Posting a for-sale sign in your front lawn is all well and good, but you can do that yourself -- without the aid of a fancy Realtor. But what about potential buyers who don't happen to drive by your particular street? Out-of-towners who are moving to a new area usually don't have the time to comb the streets of every neighborhood to find a house. In this age of a limitless information superhighway, it's much easier to break down geographic barriers that connect sellers with buyers. This means your options expand along with your competition, so it's imperative to think beyond the yard sign.
One of the biggest advantages that a real estate agent offers you is his access to resources for marketing your home. Ask each agent you interview to spell out his marketing plan for getting your house sold. A good agent will post your house on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) immediately after signing with you. The MLS is a system of databases which lists homes for sale and gives your house broad exposure to homebuyers.
An agent should market your house in other ways too. Print advertising includes ads in newspapers and magazines, or brochures and flyers like the ones you see in waiting rooms and at the entrances to restaurants. However, one of the most common venues for selling homes is the Internet. According to the National Association of Realtors, the Internet is used to find a home 88 percent of the time. Web sites like Craigslist, Yahoo! Real Estate and Realtor.com have exploded in popularity as places for buyers and sellers to find each other, and there are scores of others you can use. Most realty companies even have their own Web sites where you can search their MLS listings.
During this conversation, you should also find out whether the agent has plans to hold open houses. How soon and how many?
After all this hard work marketing your home, what do you owe your agent? Read the next page to find out what to ask about compensation.