When you're looking for a real estate agent, you might want to stick to those licensed by the National Association of Realtors, because these agents are bound by a formal Code of Ethics. Also ask trusted people in your community for recommendations. A good realtor will know and be active in your community; this experience is what helps the realtor properly price and market your house.
Once you do have a list of a few referrals, meet with each of them and ask them some questions. The questions will help you assess how well they do their business, and the meeting will also help you gauge your personal rapport. First find out about the agent's list-price-to-sales-price ratio. This percentage reflects the difference between what the agent usually sells a house for and what the agent originally listed the house as. You want this ratio to be as close to 100% as possible. This means that the realtor both prices homes accurately and negotiates well to get that price.
Some other questions to ask are:
- How many homes has the realtor sold in the last year?
- How will your home be marketed?
- How familiar is the realtor with your community?
- What can this realtor do for you that other realtors can't?
- Get a list of references.
- Does the realtor help you find the other professionals you'll need to help sell your home?
- What guarantees does the realtor make?
- What is the realtor's policy regarding cancelled agreements?
- How much time will the realtor spend working on selling your home?
Make sure to review all the paperwork you'll have to sign with the realtor, such as contracts, disclosures and listing agreements. Lastly, you might be able to negotiate the realtor's commission, even if you're told at first you can't. Definitely negotiate the sales commission if you're also planning to use the same broker to buy your next house.