You probably want representation when you sell your home — most people don’t have the time or experience to sell property independently. And there’s a good chance that you know several people who work as real estate agents. But a home sale is a huge undertaking, and not all agents are equal.

If you’re not an experienced property investor, how do you find the right real estate agent to sell your home?

Where to Find a Realtor

You want an agent with local knowledge and a good track record, so why not start with a drive around your neighborhood? The agents who appear most often on “for sale” signs in your community know what features local buyers want, how your home compares to your competition, and how to price your property for a quick sale.

You can also ask friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations. Look for agents who work mainly in your price range — a high-end realtor might not give a moderate-priced home as much attention as you like. An agent who mainly works in tracts may be overwhelmed with the costly details of marketing a high-end property.

Ask every agent you contact the same questions:

  • How long have you been a full-time real estate agent? Look for someone with several years of experience.
  • How many properties do you sell each year? The top 10% of agents close at least 35 transactions per year.
  • Do you primarily represent sellers or buyers? You want an experienced listing agent, someone who has experience in representing sellers.
  • How will you keep me informed of showings and feedback about my home?
  • What are the terms of your listing arrangement? Can I cancel at any time?

You may want to choose an agent with special education. Some agents also have certifications to show that they’ve completed additional training, including the certifications below.

Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)

The CRS designation is the highest credential awarded to residential sales agents, managers, and brokers. Agents must meet education and sales volume requirements.

One path to achieving the CRS demands that the agent complete 30 hours of education and close at least 60 transactions or $30 million in business in the last five years. Agents who have at least ten years in the business and 150 transactions can get a CRS with 16 hours of instruction.

GREEN Realtor Designation

Agents with this designation complete two days of coursework to find, understand, and market properties with green features. They also have to pass an exam.

If your home has energy-efficient features, consider hiring a GREEN agent.

Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI)

Agents with the GRI designation have completed in-depth training in legal and regulatory issues, technology, professional standards, and the sales process. The education requirements vary by state.

Seller Representative Specialist (SRS)

The Seller Representative Specialist (SRS) designation is the premier credential in seller representation. It is designed to elevate professional standards and enhance personal performance. The designation is awarded to real estate professionals who demonstrate the knowledge and skills essential for seller advocacy.

Special designations mean the agent has committed to going beyond the minimum professional requirements. An agent who has one or more of these may be better equipped to handle your sale, but that’s just one trait of several you’ll consider when choosing representation.

The Marketing Presentation

Contact several agents and set up a meeting with each one. The agents should present their marketing plan for your property — including asking price range, advertising, staging, recommended property improvements, open houses, and a social media campaign. You'll establish the amount of help you want, the commission structure, and who pays for what.

These initial conversations are good for evaluating the way an agent works. Pay attention to the following:

  • How soon are your calls, emails, or texts returned? And does the agent respond in your preferred style?
  • Do the agent's appearance and speech represent you and your property well? Is this person clean and neat?
  • Does the agent seem authoritative and knowledgeable?
  • Is the agent pleasant to be around? Or pushy, abrasive, or whiny?
  • Do you trust this person?

Don't necessarily go for the agent who presents the highest listing price for your home. You want a realistic asking price, not a vanity presentation. Ask each presenter to justify what they're telling you with facts and analysis.

Real Estate Commission: How Much and Who Pays?

The subject of real estate commissions can be contentious. What's the average real estate commission? What services does your commission buy you? Should you consider a discount brokerage? Who pays the realtor fees?

The standard real estate commission in the U.S. is 6%, but many sellers pay less. Real estate services come at all price points, from flat fee listing services that put your home on the multiple listing service (MLS) but provide no other assistance to full-service agents who show, advertise, stage, and promote your property full-time. The amount of help you want and pay for depends on the home, your experience, the amount of time you wish to spend, and how comfortable you are with the process.

Understand that a listing agent has to split the commission with the selling agent, and 90% of buyers are represented by selling agents. The listing agent also has to split his or her half with a broker and may also pay for advertising and other services.

It's possible to pay a flat fee for a discount MLS listing if you're willing to research your home price, handle your marketing, advertising, and staging, show your home, negotiate your price and draw up your contract while adhering to your state's laws. Or you can try to negotiate a better deal with a full-service agent.

How to Negotiate a Lower Real Estate Commission

It's possible to sell your property with a full-service agent and pay less than 6% in commission fees. Real estate agents are often willing to discount their commission in these circumstances:

  • The market is hot (so a sale won't take long)
  • You're a repeat client.
  • Your house is perfect and easy to show.
  • The price is high (so a smaller percentage is still a good payday)
  • You're an experienced seller and won't require a lot of hand-holding
  • There are few properties on the market, and agents are competing for business.

But not everyone is confident in selecting the best agent or negotiating their commission and services. If that describes you, don't worry. Firms such as Clever Real Estate have turned the traditional selling model on its head. Agents who partner with Clever don't have to spend time drumming up business to focus on selling. In exchange for that service, these agent partners are willing to discount their commissions substantially.

The Clever-negotiated commission for a listing agent is just a flat $3,000 for homes priced under $350,000 or 1% of the sales price for homes over $35,000. Even if you end up paying the buyer's agent 2.5%, your total commission is just 3.5% instead of 6%. On a $400,000 property, that's an extra $6,000 to you.

Best of all, these are full-service agents. So you won't find yourself spending your weekends showing your home to buyers or tearing your hair out, trying to complete a seller's disclosure without help.

About the Author

Ben Mizes

Ben Mizes is the co-founder and CEO at Clever Real Estate, the nation's leading real estate education platform for home buyers, sellers, and investors.

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