How to Recognize the Best Listing Agents

By Eric Tyson, Ray Brown

Good agents come in a variety of races, colors, creeds, and ages and may be male or female. All the best listing agents, however, have certain important qualities in common. They do the following:

  • Listen: The best agents know the importance of tailoring the relationship to your wants and needs. Beware of agents who lay out a program without first getting your input. Minimally, you should tell your agent how and when you prefer to be contacted, what you are willing to do to prepare the house for sale, when the property can be shown and when you would ideally like to close the transaction. Remember, you’re the boss. Be sure your agent knows it.
  • Educate you: Your agent knows the selling process and carefully explains each step so you understand exactly what’s happening at all times. Agents should be patient, not pushy. A good agent never uses your inexperience to manipulate you.
  • Enable you to make good decisions: Your agent always explains what your options are so you can make wise decisions regarding your best course of action.
  • Advise you if they think you should add other experts (property inspectors, lawyers, and so on) to your team: Experts don’t threaten a good agent. The agent’s ego should always be secondary to the primary mission of serving you well.
  • Voluntarily limit themselves geographically and by property type: Good agents know that trying to be all things to all people invariably results in mediocre service. Even though real estate laws are the same throughout your state, different areas within the state generally have radically different market conditions, local zoning ordinances, and building code restrictions.

Agents go out of their area of geographical or property expertise for one of two reasons: because they’re greedy or because they’re too darn inept to know better. Whatever the reason, avoid such agents like the plague.

  • Are full-time professionals: To reduce the financial impact of changing jobs, many people begin their real estate careers as part-timers, working as agents after normal business hours and on weekends. Such an arrangement is fine for the agents but not for you.

One of the first questions to ask any agent whom you’re considering working with is “Are you a full-time agent?” Just as you wouldn’t risk letting a part-time lawyer defend you, don’t let a part-time agent represent you.

  • Have contacts: Folks prefer doing business with people they know, respect, and trust. You can make use of your agent’s working relationships with local lenders, property inspectors, lawyers, title officers, insurance agents, government officials, and other real estate agents.
  • Have time for you: Success is a two-edged sword. An agent who’s already working with several other sellers and buyers probably doesn’t have enough surplus time to serve you properly. Occasional scheduling conflicts are unavoidable. If, however, you often find your needs being neglected because your agent’s time is overcommitted, get a new agent.
  • Are technologically savvy: Good agents know how to use technology to get the job done. They (or their staff) know how to use the Internet to make property searches, can put listing information about your house on a variety of websites, and routinely use digital cameras and desktop publishing software as marketing tools. They understand the importance of staying in close touch with you and their other important contacts via cellphone, email, or some other yet-to-be-invented high-tech tool that works immediately if not sooner.

Some agents think technology has replaced human interaction. They’re wrong. A geek who spends all his time in the office hiding behind a computer is the wrong agent for you. A good real estate agent harnesses technology to make more efficient use of her time, maximize your property’s exposure, and stay in closer touch with clients and others involved in real estate transactions. Personal relationships still are critically important.