As a successful Boston real estate agent, it always puzzled me how and why some people choose particular Boston real estate agents to sell their homes. For most of us, a real estate purchase is the single largest investment we will ever make in our lives. Still, when it comes time to capitalize on this investment many home sellers are much too casual and have very low standards for the person they choose to handle the sale of their property.
I can cite many examples of poor decision making when it comes to home-sellers choosing a real estate agent, but there is one example from my experience that really boggled my mind.
I received a call from a woman about six months ago who asked me to do a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) of her Boston Condo. (I gladly obliged and confirmed a time to meet with her and to tour her property.) The CMA process typically entails an initial tour of the subject property, comprehensive market research to produce a report, and an in-depth, in-person listing presentation. After meeting the client, viewing the property, doing the necessary research and presenting my report, I was certain that this woman would list her property with me. She disclosed to me that she had interviewed five other Boston realtors and that she was “by far” most impressed with my presentation and me. She cited my track record selling Boston real estate and Boston condos, my knowledge of the Boston real estate market, and my professionalism as the reasons she viewed me as the most qualified real estate agent to sell her home. She also disclosed to me that my service charge was identical to the five other agents she interviewed so “price” wasn’t an objection I would have to overcome.
After giving her forty-eight hours to review her options (I of course sent her a thank you card for considering my services), I followed up with a phone call to see if she had any outstanding questions. To my surprise she told me that she had decided to list her property with a friend, who is also her hairdresser, and sells real estate part-time in a suburb of Boston. My initial shock came from the fact that she decided to list her property with an out-of-town broker, someone who had very little knowledge of the Boston real estate market. But what really blew me away was her decision to list her property with a friend, who not only had very little total real estate experience, but who works part-time in real estate and had never sold a property before! Her exact words were: “She is a very nice person and I would like to help her jumpstart her real estate career.”
At this point she had already made her decision and the last thing I was going to do was to disqualify her friend as a competent real estate agent, so I wished her the best of luck and told her that I would try my best to cooperate with her friend to sell the unit. She thanked me and recognized my professionalism. What I really wanted to ask her was this: If I told you that you had $150,000 to invest, (which is approximately what she stood to profit from the sale of her home), and your friend, who is also your hairdresser, called you and told you that she just started selling stocks part-time and she wanted you to invest your money with her, would you do it?
Fortunately, most of the people I have actually posed this question to have thought about it and answered no. Unfortunately, there are too many people who do not think about their real estate investment in these terms and are essentially answering yes! For some unknown reason many people are much too casual when it comes time to sell their real estate investment, when if fact, most people look to the equity they have in their homes to pay for important things like major home improvements and educational expenses while they own their home.
It turns out, the woman I used in the example above ended up calling me in a panic after her property sat on the market for six months, overpriced by almost 10%. She had to sell the property within 60 days of calling me as she had been carrying two mortgages for four months and was running out of money. I ended up selling the property three weeks later for a reduced price because the property had become “stale” in the eyes of buyers in the market and she had very little bargaining power when it came to negotiating price.
You must have high expectations when choosing your Boston real estate agent and must truly think of your real estate investment as the largest single investment you will ever make in your life. The following is a list of 25 questions that you must ask all of the realtors you interview before choosing one to sell your Boston home:
1. Are you a licensed sales person/broker in the state of Massachusetts?
2. Do you have a licensed broker in your office?
3. How long have you been selling real estate?
4. Do you strictly work as a seller’s agent?
5. Do you have buyer’s agents working in your office?
6. Will you offer compensation to sub-agents, buyer agents, or facilitators, or all?
7. What is my liability if you offer compensation to and welcome sub-agents and he or she misrepresents my property?
8. Will you ever allow a buyer or another agent to enter my home without you being present?
9. Is selling real estate your full-time job?
10. How much real estate have you sold in my neighborhood in the past year?
11. Can you provide 5 references of people you have sold for in the last year?
12. How many listings do you currently have under contract?
13. What is the “average days on market” for all of your listings over the past year?
14. What is the average ratio of asking price to sales price for the last 10 properties you have listed?
15. What differentiates you and your company from your competition?
16. How will you arrive at an appropriate suggested asking price for my home?
17. How and where will you market my property?
18. What is your service fee?
19. What services are included in your fee?
20. What is the length of your listing contract?
21. Is your contract an exclusive listing contract?
22. Are your real estate forms in compliance with the laws in Massachusetts?
23. What professional real estate organizations do you and your company belong to?
24. What is the state of the Boston real estate market? Is this a good time to sell?
25. What properties would I be directly competing with if I put my property on the market today?