There are few people you hire in life more important than real estate agents. But when it comes time to sell your home, determining if you’re getting an agent worth his salt, not to mention his commission, can be a challenge. We asked some local experts to share practical tips on what you should expect from a good agent.

Larry Levy of Janet McAfee Realtors lists the most important aspects of an agent’s work as communication, establishing trust, follow-through, and taking care of the real estate side from A to Z, “so that it’s less stressful for the client.” Specifically, Levy recommends agents hold open houses weekly for new construction and run ads once or twice a month in the same publication to create continuity and grab reader attention.

Also important these days is having a strong Web presence, the pros agree. “I think online presence should be as focused as possible within the reach of prospective buyers, include your own personal Web site, the company site,, and,” Levy suggests.

Dave Robb of the Robb Partners of Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty says most successful full-service agents will offer a similar set of tools in their marketing program. “The difference, what sets agents apart, is the extent of the investment they make in selling the client’s property, their individual expertise, and the visibility and accountability to the client for ongoing marketing efforts,” he enumerates. “This should include an Internet strategy; top-quality, professionally printed marketing materials; an extensive print advertising commitment; vigorous networking and follow-up; and open and honest communication with the client.”

Robb believes open houses are not a particularly effective tool in selling a house. Serious, qualified buyers prefer private showings, he says. Robb says his agency prices every job individually, based on what will be involved to market and sell the property in question, so it reflects the investment they make in terms of advertising, marketing materials and time. As for what kind of strategy may work in the current market, he says, “Right now it’s about price, timing and patience, and it’s about working hard to get property sold.”

On the subject of discount brokers versus regular firms, Robb says, “Discount brokers offer a solution that may be appropriate for some sellers, but the fact is that at a discount, you simply cannot offer the same investment in helping someone sell their home. One discount broker said he spends four hours on an average listing. I spend more than that putting together a pricing strategy! If you look at the amount of time you’re going to get from a full-service agent, the ‘discount’ doesn’t seem like such a bargain.”

Bob Bax, broker manager of Coldwell Banker Gundaker’s Clayton office, offers a list of the realtor’s responsibilities that he dubs the ‘five p’s’: “preparing the property and seller for negotiating challenges; promotion with the public and the brokerage community; providing feedback once the house is on the market; procuring the sale through effective negotiating skills; and planning the details of the closing.”

Having someone who is very familiar with a given area is a definite plus, Bax adds, since that agent may know what’s going on in the area before a person reads about it in the paper or sees it online. And staging is an even more critical factor in today’s market. “There’s been a proliferation of staging companies as the market has become more challenging this past year,” Bax notes. “Most of the builders are doing it. A house will show, in my opinion, better furnished and staged than vacant.”

Another thing to consider is absorption rate, which is how many houses have sold in the last six or 12 months compared with how many are currently on the market. “It’s looking at demand versus supply and matching that with what’s on the market,” Bax explains. “We probably wouldn’t take a listing for three months if there was a six-month inventory currently on the market.” Sellers in today’s market may be in for the long haul, but with a committed agent, a house can still yield a fair price.

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