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12 Key Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Agent to Prep, Price & Market Your Home to SELL

Kara Kuryllowicz
May 3, 2019

Sellers need to find the agent that will price, prepare and market their homes to maximize return and create an effective, mutually rewarding sales process.

To help you interview prospective listing agents, REW collaborated with local agents to compile important questions that dig into pricing, preparation and marketing strategies that will create the demand that delivers results.

1) What is your list price strategy?

The list price determines interest and the time the home sits on the market.

“Agents may promise you the highest price, then have to relist it if it doesn’t sell,” says Bryan Velve, RE/MAX Crest Realty, an agent with 30+ years in the Vancouver area. “Agents that essentially win your listing with inflated, unrealistic prices hurt your sale far more than they help it.” If agents list a Vancouver home well below market value, Velve says offers won’t rise to meet sellers’ expectations and buyers may assume the sellers are more motivated to sell and subsequently offer less.

In Toronto, lower prices may generate the competition and multiple offers required to sell at the right price. Sandra Pate, Johnston & Daniel, Royal Lepage, Toronto, also notes that when agents brag about getting 15 to 20 offers, it may indicate the home was seriously underpriced. Accepting the very first offer could mean taking less than the home is really worth.

If your home isn’t correctly priced when first listed, that home may come off the market and be relisted at a reduced price. At that point, the precedent has been set and buyers may sit back and wait in anticipation of yet another price cut.

2) What is the duration of your listing contract?

Typically, 90 to 120 days is reasonable and longer terms in the Vancouver and Toronto markets, for example, six to 12 months, imply it will take much longer to sell that home. Sellers are committed to that agent for the duration of the contract and agents rarely, if ever, agree to cancel contracts. While they may “suspend” the contract, it’s highly unlikely sellers will be able to relist it with another agent before the contract expires. Sellers can ask for an unconditional release that would allow them to relist with another agent instead of a cancellation that locks them in for a 60-day period or until the expiry date.

3) What happens if we get no offers and the contract expires?

 Agents may suggest extending the contracting, relisting or simply taking it off the market for several months.

4) How often do you represent both the seller and the buyer?

Notably, this question applies only in Toronto, since B.C. actually prohibits a single agent representing the two parties in a transaction. Ideally, agents rarely sell the homes they list to buyers they personally represent, despite the many advantages, financial and otherwise. “Why tout it when it’s never an advantage to the seller or the buyer – only to the agent,” says Pate. “It’s incredibly challenging to fairly and effectively represent both parties in a single transaction.”

5) Are you willing to negotiate your commission?

While sellers may consider it a fair question, agents who sacrifice a portion of their listing earnings could make it up by investing less time and effort to close a deal as quickly as possible. Go ahead and ask the question knowing that their response may tell you a lot about how they value their services and how desperately they need your business. “Selling real estate is a business and agents can’t do it for less and stay in business,” says Velve. “If agents are willing to part with any part of their commission, imagine how easily they’ll let go of the seller’s money.” “Commissions are always negotiable, but both parties should benefit.

6) Do you work with a team?

Chances are an agent that sells dozens or even hundreds of homes annually is working with an extended team that will manage everything from the prep and staging to the showings. “Will you be working with the agent you originally hired or half a dozen different individuals and how will that affect communications, continuity and attention to detail,” says Pate.

7) How many open houses will you hold and who will show my home?

When an agent can’t be in two places at once, someone other than the listing agent may be on site. “If you hire me to represent your home, I need to be there to answer the questions asked by prospects and their agents,” says Velve. “It’s basic etiquette.” Buyers always appreciate it when the agent showing the home can respond to queries on the spot rather than waiting hours or days while the agent checks with someone else.

8) How do you help me prepare my home?

A diplomatic, but brutally honest agent will tell you what needs to be cleaned, decluttered, repaired, prepped and staged to maximize interest and price. At the very least, a deep clean and basic repairs are vital.

9) Do you pay for the staging or do I?

In the hot downtown Toronto market, Pate says the cost of staging is generally returned at least tenfold. However, since it costs about $5,000 to stage the average home for a month, agents absorb the cost only if they’re sure the home will sell quickly. “I rely on a professional staging company with design and décor experts – I can’t tell you what colour to paint it or select the furniture and accessories that will show your home at its best,” says Pate. While some agents own and rent furniture and accessories, Velve and Pate suggest sellers proceed with caution. “Cheap furniture, bad art and a fly-by-night stager won’t do your home any good,” says Velve.

10) How will you market my home?

Extend the reach beyond realtor.ca to increase exposure and interest in the listing. REW has a large audience of home buyers with alerts set up to find a home that matches their criteria. Increasingly, agents rely on social media, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, but Pate is also a big believer in emailing everyone in her database as well as traditional media. “Someone I know may know someone that would be interested in buying this home,” says Pate. “It’s all about sharing the information.”

11) How many homes of this type have you sold in this price range and neighbourhood?

The more relevant experience and expertise the agent can apply to pricing, preparing and marketing the home, the greater the return on your investment in your critical asset. New agents are also an asset as they will bring commitment and dedication to you and your family.

12) Do you know buyers that may be a good fit for my home?

Savvy agents will leverage the networks they’ve spent years developing to access prospective buyers via colleagues and past and present clients as well as friends and acquaintances. They build relationships that provide insights into when clients may need to upsize to accommodate a growing family or scale down as their kids leave home and retirement looms.

Do your homework, save this list and get ready to ask the 12 questions that will deliver the agent and results you need!

Kara Kuryllowicz
Kara Kuryllowicz is a Toronto-based writer with 30 years of experience writing and editing for a wide range of magazines, websites and corporate clients. She has a long-term interest in real estate, as a journalist, homeowner and landlord with investment properties. She is fascinated by the Greater Toronto Area real estate market and is equally interested in how the Toronto market affects seasonal and second homes.