Want to sell your home? Welcome to the world of marketing. It’s a crash course in SWOT analysis, advertising best practices and the human psyche. Thankfully, you don’t have to mine this field on your own. Your listing agent — the real estate agent you choose to sell your home — should know tips, tricks and strategies that will best market your home, given your local market and current conditions.
But how do you know the Realtor you want has the marketing skills required? We can help. Here are five questions to ask your Realtor, and the answers you should listen for in order to determine if this person is the right individual to sell your home.
Question #1: How would you describe your strengths and weaknesses?
Chances are a real estate agent will spend more time thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of the properties they list than considering their own strengths and weaknesses, but as a seller, you want an agent who knows how to do their best in this competitive marketplace.
Red flag: They avoid answering the question, try to change the direction of the question (maybe talking only about your home) or give overly vague and general answers.
Look for: An agent who can confidently answer what they consider to be their strengths and weaknesses. The key takeaway here isn’t about getting the “right” answer but making sure the agent is self-aware and serious about growing their business. Agents who do this work want to build a career in real estate and, typically, are the agents who are conscientious, consider the details, know their market and are constantly looking to upgrade their skills.
Question #2: Who do you primarily work with?
When a Realtor first starts out, they’ll typically take any business that comes their way. After some time in the industry, agents typically start to refine their target market. Why? “Because you can’t market to everyone,” explains successful Colorado Realtor and investor, Mark Ferguson. “If you try to market to everyone you will become a master of nothing and mediocre at everything.”
Red flag: The agent is vague about their clientele.
Look for: Look for any indication that the agent has put some thought into who they want to best serve and whether or not you fit into that person’s target market. This refinement could be a focus on a particular type of property — say condo specialists, or it could be a focus on specific geographic areas — such as Calgary’s Beltline, or it could be a certain type of client, such as first-time buyers. If the agent is newer to the profession, you may want to put less emphasis on this question and answer and give the answer to Question #1 more weight. A lack of specific target market can be more than overshadowed by a person’s drive and efforts to succeed.
Question #3: How much of your business are referrals?
Would it surprise you to learn that the average Realtor gets 75% of their business from referrals, according to the Outbound Engine? While this number may fluctuate depending on the size of the market it’s a great way to determine the level of customer service this person provides their clients. Remember, the human race is quick to complain and not as quick to praise, so anyone willing to provide a referral to a Realtor is really giving a big thumbs up to this person’s ability.
Red flag: If the agent doesn’t have anecdotal stories about representing a client more than once or starts to focus on other aspects of their business than consider this a red flag. This agent either doesn’t care about repeat business (BIG red flag in the real estate industry) or doesn’t provide sufficient customer service to elicit repeat business. Either way, they may not be the right Realtor for you.
Look for: Agents who focus their marketing efforts on getting referrals instead of finding new clients. Hints or tips could be agents who have their own websites and blogs and provide regular updates to past clients (either through newsletters, emails or other methods). Even newer agents can excel in this area, as their referrals could be friends and family. Why? Because friends are fickle and when it comes to a half-million dollar decision (or more), a friend will turn their back on an agent (even a friend who is an agent) if they can’t trust them to get the job done.
Question #4: What is your online presence?
More than 90% of buyers start their property search online, so that’s where your Realtor should be!
Red flag: If the agent doesn’t have a website, doesn’t believe in emails or doesn’t bother with social media (without a valid reason) then move on to the next agent interview.
Look for: These days even Realtors who once used door-knocking as their primary sales technique (this was done decades ago) are now online. Ask to see your agent’s personal website. Look to see if this website is updated regularly? Does your agent have a marketing plan that includes all forms of marketing, including online? You want to hear and see that they are comfortable with having an online presence (and better still, know how to get attention in a crowded online market).
Question #5: How can you help me prepare my home for sale?
Staging works, but not all homes need to be staged or renovated. That said, every homeowner can use a pointer or two for preparing a home for sale. Ask your agent what you should do — and why.
Red flag: If the agent suggests you do nothing, keep interviewing agents.
Look for: An agent with a commitment to getting top dollar by positioning your home in the best possible way. Do they suggest staging and, if so, do they have a plan on how this should transpire? Some agents will provide these services themselves (for free or at an additional cost) others will make suggestions and expect you to do the work. But even if they don’t consider staging or refreshing the space necessary, at the very least, they should suggest you declutter. The best agents can provide very exact tips on what and how to declutter (and this takes the guesswork out of it).