According to the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO), there are over 3 million real estate agents with active licenses in the United States, so how do you find a great one? Finding the right real estate agent to sell your biggest investment can feel like a crapshoot if you don’t know what to look for. We dug into the research and spoke with top agent Miranda Biedenharn from Dayton, Ohio, for expert advice and actionable tips on how to pick a real estate agent committed to your best interests.
What makes a great agent
With all the agents working in the business, how can you find a great one? Biedenharn, a top agent who works with over 76% more single-family homes than the average Dayton agent explains “We all have the same toolbox to navigate the process; [what makes a great agent] is how they manipulate the tools to work in your best interest.”
Biedenharn believes the following agent qualities can help sellers get over the top [in a real estate deal]:
- Communication level
- Connectedness to other agents in the area
- Level of expertise
- Education level, such as additional certifications
What makes a top agent
A top agent is a real estate agent or Realtor® who has earned recognition for being a top producer. Top producers can earn their status from organizations that rank real estate agents such as real estate associations, trade organizations, media outlets, and real estate technology companies such as HomeLight based on analyzing the following metrics:
- Sales volume: total price of homes sold in a given year
- Units sold: number of properties sold annually
- Days on market: how many days the home stayed on the market
- Transaction sides: number of buyer or seller side transactions
- Gross commissions: earned commissions before payouts
Knows the local area
A great agent has hyperlocal experience in the neighborhoods where they sell properties. They’re aware of the best schools, crime statistics, and the prices homes are selling for block to block. They also know the selling price of homes in your community versus the community around the corner.
They have the knowledge of amenities in your specific neighborhood that are in high in-demand such as built-in pools and large backyards in family-friendly suburbs, which are key bits of information for attracting buyers.
Suggests upgrades that increase home value
Buyers will pay 7% more for homes with better curb appeal, according to HomeLight’s survey, Top Agent Insights for New Year 2022. An experienced agent knows that improving basic yard care will bring a 539% ROI and increase home value by $4,500 on average — and giving a tired exterior a fresh coat of paint will cost around $3,000 but will boost resale value by an average of $7,500.
For the interior, good agents recommend inexpensive upgrades that appeal to buyers such as swapping outdated fixtures and hardware for more modern lighting, kitchen and bathroom faucets, and cabinet pulls and knobs.
Connects sellers with local professionals
Whether your house needs home improvements such as repainting, a new garage door, a new bathroom fixture, a good power washing — or your driveway paved and your landscaping improved — a good agent has a network of contacts in their address book they can recommend. These can include contractors, plumbers, handypersons, deep cleaning professionals, home organizers, stagers, and many more home professionals to get your home in pristine condition and good repair.
Plans a winning marketing strategy
Expert agents have a collection of proven marketing strategies and sales techniques in their toolbox. They advertise on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the largest database of real estate listings nationwide, and also post their clients’ listings on real estate websites, social media, and other advertising outlets.
Key marketing strategies top agents recommend to sell homes faster and at higher price points include:
- Taking professional photos
- Decluttering and deep cleaning
- Staging a home for a quick sale
- Writing enticing listing descriptions
- Recommending paint colors that sell houses
Negotiates real estate deals with skill and grace
One of the biggest ways an expert agent can help a seller is by negotiating a real estate deal. An experienced agent who knows the market “has that knowledge that you don’t have as a seller,” says Biedenharn.
As an example, a buyer can offer a seller their asking price and try to work closing costs into the deal. But an agent who knows we’re in a seller’s market will turn around and tell the seller that I won’t let you pay a penny of the buyer’s closing costs. Instead, they can offer the buyer furniture that caught their eye that the seller plans on replacing when they move––for instance, the dining set and living room sofa.
As another negotiation strategy in a seller’s market, an adept agent can work an appraisal gap guarantee into the deal if a buyer plans to finance the home purchase. This protects the seller by having the buyer pay the difference between the purchase price and the appraised value if the home appraisal comes out too low.
Clients need to prioritize where they’re at in the process of selling their homes, knowing exactly what it is they’re looking for so when they get with an agent they can make the best decision about who’s the best fit for them.
- Miranda Biedenharn Real Estate AgentCloseMiranda Biedenharn Real Estate Agent at Comey & Shepherd Realtors Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 18
- Transactions 455
- Average Price Point $130k
- Single Family Homes 405
How to pick a real estate agent
Know your selling goals
The first step in picking a real estate agent is to know your selling goals. “Clients need to prioritize where they’re at in the process of selling their homes, knowing exactly what it is they’re looking for so when they get with an agent they can make the best decision about who’s the best fit for them,” says Biedenharn.
Sellers can look to real estate agents for input such as negotiating the occupancy date into the contract that works for them (that Biedenharn says is a big one in this market). Finding an agent who suggests putting an extra week into the contract for you to have to move out — instead of the day following closing — might make you realize they’re a professional who has your best interests in mind.
Ask agents about their specializations
Specialists in the real estate industry receive training and certifications that make them more qualified than an agent without that credential.
A few real estate specializations include:
- Seller Representative Specialist (SRS): a two-day course designed to enhance selling performance and professional standards
- Certified Residential Specialist (CRS): 16 to 30 hours of education plus annual continuing education
- Military Relocation Professional (MRP): a one-day course and webinar designed to address military relocation, timelines, and stressors
- Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES): a two-day training focusing on housing options in age-restricted communities, the use of pensions and retirement in real estate transactions, and how to protect clients from loan fraud
Verify agent track records
A good agent should not make you work to learn about their [sales history],” says Biedenharn. “They should bring it to the table for you. She says, “that would be something I would look for as a client, how prepared [that agent is] to respond, and to back it up with some kind of data.”
“If I wanted to research an agent’s sales data, I would look on real estate websites to see if agents have logged in their sales data.” Biedenharn says, “Real List is one of them and RPR is probably another one that clients can get into as well.”
Biedenhard says you can also find sales information about agents on county record websites. “Some counties log the agent’s information as far as being affiliated with that sale.”
Check online reviews
Reviews are going to be another big one, says Biedenharn. “I would say most agents are putting their reviews either in Google and [real estate websites].” One, for example is HomeLight’s customer reviews.
“You’re going to find your best reviews on these pages because they come directly from the clients versus potentially some third party.” Make sure to check the agent’s local market experience, sales records, and days on market data.
Get referrals from people you know
Another way to find real estate agents is to ask the people you know. If you have friends who have sold their house recently and had a great experience, see if they can make an introduction to their real estate agent. Other sources include your neighbors, family members, and local merchants you chat with at the stores you frequent.
Interview at least three agents
An interview provides the perfect opportunity to “talk to different agents and interview those folks about their knowledge base, share your ultimate goals, and then decide who in your gut sounds like they know what they’re doing and not just blowing smoke at you,” explains Biedenharn. Asking questions also lets you get a sense of each real estate agent’s style.
Ask the following questions
- How long have you been in the business?
- What sets you apart from other agents?
- Do you have any specializations or certifications?
- What is your rank amongst your colleagues in the area?
- How many homes have you sold in my area in the past year?
- How do you plan to market my home?
- How do you plan on leveraging different technology like electronic signatures and mobile notaries if I’m out of the area?
- What are the average days on market for your listings?
- How many homes have you sold in my price range?
- Can you provide me with a referral list?
Find the right seller-agent match
By now you’ve spoken to a few real estate agents, read the testimonials, asked questions, and learned whether they’ve sold homes in your area in recent months. However, you also have a sense of their level of preparedness and their personality style.
“I think the most important thing is the preparedness they come to you with, the level of patience that they have with you and they don’t push you in any particular way that is not necessarily in your best interest,” says Biedenharn.
Biedenharn also recommends looking at what your particular comfort level is with that person. “Because it’s going to be a rollercoaster of a deal; something always comes up in a deal,” she says.
“You have to feel like you can trust your agent at the end of the day, like they have your best intentions in mind, and that they have the expertise and the heart to get you through that transaction.”
Header Image Source: (Dillon Kydd / Unsplash)
- "Real Estate Photograph - A Complete Guide with Examples," Pixpa (October 2021)
- "Seller Representative Specialist (SRS)," National Association of Realtors (2022)
- "Seniors Real Estate Specialist®(SRES®)," National Association of Realtors (2022)
- "Top Agent Insights for New Year 2022," HomeLight (January 2022)