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What to look for in a real estate agent

Profile photo of Samantha Thorne
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Samantha is a Sydney-based real estate and home improvement writer. She is currently Head of Marketing at OpenAgent.

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Not sure of the right characteristics to look for in a real estate agent when selling your home? Take some advice from those who have been through the process lately.

A recent survey by property research group CoreLogic RP Data reveals some key traits that satisfied home sellers across Australia appreciated in their real estate agents. In the sellers’ opinions, recorded in a report entitled 2015 Consumer Perceptions of Real Estate, a good agent had to:

  • Be Professional: Agents demonstrated this crucial behaviour by being proactive, pre-empting the sellers’ needs and delivering as promised. Professional agents did what they said they would do and were respectful.
  • Provide regular feedback: Sellers stressed the value of agents who were proactive about delivering a transparent sales process and who used data-based insights to support their processes. The study revealed that the more information an agent shared with his or her clients, the more satisfied the client was likely to be with the end result. Unfortunately, it also found big gaps in the information agents presented to their clients. Useful information included local auction clearance rates and average time on market, but these were the least shared pieces of information by agents.
  • Be completely honest: And that’s with both sellers and buyers, especially around the expected sale price and even when the news is not good.
  • Be friendly and approachable: Home sellers appreciated agents that were easy to talk to and who they could ask questions at any time. A good agent should not always be in a rush and should take the time to address your concerns as they come up.
  • Know the market: Sellers felt confident they were in good hands when agents clearly demonstrated their market expertise, showed them the data they had used to determine price estimates and took the time to explain market behaviour to them.
  • Provide advice and help: Home sellers highly valued advice on presenting their homes in the best possible light especially when this included recommendations on what work was needed to improve the property.
  • Have well-honed marketing and sales techniques: Your agent needs to know how to get as many potential buyers as possible through your front door and should have a solid strategy on how to get the best outcome for your particular home.
  • Be on your side: Vendors felt championed by agents who negotiated hard on their behalf and offered to assist them with the purchase of their next home. These agents also took into account the stress of selling or were respectful of the seller’s personal circumstances.
  • Be thoughtful: Would-be sellers were impressed by agents who demonstrated thoughtfulness – for example, by ensuring multiple agents were located around the home during open inspections or by offering bottles of water to buyers on hot days or giving sellers a thank you gift at the conclusion of the sale.
  • Have strong negotiation skills: Just over one in 10 sellers in the study rated their agent’s skills as a negotiator as poor.
  • Stay around at the end: Many sellers said they felt their agents dumped them as soon as the ink was dry on the contract. Clients of agents who stayed in touch were more likely to be delighted and recommend these agents to friends. Remember that the relationship is not over until the new buyer has moved into the home.

Interestingly, the study found that the agent’s gender made no discernible difference in the final result of the sale. On the other hand, there were some marked differences in satisfaction levels achieved by male and female agents in some particular areas.

Female agents, for example, had higher scores when it came to exceeding the expectations of their clients and were more likely than male agents to have their sales skills rated as excellent. However, female agents also had a higher proportion of clients who reported being disappointed with their service.

Female agents were also seen to outperform their male counterparts in the skills of handling open houses for inspections, providing regular feedback, the following up of potential buyers and leads and in negotiation skills. The preparation levels of sellers who used female agents were also higher.

However, the study’s report warns against assuming an agent will be better based simply on gender. It advises sellers to be clear on the type of selling experience they expect and to select an agent who demonstrates these skills first and foremost.

Most agents selected by sellers in the survey were highly experienced. Indeed, agents with less than five years’ experience were chosen by just 13 per cent of respondents. That said, sellers with the least experienced agents were found to be the most likely to have sold their properties above the expected sale price with some commenting that a lack of experience was made up for by enthusiasm, commitment and professional behaviour as agents sought to prove themselves.

You can’t afford to choose the wrong agent when selling your home. It’s likely to be one of your biggest assets and the price you get for it can make a huge difference to your future wealth. It’s vital to take time and care in making your selection, and to learn from the mistakes of others.