables sales will also be in that area. If you have a pool or roof deck, ideally a few comparable sales will also have these items. 

Agents tend to follow rules from an appraiser when coming up with comps. This generally means looking at homes in the last 3 months and in less than a mile that are as similar as possible. A good agent will likely explain that most buyers will seek financing on their home purchase, which means the lender will make sure the house appraises for value. If your home is listed extremely higher than the appraisers value, that will likely mean its priced too high for an offer, or if a buyer does agree to that price, they will likely negotiate you down after they realize the lender won't be financing their original amount. No one likes surprise negotiations after they've gone under contract. 

The agent should also do their best to present about 3-9 comparables sales. Sometimes there aren't enough if its a unique property, but sometimes 20 homes are too many if they are all the same. The goal is to make the comparison, and thus pricing decision, as simple as possible. 

A good agent will also likely bring comparables homes that are under contract and a few that are currently on the market. The pending sale comps help you get a glimpse of current activity, as do the active properties. If you are in a escalating market or one going down, the comparable solds will do you little good if everyone else currently on the market is listed $50,000 less than the ones that sold last Spring. Similarly, if your market is going up, its good to see that higher-priced homes are being listed and going under contract. Active properties will help you price your home by determining competition. 


Market Activity 


If the market seems to be changing, your agent should be able to get your more data on how. If the market is slowing down, there should be data on how many months of inventory are left. If there are a lot, you can assume you are in a buyers market and should price your home accordingly. 

Similarly, its good to see how many days on market (DOM) are average for comparables homes. You may be in a less-looked at market where even well priced homes sit on the market for 60 days before getting their asking price. (Not common, but does happen). In any case, its good to see what time frame you should expect based on comparable sales in your immediate market.


Marketing Plan 


Again, the biggest part of an agent's marketing plan should be proper pricing. Proper pricing puts you in the right segment of the market to be seen by the most amount of buyers who will likely put an offer on your home. Getting outside of that price bracket by over pricing will make your home invisible to most buyers, which is no marketing at all. 

But after your home is priced fairly your agent still needs to make sure it gets the most amount of exposure necessary. 

The absolute musts in this day and age are internet exposure plans. How is your agent going to get the home seen on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor, etc? Will it have an easily-shareable and accessible individual website? How will open houses be advertised? These are all key questions to make sure your agent knows how to get internet exposure. 



The next must is proper photos. When most buyers are finding homes online, and clicking on them based on pictures, the best photos should be an obvious inclusion in an agents marketing scheme. If the agent says they take their own photos, this is a sign they aren't ready to be professional (unless they are an award-winning photographer themselves). Make sure you see examples of professional photos first. If this is your agents first home listing (which is fine!), then ask them to provide who they will be getting photos through. 

Lastly, if your home is special in some way, whether it be placed in an extremely tight-knit community, have a riding rink, a sustainable green roof, or be in the most prestigious, wanted school catchment out there - your agent should put this to use. If any of these are true, ask your agent how they might advertise these to the fullest? A good agent will attempt to target these specific communities via special open houses, post-card invites and flyers at a local school or community center, etc. The point is if you want to get the word out to a specific set of people who may be more interested in your home than others, your agent should be ready to advertise to them.


A plan 


Other than a pricing plan and a marketing plan, your agent should give you at least some idea of what they plan to do if things don't go as, ummm, planned. Anticipating issues before they arrive is huge. If your agent agreed to price above their comfort level, or perhaps you agreed to price higher in a upswing market, then they should also discuss what will happen and when if you don't receive an offer, or a don't get enough showings.

For instance, I suggest that if we don't get any showings in the first week, we drop the price automatically if we are in an active market. Or, if we are in a steady market or slower one, give it 2 weeks if we have showings and then reassess our price and position in the market. In any instance, this is something to be detailed in advance so everyone is on board from the get-go. Its no fun to have this conversation a month in when no one was expecting it.

A plan should also detail how things will be communicated to you over the course of the marketing period. Will you hear from them weekly? Daily? Will you receive buyer/agent feedback directly or via your agent?

Your agent should detail how things will work, and the best strategic plan, over the course of your time together. 


About them 


Knowing more about that agent and how they work will be a deciding factor in choosing an agent. If you are an older individual who has trouble using the internet and your agent says they only use email to communicate, or vice versa, you may realize that connection may not be the best fit, no matter how nice the agent is. With all things being equal (in terms of pricing and marketing strategies), choosing your agent based on connection is huge.

But outside of likability, your agent should also fill you in more about how they work and with whom. How do they travel? Who sits the opens? How will they communicate feedback? Do they have a stager they love?

One thing I see in this arena a lot is teams being used incorrectly. A team in real estate is a group of agents who generally work for or under one agent. So you might hear of the John Smith Real Estate Team or the Joan Little Group and when you list your home, John Smith or Joan Little may come out to meet you and go over everything. You might totally fall in love with Joan Little, but when your home is listed, you never hear from her again. You hear from her agent Lucas or her assistant Bernice, but never Joan again.

One time I answered a call from my office and an older woman asked me if anyone was going to host an open for her home. After I asked if she was already represented by an agent in her office, she said she "thought so". When asked what her agents name was, she replied several agents had been over to her house but couldn't remember any of their names. We finally figured out who represented her but she had only spoken to them once at that initial meeting.

The point is, if your agent is a team lead, make sure you know how they are going to communicate and interact with you after they sign the listing contract. If they admit that their team will deal with most communications, then ask to meet the team or agents who you will be working with. You should not feel baited and switched. Teams can work really, really well for sellers as there are a lot of people working for you at once, doing things efficiently and effectively, but that should not translate into feeling like a number instead of a client. Conversely, if an agent is solo, you may want to ask them how they are going to cover opens every weekend or take care of business when they are away.

Finally, hearing more about how the agent communicates, getting prior client reviews, if they have them, and getting a general sense of the agent's experience with the market will help you sort out one agent from another. A lot of this is personal preference, but its good to know up front.




Finding an agent that will work for you isn't as cut and dried as finding the agent who will give you the best price for your home. Being an active, effective and professional agent means ongoing communication and relationships with your clients. But with these few steps, you should be able to find out as much as possible about your agent and their strategy, helping you pick the best relationship for you and your future home sale.

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