When Should I Hire an Agent? That’s the question every seller is facing. In a hot sellers’ market, there’s no need to hire an agent months in advance. For more information, see the Read More list of topics at the bottom of the page. And, don’t forget to sign up for Ilyce Glink’s Love, Money + Real Estate Newsletter

When should I hire an agent to sell my mom’s house?

Q: I’ve inherited my mom’s house and think I’ll sell it. It’s in good shape and a great location in Charlottesville, VA). 

The information I’ve found on the internet is all about how to find a good buyer’s agent. I don’t see anything online that explains how to hire a great seller’s agent. So, I started asking around.

I talked with two possible seller’s agents

Last Spring, I met with two agents, both of whom had been recommended by people I like and trust. One of the agents quickly said she had a buyer in Massachusetts she thought would be very interested buying my mom’s house. She has stayed in touch and recently I told her yes, I think I’ll sell it this summer. The renters are scheduled to move in mid-June. I haven’t heard from the other agent at all.

How do I know which seller’s agent to hire?

How do I know if the agent with the possible buyer might still want to be involved? Do you think she actually has a buyer in another state who wants to move to Charlottesville? Are there any criteria or stats for hiring an agent to sell my mom’s house?

A: It’s so nice to hear from you. My condolences on the loss of your mom. That’s hard enough to deal with and then you have to clean up the remaining pieces. Like her house, which is rented until this summer.

It’s still a strong sellers’ market – agents are desperate for listings

A: The question about how to pick a seller’s agent is relevant even though 2022 is already shaping up to be a strong seller’s market. Many seller’s agents claim they have buyers waiting in the wings – as if that alone is the reason you should hire them to sell your home.

We think sellers should spend more time and energy on choosing the person (and agency) who will represent you in the sale of this asset. After all, it’s probably the single most valuable asset you’ve sold to date.

Hire a seller’s agent who understands the local marketplace

For starters, you might think about hiring someone who really understands the local neighborhood. They’re not just going to sell your home, but they may have to sell a prospective buyer on the neighborhood and community. Those buyers may care about the school district, local amenities, and proximity to shopping.

Look for agents who list and sell the most homes in the direct proximity to your property. You should interview at least 3 different agents from three different brokerage firms to see who you like and what sort of vision they have for the sale. Drive around and count the number of signs each firm displays. Then, choose the companies with the most signage.

Talk with the firm’s managing broker to get referred to a top agent, if you don’t know which agent to choose.

Ask each agent to prepare a Comparative Marketing Analysis (CMA)

A comparative marketing analysis will analyze comparable homes that have recently sold so you can figure out how your home compares.

To prepare this, your agent will identify similar homes (they’ll probably want to tour your property first). They will look up the sales prices of similar homes in the neighborhood. Based on the list and sold prices, the agents will determine what is their suggested list price for your home.

Don’t miss this step because homes are selling like hotcakes and 40% are going above list price. Seeing actual list vs. sold pricing should influence your thinking about where to price your mother’s property, and understanding more about which agents do their homework and how they talk about comparative properties will help you determine which agent is the best fit for you.

Don’t pick a seller’s agent who offers to do a “pocket listing”

Should you pick an agent simply because they tell you they have a buyer “in their pocket” in some other state (or even the same city)? Nope.

There are so many people who want to buy property everywhere. All agents probably have pocket buyers waiting for a call that a new, well-located property is coming on the market. That should be why you hire a particular seller’s agent. 

Pick a seller’s agent who will give your property a big marketing push

Don’t fall for a “pocket listing” argument. It’s in your best interest to pick an agent who will give your property a huge, public, marketing push. You want the maximum number of buyers to see that the property is available for sale. As part of your interview process:

  • Ask specific questions about how the agent plans to market the property
  • Find out on which sites the property will be liste.
  • Ask who will write the listing
  • Find out if the agent will arrange for professional photos
  • See if they will make a video of the property
  • Ask if they’ll use 3-D Matterport technology

All of these tools help create a robust listing, which will generate showings. Ideally, you want buyers lined up around the block for an open house.

Once you decide which seller’s agent to hire, then you have to negotiate a few details:

  1. The actual price at which you’ll list the property. Since so many homes are selling in a matter of days above list price, agents are starting to sense that almost no price is too high – until it is, and no one calls about setting up a showing. 

  2. The commission. How much of a commission will you pay the agent? How will the agent split the commission with the buyer’s agent? What if the seller’s agent also brings the buyer to the table? Will the agent get the entire commission or is there some reduction? 

  3. When the property will get listed. You may want to list the property immediately or in 60 days. Figure out what is the optimal time to list the property. Remember, you’re going for maximum interest.

At the end of the day, hiring a real estate agent is like going into a short-term marriage. Pick someone with whom you’re compatible, who you respect, and who has plenty of sales in your neighborhood (and in your property’s price range) under their belt.

When should you interview prospective seller’s agents? 

You can decide to hire an agent at any time. Even a few days before you list. Allow enough time to have professional photographs done, create the listings and the marketing plan. But, there’s no reason to hire a seller’s agent six months in advance. If your tenants are scheduled to leave in mid-June and you want to paint the property, clean the carpet, fix anything that’s broken, you’ll be lucky to get the property on the market by early July. If that’s your timing, look to interview agents and get their comparative marketing analysis approximately one to two months in advance of when you want to list the property. Finalize listing agreement details a few weeks before you list the property.

Is it better to list the home when vacant or when the tenants are living in it?

The 2022 market is so hot right now, you could sell now, even with the property occupied. People are buying homes sight unseen. But, talk to the local agents about what is selling and what the timeline looks like. Take a look (online) at homes on the market in your mom’s neighborhood and see what comparable homes look like. Ask everyone for their opinion and sooner or later, you’ll start to see a common thread and that will help you figure out when to hire the agent and when to list your home.

When is the best time to sell my house?

Frankly, the earlier in the year you sell, the better off you’ll be. Why? Interest rates are rising and depending on how much the property is worth, first-time buyers and some trade-up buyers will be interest rate sensitive. Right now, interest rates are one percent higher than they were a year ago. And, they’re going to rise further when the Federal Reserve raises its federal funds rate.

When interest rates go up, fewer buyers will be able to afford your property. At that point, the home may be worth less than it is now. 

Ilyce Glink is the publisher of ThinkGlink.com and the author of numerous books on buying and selling homes. Sign up for her free Love, Money + Real Estate newsletter here