Need Advice - we can't make up our minds

jen18eFebruary 19, 2011

This is a weird deal for us. As a family we've moved 5 times, so we are not strangers to dealing with realtors. Usually we interview 2 or 3 tops, and find someone we really like.

But over the past few weeks, we've interviewed seven realtors, and we still are not happy with our choices to list our home.

I've been reading a lot of the posts, especially regarding the services that people get from their listing agents. It seems that most of you are in areas where the realtors are accustomed to doing more than just putting a sign out front and listing on the MLS. But of the realtors we've spoken to, none of them seems to be able to tell us what else they would do to market our home. I have asked each of them this question, and the best answer I got is, "Well, I know all of the other realtors working this area..."

But there were no other specific ideas about how to market the house, even when we specifically ask for them.

Two of the agents we called gave us values for our home over the phone without ever seeing it. They were both the exact lowest value on zillow, that has a value range of $70,000 bewteen low and high values for our home. They said they don't need to see it to value it...

They have weird ideas, too. One of them insists he needs a 12 month contract?! His rationale - "Our office is averaging 10-12 months for a sale."

Another told us we should buy another home and move out so this one can be shown 24/7. She insists it will only take 3 months to sell our home...

We were considering it, and the Buyer's agent who is showing us possible new homes told us that is "nuts" - she thinks it will take at least 6 months, and not to take any listing agent who does not list on, because she says that is really important. But none of the listing agents we spoke to seem to agree with her.

In addition, two insist that we accept dual-agency, which our lawyer told us is a terrible idea.

The last agent who tried to talk us into agreeing to dual-agency told us that of course she would looking out for our interests first, which seems a pretty strange statement, since a dual-agent serves both parties.

We are thinking now of listing it ourselves, and offering a commission to the buyer's agents, maybe a half-percent over normal for the area? We aren't sure if that would attract more agents or not. But we could sure use any advice!

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I would expect an agent to list on MLS plus list on and trulia. My understanding is that generally that doesn't require any extra effort from the agent, though, as and trulia pull the listings from MLS. I think you can pay to be able to show extra pics and such but I don't think I would require that in an agent.

I would expect an agent to show me comps(not rely on Zillow) and to come and see the house and see anything that might sway the price of your specific house in comparison with comps.

I would not agree to a 12 month contract. Six months is fairly standard around here. We plan to relist this week and are going with a 3 month contract (however, our new agent doesn't believe in making owners stay with an agent they aren't happy with so favors short contracts).

I would not feel I had to buy and move out to show the house all the time.

Around here, you generally have a choice whether to let your agent act as an intermediary (which I think is what you are referring to as dual agency). The agent then has to be neutral but certainly can't tell the buyer anything confidential you have told the agent. I always agree to it as I want my agent to have the incentive to bring a client who might buy the house and I don't care that it makes her an intermediary (as an attorney myself I think I can protect my interests so maybe you would feel differently). I did once sell to my agent's client (first day of listing so it was a great experience).

I wouldn't right now go FSBO unless I lived in a really hot market but I don't.

In general my philosophy is to find the couple of most active and successful agents in the specific area and talk to them and then pick.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 11:01PM
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WOW, where do you live? Real Estate is VERY regional and what works in some areas doesnt work in others. Realtor dot com is very important in my area and having it without enhanced listings (more pictures, write ups,banners etc) is useless. Your home wouldnt stand out, you would have 1 picture and no write up.(most buyers just bypass that type of listing when they are looking. PEOPLE WANT TO SEE PICTURES) Yes, it costs the agent more money every month to have this, but this is part of what can get buyers to your home in this market and a good agent understands that.

The internet is the most important form of advertising right now. If the agents you interviewed arent using the internet, via real estate search sites, their own website (not web page thru their office),, the local paper, and a host of others, then move on to the next. (Keep in mind, this is regional, so if you live in an area like NYC where the internet wouldnt help at all because everything is an exclusive listing you might have to rethink that).

A good agent SHOULD be able to tell you what they will do to market your home. Sticking a sign on the lawn and putting it in MLS is NOT marketing your home. A well trained monkey could do this.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 8:15AM
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That's a lot of strange and bad advice. I would keep interviewing agents.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 9:52AM
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Go FSBO if you can list in the MLS via a discount broker and if you can get the calls fielded to you. There are many out there now. I found one that was in my state but over 250 miles away. They did a wonderful job - allowed me to write the MLS ad, give my photos, select all MLS drop down choices, etc.

I did this in a down market and had no problem selling. Sold quicker than most of the other comps that had listing agents. Offered 3% to agent that brought buyer which was standard in my area. Got many agent showings. Also got showings outside of MLS via sign and Craigslist ad.

When you FSBO, you can get a custom sign, usually for under $100. I always get one a bit larger than the typical real estate sign. You can put your tel# on the sign, and important features of your home (e.g. #bed and # bath, basement, 1 acre, your te#, web site) You take your own photos, create your own flyer and provide them at a box by the sign. Also I got a lockbox and allowed realtors to see the home without me being present. But would show to non-represented buyers and stayed in the yard while they looked. I even got a sign rider with the price listed. got directional signs and put them on the corners on weekends.

I kept listing on Craigslist approx every 5 days..and would slighly change the add/wording each time to see what worked best.

Also had a website and placed many photos on this site. On the flyer, gave reference to the web site in bold, stating there were more photos there.

In the end, sold to someone with no agent. So no commission owned. Did get an offer from someone with an agent, but worked both offers at same time and sold to the person without an agent. Paid apprx $500 for discount MLS listing. In the end, this MLS listing ended up being one of the more premium listings on It had the colored frame around the photos where most other MLS listings did not. I didn't even pay extra for that.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 10:29AM
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Zillow can be out of whack and it's nuts that an agent thinks that's the way to value a home! I think it only works for homes where there is recent transaction information. Zillow doesn't know if you put on a new roof or gutted and redid your kitchen or built a new garage or whatever...

I'm sorry you've had no luck, and frankly astounded that in this market the realtors you've spoken with aren't working their tails off to make a living. Keep looking until you find someone with some creative ideas and who seems to be ready to actually work to earn the commission. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 11:45AM
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How much experience did these agents have? Are they full time Realtors, or do they have other jobs? I would look for a full time agent who has been in the business prior to the housing boom. Agents that got started during the boom were able to sell by putting the house on MLS and a sign in the yard. More experienced agents know how to sell a home in all kinds of markets.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 12:52PM
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It all sounds wrong except the dual agency. I wouldn't care particularly who brought the buyer as long as a buyer was brought. : )
I personally would WANT my listing agent to also try and sell my home to potential buyers. Motivate them to work that much harder. Say you'll do it if they'll give you .5% commission discount if your own agent brings the buyer. Win/ win.

The house on is a must.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 6:09PM
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Thank you to all of you for your thoughtful responses. We are interviewing another agent in the morning. We'll see how it goes.

This has been a new experience for us. Usually, we have had no problem finding realtors who were well organized, and made it clear that they were prepared to work hard along side us for their money. Right now, we get the feeling that these realtors expect us to work for them, rather than with them.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 11:02PM
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Realtors here don't talk comps much either. - just saying. There are areas where I wouldn't be surprised if some realtors would give a ballpark over the phone. Although most would insist on seeing the home first just so you thought they were doing the job right.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:26AM
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Are you sure that you're accurately quoting the people you talked to & that they're licensed Realtors?

Never have I heard of any agent or broker using zillow for price opinions or anything else;
it's just too inaccurate, & we have better data available to us through MLS.

Never have I heard of an agent suggesting that a seller move out of the house & obligate himself for 2 house payments (well, okay, maybe an agent would recommend this if s/he were representing a buyer who wants this house, but thinks the seller will let it go cheaper if s/he's paying 2 house payments).

Never have I heard of an agent admitting that it took "our office" a year to sell a *properly-priced* house.
If the seller insists on an unreasonably high list price, sure.

Not only have I never heard of an MLS agent saying that isn't important, but all MLS listings are automatically listed on

Never have I heard of an interested agent giving a price opinion over the phone, never having seen the property, unless the seller indicated a desired price that was far above what price any similar property would reasonably bring.

If you've moved 5 times, surely you've run into the dual agency question before;
dual agency is perfectly manageable, & it increases the odds of selling your home dramatically.

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:29AM
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Hello sylvia - yes, I am quite sure. The agents who quoted us over the phone both suggested we look at zillow, which is how I knew where they got the figures from.

The agent who told his office is taking 10-12 months, those are his words. In fact, he told us a "good news" story about a sale nearby which took 9 months.

As regards the dual agency, we are relying on our lawyer's advice. He is vehemently opposed to it. He says there are far too many instances of agents accidentally divulging important personal info - such as how badly someone needs to move - in order to facilitate a sale. In his words - "Even granting sterling integrity on the part of the realtor, it is a bad position for a human being to be in, representing both sides".

As far as the thing, that one has us puzzled, too. I was under the impression that all MLS listings show up there, but apparently that isn't always the case. Perhaps they don't want to extended type listings there, but that has not been what they've said.

Finally, yes, these are actual licensed realtors. The last one has 20+ years experience, 7 in this area.

We've never heard most of this stuff, either. That is why I posted here, to see if anyone else has.

Just as an update, the realtor we interviewed this morning was more promising. Unfortunately, she was almost an hour late ("no gps"), and forgot to bring comps. Normally, that would have red-flagged her for us, but under the present circumstances we are going to meet her again Wednesday.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 7:14PM
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@sylvia -

"well, okay, maybe an agent would recommend this if s/he were representing a buyer who wants this house, but thinks the seller will let it go cheaper if s/he's paying 2 house payments"

I also need to thank you for the example you gave of why an agent might be pushing for us to move out. I never thought of that. I don't expect that is what this agent was thinking, but I appreciate your warning.

You learn something here all the time!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 7:25PM
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Yikes. This is why we always sell our houses ourselves. I know not all real estate agents are bad, but so many are! I even had a hard time finding a buyer's agent. Here I was a cash buyer with a house proceeding to closing and I needed to find my new place fast, and I couldn't get some of them to call me back, and the others didn't have any more information on houses I was interested in that I didn't already get myself on the Internet!

Zillow for comps? Personally, I think agents ought to go look at comps themselves, in real life, just like I did as a FSBO. When we listed our house, we called in an agent like we always do and told her if she gave us comps, we'd list with her if we couldn't sell it ourselves. She did. She looked my house over real good and went back to the office to do her research. The comps came in shockingly low. So I got in the car and drove to them myself. They were nothing like my house! It wasn't really her fault. I know she worked on it. But this was how they looked on paper. I think an agent should utilize Zillow, she should pull up comps from her data base, and then she should actually go and look at them in real life. That's the only way you can really come up with a proper price unless the house is real cookie cutter in a development. 6% commission? It's the least they can do.

Here is a link that might be useful: Smith Mountain Lake Horse Property

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 10:23PM
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Good grief!! She didn't bring comps and was an hour late? No GPS? (I would think that would be a standard business expense for a realtor, like a briefcase or something.)

We sold our house last fall in 4.5 months (which was pretty good, considering the tanking market in our area) and I feel the ONLY reason it sold was because our agent happened to be a dual agent in the transaction. She REALLY wanted the sale to work. We couldn't come together with the buyers, and I thought it was completely over, which it would have been if she hadn't been their agent. She somehow came up with a scenario we both could agree on, and we closed in Oct. She earned every penny of the fat commission she made. Good luck to you...keep trying or do it yourself. No need to pay good money for no service.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 5:35PM
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