It's probably best to find an agent who belongs to the National Association of Realtors, so you know that he or she is bound by a code of ethics. Ask people you know who have dealt with realtors for a referral. Pay attention to the listings in your area and to how quickly those homes sell. An agent who knows your neighborhood and has worked there before will be able to provide you the most accurate information about the current market conditions. Going to an open house will also allow you to meet the agent personally and “pre-screen” him or her.
Once you find an agent, don’t sign a contract immediately. First, take time to interview the agent to see if this is a person you want working for you. You want an agent who asks you questions and appears interested in your home, so you should treat this like a job interview. Here are some good questions to ask a prospective agent:
- What is your list-price-to-sales-price ratio? (This is the ratio of what the agent’s properties were originally priced (or listed) compared to what the properties finally sold for. It should be close to 100 percent.)
- How many homes have you sold in the last year?
- How will you market my home? Direct mail? Flyers? Online?
- Are you familiar with my neighborhood?
- How are you different from other agents?
- Can you provide references?
- Will you be able to help me find professionals and services I need?
- What guarantees are offered, and what are your policies with cancelled agreements?
- How much time will you be able to spend working on my home sale?
Ask for copies of the agency disclosure, listing agreement and seller disclosures. And even if your agent claims at first that he or she doesn’t negotiate commissions, most agents do, especially if you’re also buying a house through the same broker.
Before you sign any agreements, have a lawyer look over the contract. You will need a lawyer during the closing process, so it’s best to get someone involved early who can advise you along the way.