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How to choose an agent

​So you've decided to sell your property.

If you want to maximise your investment in your home, you need to think carefully about how you're going to sell it. Most importantly, who will you choose for the task? Doing a bit of research before you sign an agent's listing form can make a huge difference to your ultimate satisfaction.

Why use a real estate agent?

Most people go to real estate agents because they offer professional service, have experience in the process and they know the market. There are many advantages to selling a home through a real estate professional. They'll save you time, leaving you to get on with your own responsibilities. And they can take the stress out of navigating your way through the complexities of the various selling methods. They know what's happening in the marketplace. Agents track sales in your area and measure trends. They can counsel home owners on the best pricing and marketing strategies. They know where to go to gather data such as title searches, land information reports, codes of compliance and easements that will facilitate the sale. And they also know how to interpret such documents. Many legal issues are involved in real estate transactions and real estate salespeople can help you manoeuvre safely through the process and refer you to legal assistance when required. Negotiations are one of the most crucial stages in the process of selling. Most people feel uncomfortable negotiating head-to-head with buyers. Real estate agents have the negotiation skills needed to ensure your best interests are met.

The right person for the job

Picking the right real estate agent is imperative. A lot of people are willing to help you. There are over 200 real estate salespeople in Hawkes Bay, and most would be keen to get you to list with them. But they may not be the right agent for you. It pays to shop around before you choose.

Referral is the best method of choosing an agent. It's not a lot different from employing a plumber, lawyer or dentist. You want to go to someone who is able and capable. Experience is essential.

Alongside that, you need to know they bring the ability to market and present your home. They need to be able to demonstrate effectiveness, with a sales record that relates to that effectiveness. You want to see they have experience selling properties of a similar type and nature to what you are asking them to sell. Get them to give you case histories.

The best criteria is personal reference. It's critical to get someone who you can trust, especially when the market is difficult, because you could be in for a three-to-four-month relationship. Ask your friends who they have had a good, trusting relationship with.

I would be cautious against taking on any real estate person without checking them out first. Don't call a real estate agent's office and simply ask the receptionist to refer you to a sales person. Why leave the sale of your house up to a receptionist?

Don't get hooked by the first person who says you should list with them because they have a buyer for your home. And don't take a general listing, expecting any agent to come along and sell your house. What agent will bother when they are putting all their energy into building relationships with exclusive vendors.

Leave no questions unanswered. If I were a vendor I would ring those references. Do a check-up and ask them whether they would re-employ the salesperson. Were they happy with every aspect of the sale?

So ask yourself, 'Do I feel comfortable about trusting this person to sell my house for me?'"

Another way is to look at operators active in your neighbourhood. Drive around and check out the agent's visibility, indicated by the signage outside homes. Note the 'solds' as well.

Skim through the community property media, to see who is placing real estate advertising. When real estate fliers come through your mail-box, check the agent's name and the effectiveness of their promotion.

Go and introduce yourself to the agents that seem worthy of your consideration. Tell them you are looking to sell and you would prefer to deal with someone who has good knowledge, even someone who lives in your area.

Once you've narrowed down your agents, go to their open homes and check how they present somebody else's home. Do they just stand at the door or do they explain the home's features and benefits? See if they follow up the potential sales lead you have given them. How do they come across to you, the potential buyer? You can learn a lot about a sales person when you come across them as a prospective purchaser.

While this process gives clues about the salesperson's ability to present and market a property, you will also form a more instinctive impression about that person. "Above all a vendor must trust and feel comfortable with the consultant they choose. If you have good rapport with a salesperson, you can form a relationship of trust. Then you can work alongside one another and achieve the most rewarding result for both parties."

A working relationship

Vendors should feel certain that their real estate person is doing their utmost to sell their home. Real estate people who work hard for their clients quickly gain a reputation for that commitment. I often talk to my home owners every day. "It's a very close working relationship. I have a personal assistant so that allows me to work a bit more than the average Joe Bloggs. And I am religious about following up and am really strict about written reports."

I work hard for clients. I look after people. And I am always available to them. Home owners want to be treated as if they are your only client. That means always returning phone calls promptly, and giving them your absolute best. "I am pedantic to the nth degree. I go that extra mile, making sure I have 99.9 per cent of the answers."

The Personal touch

The best agent, isn't the one with 43 offices. It comes down to the person with their name on the sign, who is talking to your buyers. That's the most important person."

Pick the person first, the company second and a process third. It's the personal relationship that counts most.

People are sometimes drawn to the larger agencies with a network of branches, in the belief that they have ready buyers on their databases. However, all agencies, no matter how small, have databases with potential buyers. And they might all be the same buyers.

Buyers don't have loyalties because they are product-driven. They don't care where they go. They will buy from Mickey Mouse Real Estate. We don't have to find the buyers. They find us. That's their job. People become buyers as a result of seeing a house that appeals. My job is to create buyers by presenting homes in a way that's exciting."

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