A combination of record-low mortgage rates, low inventory, and the increased appeal of non-urban residential areas in a pandemic made 2020 a strong year for home sales. Existing home sales were generally up year over year — in October, by as much as 27%.
Without a doubt, the combined effects of limited supply and increased demand made 2020 a sellers’ year. With the full impact of COVID-19 vaccines still a low way off, 2021 is shaping up to be similar.
People looking to sell their homes might want to jump at the opportunity and strike while the iron is hot. Inventory is still low in most areas and demand is high. But, before you jump in with a real estate agent who isn’t as invested in your home-selling process as you are, we’ve compiled a rubric for identifying the best possible seller’s agent for your situation. Your relationship with your agent should be a partnership. Here are some ways to be sure that it is.
Evaluate Their Experience
As is the case in all professions, different real estate agents have different specialty areas. Some specialize in low-cost starter homes, while others focus on multimillion-dollar luxury homes. When exploring different agent options, be sure to investigate the kinds of homes they’ve sold in the past and what neighborhoods/areas they service. You want someone that is knowledgeable about the neighborhood and someone who is passionate about selling your home.
Likewise, get a sense of how busy they are. While it may seem like lots of business means they’re in high demand, and therefore that they’re good at what they do, it could also mean that they’re overwhelmed and that they won’t give your home the attention it deserves. Too little business could also be concerning. Look for a sweet spot, a happy medium. Ask the agent whether they will be doing all of the showings and open houses or whether they have multiple people on their team that assists them.
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Understand How They’re Paid
Many years ago, the standard listing fee was 6% commission on your home sale — 3% to the listing agent, and 3% to the buyer’s agent. But as of late, it’s become increasingly more common to pay closer to 5% and sometimes even less. Some sellers’ agents will take as low as 1% of the sale price of your home in commission. If this is the case, understand what services you are getting for the reduced commission fee and make sure that the Buyer’s agent is getting the standard commission for the area, which is typically 2.5%. More times than most, Buyer’s agents will not show a home with a reduced commission fee.
There are some circumstances in which a reduced commission model could make sense for both the buyer and the seller. But unless you have a full understanding of how your agent is getting paid, you won’t be able to fully evaluate their motives, and consequently their value to you as an agent.
Ask What They’ll Commit to Your Home Sale
At the very least, real estate agents ought to be listing your home on Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a platform to which only agents and brokers have access. But you should also expect your agent to arrange for professional-grade photos of your home and more. Photos many times are not enough these days to just sell a home, video tours, social media campaigns, and drone footage have become the standard. More marketing resources typically mean a higher sale price and more exposure for your home.
Similarly, knowing how long an agent’s listings typically spend on the market will give a good sense of how committed to the sales they are. It’s possible to compare their statistics with the statistics of home sales outside their purview. If it takes them much more (or less) time to sell homes, you’ll want to investigate why.
Mostly, you will want to interview agents and ask them questions. Ask about the home sale velocity in your neighborhood. How does your home compare to recent sales in the area and current active listings? Does the agent recommend any upgrades or staging to increase the marketability of your home? These questions and many more will get you a better understanding of your market and which agent is the right partner for selling your home.
The More You Know
Selling your home is a monumental undertaking. A good real estate agent can go a long way in facilitating the process and making sure that you get every penny of what your home is worth. The more knowledge you can harvest about each agent, the more you’ll be able to make educated decisions about who to work with, and the happier your home sale process will be.