[Published Sept. 24, 2015, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]
Regular readers of this column hopefully see the value of hiring a professional real estate agent — specifically a Realtor® — to represent them in the sale of their home instead of trying to go it alone. But how do you find the best Realtor to list your home?
You’ll want to do your own online research (see other post), but then you’ll want to interview your candidate(s) in person. Here are some questions I suggest asking.
1) What commission do you charge? Too many sellers still believe there’s a “standard” listing commission of 6% or more. That went out decades ago because of anti-trust enforcement. There is no such thing as a “standard” or “customary” listing commission. If any agent says there is, he or she is committing a federal offense. It’s not even legal for agents to discuss with each other what they charge. I can only speak for myself. All commissions are negotiable, and I have seen it published that the average commission nowadays is roughly 5.4%.
2) Will you reduce your commission if you don’t have to share it with a buyer’s agent? Most agents will answer “yes” to this question but they wait for you to ask it. My practice is to offer a commission reduction of one-half to one percent when I don’t have to share my commission with another agent. I think that’s only fair.
3) Will you further reduce your commission if I hire you to represent me in the purchase of a replacement home? I think that’s only fair, too. If I’m going to earn a sizable commission on your next purchase, I’m happy to reduce my commission on the sale of your current home, or rebate a portion of that commission if you hire me within the next couple years and I earn a nice commission representing you.
4) Will you pay a referral fee? This question can arise if you have a friend or relative who expects to get your listing, but you know he or she is not the best listing agent for you. A reasonable agent will agree to pay another agent a 25% referral fee, and that could help you to handle the “friend or relative” dilemma.
5) How will you market my listing? You have probably guessed that I’m big on marketing. Normally, I don’t recommend print advertising, although I like to feature Golden Real Estate’s listings in this weekly space. Since 92% of buyers — a percentage that rises each year — begin their home search online, I suggest you look for an agent who has a big online presence. This will include an effective website, but also much more.
6) Do you pay extra to realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow to feature your listings? More importantly, does the agent take the time to enhance his listings on those important websites, or does he just let the site print what they get form the MLS and other sources? REcolorado no longer uploads its listings to Trulia and Zillow, so agents must have their listings on other websites in order for them to appear on these two websites.
7) Do you post — and boost — your listings on Facebook? Facebook is a great advertising medium that I have learned to utilize effectively. For nominal fees, an agent can publish a Facebook post about your house and then pay to have it appear in the news feeds of other Facebook users matching specified demographic and other criteria. For example, I was able to have my posting of a high-end Colorado home appear in the newsfeeds of people living in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Aspen and Vail with certain demographic characteristics — and pay $25 or less to do so. (Agents should also encourage sellers to post their home listing on Facebook and urge their friends to “Like” it so it spreads organically or even virally.)
8) Do you shoot your own pictures or do you hire a professional photographer? It’s not necessary to hire a professional if you have professional equipment and use it professionally. The “gold standard” in real estate photography is what’s known as “High Dynamic Range” or HDR technology. Golden Real Estate obtained HDR software and creates HDR photographs for all our agents’ listings that rival any professional photographers’ pictures. When you look at agent listings on www.REcolorado.com, see if you can tell the HDR photos from regular photos. The difference is most evident in the evenness of the lighting, especially through windows.
9) What showing service do you use? If the agent doesn’t use Centralized Showing Service for his listings, find another agent. That’s how important I think it is to use CSS. They are open 8am to 8pm seven days a week, and showings can be set 24/7 on their excellent website. Also, they have an excellent system for requesting and sending you feedback from each showing.
10) Will you shoot a narrated video tour of my home? It surprises me that in today's YouTube culture we don't see more agents using video to promote their listings. It's the ability to narrate the video that makes it so much better than still photographs. Also, a video allows you to demonstrate continuity, showing how each room flows into the next.
11) Do you shoot aerial footage? Even fewer Realtors shoot aerial footage (or aerial photos) of their listings, but Golden Real Estate has a couple drones equipped with HD cameras capable of shooting both still photos and videos. The video of our listing at www.BlueMountainHome.info demonstrates the quality of these photos and video footage. (Look for the aerial footage at the end of the video.)
12) Will you provide a staging consultation? Although not as important in a hot seller's market, good staging can still help to sell a home or attract multiple offers. Your agent probably knows a stager and should be willing to hire him or her to help you stage your home. One of Golden Real Estate's agents, Karon Hesse, has staging expertise and helps to stage our listings.
13) Will you maximize the data entry of my home on the MLS? More than half the data fields on the MLS are optional. This includes the dimensions of each room and a short description of each. Even the public remarks are optional. You can research his or her current or previous listings on www.REcolorado.com (see other post) but go ahead and ask him or her whether he will maximize the data entry for your listing. I recently showed one listing in which the 2-story home's listing showed only the square footage of one floor and didn't contain any reference to the attached 2-car garage.