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Three Questions to Ask a Listing Agent

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The fall market is a-foot in Guelph, and people are once again turning their attention to buying and selling homes. Things have changed, though, as everyone knows. We had a wild Spring market, the after-shocks of which we’re still experiencing on a few levels. The summer was quiet in accordance with seasonal averages. And now… here we are.

Today, we’re in a balanced market. Nothing has crashed; prices are not steeply declining… we’ve just returned to Buying and Selling environment that we used to call “normal.”

If you’re buying a home, this pretty much means only good things. You might see a nice up-tick in inventory now. Yes… actual homes for sale to go and see! Conditions? Yes, use them in your offers whenever possible and conduct necessary due diligence.

For Sellers, it’s a little more complicated, and here’s why. In the wild Guelph market of early 2017, folks were selling their homes with little to no effort. Realtors, even those who rarely list properties for sale or who were newcomers to the business, were achieving great success with listing homes – most of which sold in competition and with few or any conditions.

In the summer, we saw things change. Within a two-week period, it seemed like the market had finally responded to the craziness. Things cooled – and then we entered Closing Season. That was fun…. We saw plenty of Buyers who had overpaid for properties simply walk away from their purchases – a combination of Buyer remorse and banks drawing the line on appraisals. Homes that listed at the tail end of the wild Seller’s market landed in trouble. Many had been listed with little or no fanfare – based upon the expectation that they’d just “sell themselves.” Well, plenty of those homes didn’t sell. They lingered; some price-reduced, some re-listed, and some Sellers just gave up and chalked it up to “the market.”

So, here we are and the season is getting busy. Sellers are out interviewing Realtors and trying to decide how and when to go on market. My advice? Ask any potential Realtor the big 3:

  1. Tell me about your experience as a Listing Agent. That’s question number one, and it’s important. There may not be any right or wrong or perfect answer, but as a Seller you should try to get a handle on just how skilled your Realtor is at listing properties for sale. Some agents gladly refer to themselves as Buyer’s Agents and prefer to work on that side of the fence. Are they ideally-suited to market and sell your home? Not really. Ask any Realtor you speak with to detail their experience working with listings, ideally those in your area. Ask for recent Seller references. Treat this decision for what it is: a chance to hire someone to help you sell your extremely important asset.
  2. What, exactly, are you going to do to market and advertise my property? Strong Listing Agents have never taken the approach of simply sticking a For Sale sign in the yard and waiting for offers – although earlier this year, it probably could have sufficed in some cases. Not now. Buyers are out and looking – but they’re taking more time and they’re carefully considering their options. Again: balanced market. So – what is a Realtor going to do to market and sell your home? Is Staging a part of their strategy? What about photography and video? Online marketing? Where will they advertise – and will there be a targeted plan to reach GTA buyers who are still coming this way in search of more “affordable” housing. Here again, there may not be a simple right answer, but a good example of the wrong one is: “We’ll put it on the MLS and do some open houses and it’ll sell.” Maybe – maybe not.
  3. How can you help me ensure that the sale goes through? This question has arisen out of the early 2017 market. Many Seller agents were advising their clients to accept offers from Buyers without asking what, to me, seems like very basic information: What is your clients’ financial picture? Who is their lender? How much are they putting down on their house? And so forth. As Listing Agents, we – now, more than ever – have to ask tough questions in order to protect our clients’ interests. If a Buyer’s Agent can’t tell me who their client’s lender is, I see red flags. A strong Listing Agent isn’t just thinking about selling and getting a great price for your home; they’re also thinking about managing the process from start to finish in such a way as to do everything possible to ensure the home actually closes.

For Sellers who are interviewing agents, please be sure you are entrusting your largest asset to a true expert. If you’re talking to one, you’ll know it – because they’ll have rock-solid answers for all three of those questions. You’ll conclude your meeting feeling like you’ve learned a lot.

Enjoy the fall market, everyone!