What Is a Listing Agent? Why a Home Sale Hinges on Agent’s Expertise

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If you are ready to sell your home, finding a listing agent should be at the top of your list of things to do. But what exactly is a listing agent? You may have a vague mental image of someone putting a “For Sale” sign on your front lawn and showing potential buyers around your place, but there’s a lot more to it.

Here’s a primer on what listing agents do, how agents can make or break your sale, and how to find a real estate agent in your area.

How listing agents help you price your home

How much is your house worth? That’s a tough question to answer. You can enter your address on a realtor’s website and get an estimate, but from there you want to do some fine-tuning – and that’s where a good listing agent can help.

And the risk is high. If you price your home too low, you could lose a lot of money. However, overpricing is not a good situation either. While it may be tempting to work with an agent who says he can get a good price for your home, overpricing can mean that your home languishes on the market for months or even years, making buyers wonder if there’s something wrong with your home and undercut you.

“A listing agent has many duties and responsibilities, but the most important is to price your home correctly,” says Janine Acquafredda, a real estate agent with House-n-Key Real Estate.

To do this, the listing agent will analyze the sales prices, or “comps,” of comparable homes in your area to see where your home should be located and advise you accordingly.

How listing agents help you sell your home

After you have determined the asking price, the listing agent should provide you with a comprehensive marketing plan detailing how she will make your property sell. The plan should include the following elements.

  • Recommendations for home improvements or home staging, if necessary. Yes, these alterations will cost you time and money, but they will improve your chances of a faster sale and higher asking price.
  • Taking photos or hiring a photographer who will be able to highlight your home’s best features.
  • Adding your home to the multiple listing service, where home buyers and their agents can view your property and decide if they’d like to come visit for a closer look.
  • Advertising and holding open houses.
  • Coordinating showings with prospective buyers.

How listings agents negotiate with buyers

Once you receive an offer on a home, it is the listing agent’s job to present it to you and advise if a bargain is needed. For example, if you receive an offer well below the asking price, your first reaction may be to reject it in a fit of rage. However, the listing agent may be able to negotiate with the buyer to raise the price to an appropriate level – or, if the buyer really can’t budge too much, find other ways to sweeten the deal, such as accelerating the closing date or waiving contingencies. These compromises can actually save you tens of thousands of dollars.

How to choose a listing agent

If you are looking for a listing agent, you can find agents in your area on Realtor/Agent Connect, where you can find details such as their years of experience, number of homes sold, client reviews, etc. Don’t just go in to the first agent you meet. Choose at least a few and ask them some questions to assess if they are a good fit for you.

Here are some questions to ask a prospective listing agent:

  • How many homes have you sold in this area, and how long did it take?
  • In what price range do you sell most of your homes?
  • Do you have advice for me about the condition of my home, and what could be improved to glean a higher sales price?
  • What is your marketing plan?
  • Can you recommend contractors, photographers, moving companies, etc.?
  • Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors®? (Realtors must abide by the group’s code of ethics.)
  • Is this your full-time job? (A part-time agent is not a problem, but you will want to gauge her availability during off-hours.)
  • How often will you touch base with me?
  • Are you planning any vacations, and if so, who will back you up?

How much listing agents get paid

The listing agent will not receive a penny unless your home is sold. If it sells, a typical agent’s commission is 6% of the price of the home (usually split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent). This may seem like a substantial price, but consider this. For every hour an agent spends with you, he will spend an average of 9 hours working behind the scenes for you. In other words, the listing agent works hard to earn a commission and get your home sold.

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