Which broker should sell my house?
You’ve decided to sell your house. The big question is: which broker should you hire to sell it? And how do you make that decision?
Some years ago I faced exactly this decision. I listed my house with a broker I knew who was a “big name” in the town in which I was living. I assumed he had a Rolodex of buyers and would parade them through my house.
Guess how many potential buyers he produced for my house? 10? 6? 2? Nope, zero, as in zilch. All the potential buyers came with other agents.
More recently I heard of an agent who worked with a seller for nearly a year, doing a huge amount of work bringing in architects and contractors, checking records, etc., only to get an email saying that the seller had hired another broker because “she sells lots of houses.” When the agent checked the MLS records he found that the other broker’s entire firm – not just the individual agent – had sold fewer than 1 in 5 of its listings in the previous year.
Who actually sells houses?
The table below shows the percentage of a firm’s or office’s listings that are sold by an agent in that office. NOT the percentage sold by the individual listing the property, but the percentage sold by any other agent in the same office or firm.
The numbers are for 2014 for 4 local towns plus the whole of Essex County, for the top 10 offices or firms in each market. Offices, the first table, mean each individual office: so firm A may have several offices in the region but this number is for each individual office. The second table is for all a firm’s offices in the region.
One of my jobs is to look at statistics and decide if they are significant or not. What strikes me about the numbers in this table is their consistency: both individual offices and firms sell roughly 1 in 4 of the houses they list for sale. Which means that some 3 out of every 4 houses are sold, not only not by the individual listing agent, but not by any of the other 20 or 30 or however many agents in her firm!
Does market share matter?
Not obviously. Each city or town has its combination of chains and local brokers. The bigger the area surveyed – as in Essex County – naturally the larger the market share of the firms with multiple offices will be. But the increase in the percentage of listings sold is very modest. As a numbers man I would have to say that I see no evidence that market share is a determining factor in who actually finds the buyer of a house for sale.
So how should you decide who should sell your house?
I was shocked when I first came across these numbers some weeks ago while preparing a presentation to a potential seller. They made me rethink the reasons for choosing a broker. My belief now is that, while there are several factors that go into the decision, the number one consideration should be the marketing plan presented by that broker.
What should be in the marketing plan?
Putting the listing in MLS and holding Open Houses is not a marketing plan. It is the old way of doing business.
Today, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 92% of buyers use the internet in some way during their search and 50% use a mobile website or app. You should expect your broker to have an online presence (including a website exclusively for your home), and a plan for using social media advertising.
Photographs matter! The days of a broker showing up with his own camera, and snapping photos with the lights off or curtains drawn are long gone. You need professional high-resolution photos. At Harborside Sotheby’s our photos have to go through Sotheby’s quality control department.
Other things to look for include floor plans (which can be interactive with photos embedded), a video, which can be narrated, and a professionally produced glossy brochure.
All these things, of course, cost money, but remember that the listing agent is normally getting a commission of 2 1/2% of the sale price. Shouldn’t they be willing to spend a reasonable amount on marketing your house professionally and thoroughly?
My friend from church/synagogue/yacht club/ yoga is a broker: I feel I ought to give her the listing
Ah, the “ought to’s”. How much of our life is driven by ought to’s?
This is often the hardest issue for a seller to face. According to the NAR a full 70% of sellers contacted only one broker before listing their home. One solution is to say to that friend: “I would like you to make a presentation to me to sell my home. Just to let you know. my financial advisor/accountant/spouse has recommended that I get presentations from 3 brokers so I am doing that.”
You may still select your friend, but you will have an out if you decide to choose somebody else. And trust me, every agent has stories of listings they expected to get but didn’t. That’s the nature of a business where there are so many agents. And if you do list with your friend, you will know that you are doing so for business as well as personal reasons.
Who should be targeted by the marketing plan?
The ultimate buyer of the house, right? Well yes, but at least as important, if not more so, are agents of other firms, because they are the most likely source of the buyer for your house. You should ask the agents you interview about their plans for marketing your house to agents of other firms.
Should I list with the broker who suggests the highest price?
One of my favourite sayings is that the market will decide the correct price for your house. It is human nature to want to believe that your house is worth the highest possible price, so it is very tempting to go with the agent who quotes the highest price. And it is not unknown for that one buyer to come along and pay that price. But the chances are greater that a high price will put off buyers. If other agents think the price is too high – and the ones who competed for the listing and suggested a lower price will – then they are less likely to call their buyers to go and look at the house.
You are the customer
Most of us when we are considering a significant purchase do some reasonably thorough research of the product and alternatives. We might look at several different cars or TVs, read online reviews(from a trusted source such as Consumer Reports), ask friends – and then make an informed decision. Yet 70% of us do not apparently follow the same approach when it comes to selling what is for most of us our biggest asset.
The number one goal of Oliver Reports is to make you an informed buyer or seller of real estate. I hope this article helps you to make an informed decision when you decide to sell your house.
If you – or somebody you know – are considering buying or selling a home and have questions about the market and/or current home prices, feel free to contact me on 617.834.8205 or Andrew.Oliver@SothebysRealty.com.
Andrew Oliver is a Realtor with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty Sotheby’s International Realty® is a registered trademark licensed to Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC. Each Office Is Independently Owned and Operated
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