Help! Which agent? WWYD?

hadleyFebruary 5, 2009

Uggh. We are shopping for a new sellers agent for a family country home (rural fully renovated antique 3 BR, 2BA, 5 acres, potential horse/small farm) after 8 months on market and about as many showings. Former agent did pretty much nothing but put up a lackluster listing on MLS. Long story there, not worth telling. We've narrowed the prospects to three (apologies in advance for the labeling; don't usually button-hole people, but appeal to the market for our home may be important?):

Agent 1: Has sold two homes in the neighborhood this year. Knows everybody in the area, going back ~25 years. Mature, experienced, approachably professional, boiled-wool jacket and wellies type. Local office of national company, 42 associates, three other offices within 50 miles. Average to better website, average mktg/ad push on internet, print. Long list of comps pointed at our area and niche market to which our property could be marketed. Would like the listing, came twice to view and to present, but not pushing hard for it. Assists only at second showing. Proposed price 77-80% of our former asking price.

Agent 2: Has brought two clients to see our home when it previously listed. Knows everybody in the niche market ~10 years,average to good networking among generalized agencies. Younger, outwardly friendly, little bit of an edge, ski/horse type. Small local specialty agency, 6 agents. Outstanding website, excellent mktg/ad push on internet, print in niche market; all the basics in generalized market. Came once to review and present basic marketing muscle, wants the listing, but has not scheduled a pricing/marketing proposal. Assists showings "sometimes." Didn't seem to think our former pricing was a barrier, but might come down "a little."

Agent 3: Highly recommended by a successful appraiser in the area. Younger, personable, friendly, earnest business professional/Eddie Bauer type. Highly focused on packaging the property to sell. Sold appraiser's home in two weeks last year in a higher-end, nearby town. Has not done much in the immediate area. Moved two months ago from a closing agency to local office of a national company, 200 sales associates. Weaker than average website, mktg/ad push on internet, print. Comps a little lacking in local targeting, niche. Sharp enough to notice that all sales in our town and surrounding towns are coming in at a consistent percentage above recent town assessments. Came twice, called several times, really really wants this listing. Will assist showings if we want her to and it works for buyers' agent. We're pretty sure she'd work her tail off in general. Proposed price 92-94% of our former asking price.

What would you do?

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I like agent 1 due to experience. They've been in a market similar to this and probably know more of what it will take to sell. I do think that also being a knowledgeable seller helps. You have to make sure that your house is the best of all for the price. You have to keep up on what's selling around you as well. I knew when my competition was lowering their price because I watched their listings.

I don't know how far into their web sites you went but take one or 2 MLS numbers from each then google them, does it show up? Next actually use their web site and the search on it, at one time Remax's search wasn't working correctly while we were listed, my house wasn't showing for some reason.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 11:01AM
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I like #1 as well -- seems to have the right experience as well as the most relevant comps.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:00PM
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What's "boiled wool"??

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:21PM
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Can you look at how listings appear in the MLS? If the MLS has public access, that will be how many prospective buyers get their first impression of your property. The brokerage web site is important too, but not as important as how the agent handles the MLS listing.

From what you have so far, I like number two best. I have never put any stock in whether or not an agent assists at showings, but if you are going to ask, sometimes is a very reasonable honest sounding answer.

Number one's only at the second showing smacks of arrogance. Unless you were way overpriced earlier, her lowball pricing may indicate she's interested in a commssion more than marketing your property for the best price you can get.

Number three's will assist showings if you want her to tells me she can't make independent arrangements with her peers.

Then again, maybe I am misreading what you want. If you think that a listing agent should assist at all showings, I think you are making a mistake. As a buyer, I don't want the listing agent present in most cases. The listing agent's presence will inhibit free communications between the buyer and the buyer's agaent. Worse, some of them run their mouths, which is a typical salesperson tatic designed to move the buyer's attention from details that might hurt the sale.

My $.02. :-)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:36PM
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IMO, muddypond is right on in that you do not want a listing agent there to show the home. Buyers tend to get real uncomfortable being followed around, and this tends to push them through the home way too quick. A good listing agent will have placards througghout the home to point out hidden features, that the buyers agent may miss.
Muddypond also has a point that 95% of real buyers will find out about the home when an agent runs an MLS search... Don't place too much emphasis on the company's web sites.
If you have not had any offers on your home in 8 months, then you were overpriced. It's that simple.
It takes a very confident agent to come into someones home and be truthful about what price it will take to sell. He knows very well that there are going to be other agents that will come in higher priced, only to try to persuade the seller to go with them. Agent # 3 is not at the "excitement level" as far as the price reduction goes.

I always end my listing presentation with this, if I know I am in competition with other agents:

Most agents are able to sell your home. So ask yourself the following three questions, and the one that has a "yes" answer to all three, is the one you go with.

1. Can you communicate effectively with the person now, and do you think that you will be able to communicate with him easily in the future?

2. Does the person seem trustworthy? Do you think he will keep your best interests at heart throughout the transaction?

3. Do you genuinely feel that you could like this person outside of the business transaction? Do they seem to hold the same ethics and values that you do?

The agent that gets all "yeses" should be the winner.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 3:12PM
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I would choose agent #2. He's shown your house several times already which means he's hot on your house and is obviously getting buyers for that type of home. He has an outstanding website, excellent mktg/ad push on internet, print in niche market; and HE KNOWS EVERYBODY IN YOUR NICHE Market. Thats where his circle is, he will have the best chance of selling your home and UNDERSTANDS that market. The latest statistic of people who search for a home on the internet before calling a realtor is something like 87%, to me that means an agent that understands the importance of internet marketing is crucial espcially in a niche market AND he "knows everybody in your niche market". No question for me.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 3:29PM
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As long as Agent #2 does not come in way below comps for price, I'd go with him. If you consider yourself a niche property in your area, and he understands that niche as well as a having a great website (as opposed to average or below)... Agent #2 seems like your Realtor.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 4:46PM
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Definitely not #3. I would probably go with #1, but I've never sold in a niche market, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 8:04PM
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I vote for #2, or even 3.

Initially #1 seemed the obvious answer to me but then...that knowing everyone and living in the area forever can work both ways. He may know people looking for what you have, but at a certain price - i.e. he may have also have the buyer's interests in mind even if they come with a different realtor.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 7:52AM
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I would go with #1 but would be concerned he/she is underpricing for a quick sale. Try to get a handle on pricing, which is hard for a niche market.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 10:14AM
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Well, wouldn't you know it. Agent #2 came back saying she would reduce price a little from former but noting that the midrange for this niche has pretty much disappeared...that we "might want to consider not selling [solely] into this market." That sounds like bowing out to me...I'd guess her agency wants to focus on the more active and lucrative high end now.

Agent #3 has come back strong, offering to proactively push beyond her storefront's internet basics--better quality full screen VT, more tags, more alternative placements (Craig's, e.g.), etc., stage the house, nosh up the local brokers, etc., etc.

Agent #1 seems to want to list low and let the internet and other agents do the work. She has several higher-end listings, I think she may just want a quick co-broke at a low price. I can't see asking her to list at nearly 20% more than she recommends--she won't push for something she doesn't want/believe in when a quicker buck could be made.

We have no mortgages, we have already bought land in the same town to build on...oldest is almost ready for college, younger ones have 7 more years to go....

I'm thinking try the go-getter at the higher price and see what happens. For the difference between the two proposals, we could buy a LOT of advertising...not to mention, it is not really worth selling too low as then we would not have the money to build an equivalent, let alone a little better, home.

I seem to be talking myself into Agent #3 despite good advice to the contrary. Maybe I just like her spirit better, IDK. Thoughts?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 9:51AM
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Maybe you are misreading #2. Are you sure she isn't saying she will target other markets beyond your property's niche?
No agency or agent in their right mind wants to turn down a listing unless the property is a real dog or the owner is a known problem child.

If you have to realize a certain net amount from the sale of your property, tell the agents that, otherwise you will be working at cross purposes with your own representative.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 10:59AM
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Hadley, have you done any googling of their MLS numbers? Just because something is on the MLS doesn't mean people will find it.

Have you signed up at any real estate sites? If so, watch a few listings that they have. Go to each real estate site, put the MLS number in, see if it comes up. Do searches on those sites using as close of info as you can say 3 bedroom 2 baths selling for $339k - do their listings come up on the sites you are using? If not, chances are yours won't either. I actually had this problem with my listing at 2 times, 2 different agents.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 2:28PM
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Why would you want to try to talk the very experienced agent into raising his list price all the way back to where your home was already being marketed at for 8 months with only 8 showings and no offers? It did not sell because buyers did not see enough "value" for your asking price, and found other homes that offered more of a "value".
OK, so the experienced agent says it will sell for about 20% less than previously listed, and the second agent will not even touch it.
Agent # 3 wants a listing really bad at pretty much the same price that did not get even a single offer.
I know who I would choose.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 6:46PM
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Good tip on trying the MLS numbers various places to see if the marketing presentation matches up with reality. They all show up, but Agent #2 shows up skimpily on the general RE sites--one listing had no pictures even though I know she has over 20 on her own website. I am also finding as I get into this more that agency 3's presence on the internet seems to vary with the particular realtor--some are very good, some so-so. Agent 3's agency VT contractor actually does a better job than Agent 1's.

Agents 2 and 3 are pretty much in accord on price--a little less than 10% below former price, which comps up reasonably when you look at our town and surrounding towns with the same metro orientation. Neither suggests and we are not going for the original price. (Agent 1 had gone further afield and may be ahead of the curve or just looking for a quicker sale).

Even at our former price, we came in $160,000 below the median value and of $255,800 below the average value of Agent 2's listings--with general RE DOMs hovering around 300 days and the niche at our price point disappearing, I think she knew they would be focusing their ad muscle on higher returns. I appreciate her honesty there and don't take it as a slight on the property itself--just how it should be optimally marketed.

I am finding all the comments and ideas very interesting and thought-provoking as well as helpful. Thank you so much.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 8:59AM
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The best thing you can do is read this site. I listed my house in May 2007, closed May 2008. I started posting here January 2007 IIRC. During that time this place was moving pretty quickly. I don't doubt you'd get a lot of information from reading posts from around that time.

I was selling my house, there were a few other gals as well, Sparksals, patty_cake, Mary, reno fan to name a few. I'm pretty sure that we all sold our houses. Even though I give advice my listing has had problems and it is those problems that make me want to make sure that someone else does not have them.

Photos and a virtual tour are easy to fix.. find your own company to do them.

What I would do is go with #1 and list a bit higher then his current suggestion at 1st, but I would agree to be aggressive with reducing if there is no interest.

Take ours..
Last year at this time we dropped about $10k IIRC - this included a virtual tour with new photos - which never made it online due to going under contract.
We went 2 weeks then dropped more
When the activity started slowing down we dropped again and got 2 offers.
We usually dropped on a Monday. We'd then see how the week went with showings, then decide if we needed to drop again or wait. We knew we only had a few weeks to get a contract, we were not going to miss the chance again. Our market was hot between February & March. I don't know how April would have been but May was slow the year before.

In the end we were over $10k less then the lowest hubby wanted to go but we sold. Had we had to go lower, we would have stayed. There was no way we could go lower then that. We did not have to move but wanted to to get a larger house.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 1:07PM
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7 - 10% 0ff of your original list price was probably where you should have priced at the first time... 8 or so months ago. I can be relatively certain that your market has dropped significantly since then, too.
Do not make the mistake of keeping a higher price, knowing that you can/will drop the price after two months or so. At any point in time during the listing, there are more potential buyers when you first market the home. After you get that first pool of buyers into the home,(usually the first 4 weeks), then you have to wait for brand new buyers to enter the pool. And they usually just trickle in. That is why the number of showings is greatest at the start. Just list it at an exciting price and leave it there, unless the market really takes a nosedive.
FYI, as far as virtual tours and pictures go... once an agent enters the listing into the mls, it automatically feeds to certain sites. It is out of the control of the agent, which sites load up the data from the mls. Some sites only accept a certain number of pics, some sites do not pick up virtual tours... Realtor ,com is one site that we can pay to enhance our listings to ensure that our contact info, the max. amount of pics, and the virtual tour is up there. But as far as the other hundreds of sites go, it is out of the agents control. Now, given that, we can control to a certain extent, how many IDX (internet data exchange) links that we send our listings to. We just can not control exactly how they portay each listing concerning # of pics, ...
If agent #1 has 25 years experience, why are you questioning his pricing? Is he showing you comps that do not add up?
Also, remember, in a hot sellers market, you can price ahead of the curve and just wait for a couple of months for the property values to catch up...
In a buyers market, you should price the home, not at todays value, but you should be at a point where you think the value will be in about 3 or 4 months. (depending the avg. DOM in your area) If not, you will be overpriced in only a couple of months.
Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 4:04PM
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