At this time of year many people in New Jersey start to think about making a move and hiring a realtor to sell their home. What can you do to help ensure the best outcome? And how do you choose a realtor who is the best fit for you? 

For most sellers a great outcome means the highest price, best terms and choosing a closing date that is ideal for them. The key to maximizing your results is an effective partnership based on an understanding of what you can control as the client, what your agent can control and the forces that neither of you have any control over.

As a seller, you can control:

  • Asking Price
  • Condition of the Home
  • Terms in Selling the Home
  • Accessibility
  • Speed of Follow Through

Your agent can control: 

  • Visual Story of Your Home
  • Marketing
  • Negotiations
  • Communication/Customer Service
  • Speed of Follow Through

No One Can Control:

  • World and Local Events
  • Economic Forces
  • Stock Market
  • Interest Rates
  • The Prices Your Neighbors Choose to Accept for Their Homes

Keeping this framework in mind creates a great foundation, but what are the right questions to ask when interviewing an agent? Here are some that will help you make sure that you choose the best agent for you.

How long have you been in the business?

Agents tend to learn on the job. So generally, the more sales an agent has completed, the more they know. The length of time an agent has been in the business can mean the difference between knowing how to handle a difficult situation or not recognizing the signs of a potential problem before it develops into a crisis. Many agents continue to take courses and attend seminars throughout their career to further their knowledge base. Many new agents have access to experienced mentors to guide them as they learn the ropes.

What is your average list price/sales price ratio?

An agent’s list/sales price ratio is the percentage that their listings sell above, at or below asking price. Ask the person you are considering what their list/sales price ratio is. An agent who has the skills to guide you with suggestions about how to properly prepare your home, the knowledge of the market to price it well and a system to market it better than others can yield you better than average results. Our team’s listings in 2023 sold for an average of +14% above list price, outpacing market averages in SOMA by several percentage points. (2022 LP/SP Maplewood average 111.29%, SO average 110.58%.)

 How long do your homes take to sell?

Having your home on the market can be inconvenient. You will need to keep it in showing-ready condition and vacate the home for showing appointments, so shortening marketing time is ideal for most sellers. How long a home stays on the market is also a huge factor in your success. In realtor speak we call this “days on market”– how many days from the time your home hits the market until it goes under contract. Homes that sell quickly tend to exceed or retain asking prices. So look for an agent whose listings sell faster than market average. In 2022 in SOMA most homes were on the market for an average of 22 days. Our team’s days on market average for last year was only 9 days. 

What is your marketing plan for the sale of my property?

As a seller you should know exactly how the agent plans to market your property. You should know the marketing efforts that will be employed prior to listing such as staging, photography and creating 3D tours. After the property has been officially listed, you should know exactly what efforts will be used to market the property. Many agents use real estate websites, social media, email marketing, open houses among other tactics. Agents with systematized marketing plans and great connections to other agents, both local and out of state, provide greater opportunities for exposure to the greatest number of potential buyers.

Can you provide references?

All agents will have references that you can call. You should check a minimum of three. You might not need references if the agent has a good selection of online reviews on sites like Google, Zillow, Facebook. Ask your prospective agent if they have a list of client testimonials that they can share with you. 

How much do you charge?

All real estate fees are negotiable. In New Jersey, the seller pays the commission for the listing agent and to the agent who brings a buyer. Beware of agents who offer you a low commission fee. You need to understand what service they won’t be providing to you in order to cover that reduced commission on the listing side. You also want to make sure that the fee you are offering buyer’s agents is enough to entice them to show the property so that you can compete with other homes who may be offering a higher commission. 

Can you help me find other professionals for this transaction?

Agents will often supply you with a list of recommended contractors, attorneys, movers, etc. Having access to your agent’s vetted network of service providers and pros is a great asset to any seller. Make sure your agent is able to provide this to you. You should ask if the agent receives any compensation from any of the vendors.

What else do I need to know?

You want to find an agent who will make you feel comfortable and secure with their knowledge and experience. They should be willing to listen, answer questions and counsel you. And they should have a thorough understanding of what you want. There should be open conversation between you and the agent in order to facilitate a smooth transaction.

Choose the most qualified person for the job with whom you think you’ll work well. The ideal agent is the one who will be your teammate throughout the entire process, quickly and honestly answering your questions, addressing your concerns and listening.

Do you have some real estate goals for 2023? Our team would be happy to consult with you. The best part of our job is getting to know the unique needs of each family we partner with and then turning their plans into reality. Do not hesitate to email me at [email protected] to set up a time to chat.

The Allison Ziefert Real Estate Group is a top producing real estate team based at Compass in Short Hills, NJ. We are local market experts, specializing in real estate and homes in Maplewood, South Orange, Millburn/Short Hills, Montclair/Glen Ridge, West Orange, Morristown and the surrounding NJ towns. We are driven by earning great testimonials and referral business from happy clients. You can read our reviews here.