What to Look for in a Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home

Apr 16, 2024 2:00:00 PM / by Matt McGee

What to Look for in a Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home

Stress does funny things to us. It clouds our thinking, heightens our emotions, and leads you to make bad decisions.

There are few things in life more stressful than selling our home. From packing up and leaving a place filled with memories, to selling what’s probably the most valuable asset we own, the whole process is fraught with stress. In a recent survey, almost 40% of Americans said they cried during the process of selling their home.

That’s why it’s so important to have a great real estate agent by your side when selling your home. A great agent isn’t just a skilled negotiator, they’re also expert communicators. They even have a touch of counselor in the job description — helping clients get through the ups and downs of a stressful event. 

If you’re wondering what to look for in a real estate agent, this guide will walk you through the key qualities — both professional and personal — that you want in your real estate agent. We’ll also share a few red flags to help you avoid hiring an agent that only adds to your stress.

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10 qualities to look for in a real estate agent

When selling your home, you’ll probably have plenty of agents who want your business. But do you know what makes one agent better than another? Or, more importantly, what makes one agent a better fit for you than the next agent? 

Here is a list of qualities to consider when you hire a real estate agent to help sell your home.

1. Do you have good rapport? 

This might be the most important factor of all when you’re looking for a real estate agent. Selling a home typically takes from 45 days to several months, and involves a lot of communication at each stage of the home-selling process. You want to work with an agent who will help you reach your goals with the sale, but there’s more to choosing an agent than just the bottom line.

“It's a business decision, but it should always be, do I trust this person?,” says Blair Ballin, a top agent in Phoenix, Arizona. “Even if the agent says they're going to do this, this, and this, do I get a good feeling from them? And combining that with the package of services [the agent offers] to make sure it's what you’re looking for.”

You and your agent don’t need to be best friends, but you do need to get along well and have a relationship built on trust. If you don’t like and trust your agent, you’ll probably add unneeded stress to an already difficult process.

2. Are they a good communicator?

You and your agent will be talking to one another a lot. And texting. And emailing. Probably all of the above, for that matter. Together, you should set expectations about communication at the beginning. Look for an agent who’s proactive about communicating with you consistently at each stage of the selling process.

“I think the best way to approach it is, does the agent have a systemized communication plan or process?,” says Chris Murphy, a top agent in Tacoma, Washington. “I call certain people on Monday. I call every one of my pending transactions on Tuesday to give them an update. Even if there's nothing to talk about, I just want to make sure I'm touching base with them. I talk to my active buyers and sellers who are not on the market on Wednesday. You want to avoid somebody who's going to list your home and never talk to you again.”

Let your agent know how (phone, text, email, etc.) and how often you expect updates on showings and buyer feedback. Don’t be surprised if your agent sets expectations with you, too—i.e., you may not get an instant reply if you leave a 10 PM voicemail with a non-urgent question. 

3. Are they honest with you? 

Some agents may tell you whatever they think you want to hear in order to get your business. As you interview agents, consider it a red flag if the agent says your home is in perfect condition, needs no prepping before it hits the market, and will sell right away. (That’s incredibly rare!) Likewise if your agent agrees to list the home at your desired price even when recent comparable sales suggest it’s worth less—that’s another red flag. 

“I just had this conversation with a seller yesterday,” Murphy says. “They wanted to list their home at $825,000. I thought it should be at $800,000. So I said, ‘it's highly possible that we can get $825,000, but I think the potential harm is that you can shrink your buying pool and [it] could sit on the market for a long period of time. People are going to think something's wrong with it. And then you're going to end up getting less than if you listed it at the market value to start.’”

A great real estate agent will always be honest with you, even when they have to tell you something you won’t want to hear.

4. Do they understand the local market? 

You’ve probably seen national headlines talking about what’s happening in “the real estate market,” but the truth is there’s no such thing as a national real estate market. The housing market in a town or city an hour away from you could be totally different from what’s happening where you live.

“Find out how experienced the agent is locally,” says Marti Reeder, a top agent based in Kent, Washington. “How focused are they in your area? A good Realtor® could certainly sell out of their area, because we could research the [other] market, but I still think there's inherent risks.”

Look for an agent who understands what’s happening locally. They should be able to talk to you about local trends in home prices, home inventory (aka the number of homes for sale), sales activity, and more.

5. Have they sold homes like yours before?

Not every type of property is the same. Is there something unique about your home that might create unusual circumstances for your sale? Do you live in a unique area with special laws or considerations that impact homeowners? 

“My office is located in a big, master-planned community on the water in Tacoma,” Murphy says. “It's all condominiums. There's an agent here who works in my office who's a condominium specialist, and there's so many different facets to condominium transactions that an inexperienced agent would get bowled over in the process.”

Whatever type of property you own, look for an agent with experience selling that type of home.

6. Is the agent experienced with a solid track record of selling homes?

You probably know someone who’s a real estate agent. Maybe your cousin or neighbor just got their license. According to the real estate marketing agency 1000watt, 50% of Americans know at least six agents

It might be tempting to help someone you know who’s just starting out in real estate, but selling what’s likely the biggest asset you own isn’t the time to do friends a favor. 

You’re signing a legal contract with the agent who’ll represent you, and then you’re signing another legal contract covering the sale of your home. There are a multitude of things that can go wrong at each step of the process. Look for an experienced agent—someone who can not only guide you through that process, but also anticipate issues before they turn into problems.

7. Do they have an aggressive marketing plan?

Make no mistake about it: Selling a home involves a lot more than adding it to the MLS and putting a “For Sale” sign in the front yard.

Cindy Allen, a top agent in Keller, Texas, says you should look for an agent who understands how to get your home seen not only by potential buyers, but also by the other agents in your market. 

“More than marketing, I think it's about networking—their ability to network,” she says. “It’s calling other agents who sell in that price range or that area and saying, ‘Hey, I have a new listing coming up. Do you have anybody for it?’"

Each agent you’re considering should be able to show you exactly how they’ll market your home. Check their social media profiles to see how they’ve marketed homes like yours in the past, and ask for samples of other marketing tactics they use, such as emails or postcards.

8. Are they a skilled and experienced negotiator?

During negotiations, your agent’s job is to get you the best price possible, the most convenient closing date, and other favorable terms that benefit you. A strong negotiator can make a huge difference in the final price of your home, potentially putting thousands of dollars more in your pocket.

At the same time, if your agent goes too far, it can push interested buyers away and kill the sale. Ask agents about their negotiating philosophy, and listen for them to talk about trying to get you the best deal possible while also understanding when it’s best to compromise.

9. What do past clients say about them?

Reading an agent’s online reviews is a great way to find out what it’s like to work with them. Look for reviews that go deeper than the typical “I would highly recommend my agent to anyone” message — see if any past clients mention how the agent helped them feel confident during the sale or overcame unexpected challenges. 

Agents rely heavily on word-of-mouth marketing, so Reeder says it might be a red flag if an agent has too many negative reviews or too few positive ones. “The lack of good reviews would concern me because everything's getting reviewed. Certainly a Realtor who's a professional should have a few really great current reviews,” she says.

10. How much do they charge?

A listing agent’s commission can range anywhere from 1% to 8% (or more) of the sales price, depending on location, type of property, services offered, and other factors. Many full-service agents typically charge between 5%-6%, and split that commission with the buyer’s agent. (However, a recent industry settlement means it may become more common that buyers and sellers negotiate that commission separately, resulting in savings for the seller). In any case, as a homeowner, you can negotiate that commission rate with your agent before your house is listed for sale. 

Some agents offer sellers a menu of services that change based on the commission they charge. For example, a low-commission or discount agent might offer limited (or no) marketing of your home when they agree to a lower commission. 

When you’re interviewing agents, be sure to ask about the commission they charge, how they split it with the buyer’s agent, and exactly what services you’re getting in return.

Find a great real estate agent with Redy

There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for a real estate agent to sell your home. And there are a lot of agents to choose from—more than 3 million people have active licenses according to the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials.

Redy makes it easy to find, review, and hire a great listing agent. When you list your home on Redy, you'll get proposals from local agents with their commission rate, contract terms, and a one-of-a-kind upfront cash reward. You’ll also have quick access to each agent’s profile and background details, plus a personalized video message so you can get a sense of their personality. And it all happens in the comfort of your home. When you use Redy to find a great real estate agent, you'll be confident in knowing that the agent you hire has the qualities you want.

Get started today by featuring your home on Redy, and let the best agents come to you.

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