How to Hire A Great Houston Realtor (7 Helpful Tips)
I was meeting with a homeowner the other day who is getting ready to list their home for sale, and it hit me midway through our conversation, “these homeowners have no clue how to go about hiring the right Houston Realtor®.” Unfortunately, the owners believed that all real estate agents are the same and that it merely boils down to the price the real estate agent charges to list their home.
I’m not sure if these homeowners believe that because our professional organizations have done a poor job of explaining the value that we provide or if they had bad experiences previously. Nonetheless, Realtors® are not a commodity, they are not all the same and they do not all produce similar results.
If you are worried about hiring the wrong Houston real estate agent, you should hire them based on these seven factors: their fees, marketing plan, communication plan, extra services, experience, their area of expertise, and if they have the heart of a teacher. Not all real estate agents will provide the same result, and doing your homework can save you a massive headache, and not to mention, lots of money.
Check out this awesome free spreadsheet to help compare Realtors® side by side
Table of Contents
- Compare Agent Fees
- Know Their Marketing Plan
- Communication Plan
- Compare Agent Fees
- Experience is Important
- Area of Expertise
- Heart of a Teacher
1. Real Estate Fees Are Important
So, as I said, fees are the worst way of determining which Realtor® to hire, and then I lead off with fees as the number one item, what gives? Great question my astute reader, and I see why you are confused. Knowing what fees or commissions an agent charges is the starting point for comparison. It is an important factor and definitely apart of your decision making process, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor most people believe it to be.
Lets say for an example you are able to have your agent drop their fees 1% of whatever they charge. The average sales price in the Houston area hovers around $300k so that would be $3,000.
That is not chump change by any means for most people, but what if the right agent that charges the extra 1% can get you another $5k, $10k, $50k or more? They it would absolutely be worth it!
Lets do another example. Imagine you need some new homeowner’s insurance, and you decide to pick the cheapest plan. Is that the best insurance? Probably not, but it’s the most affordable. Does it have coverage for what you need or are there gaps? You probably have lots of holes in your coverage, and you probably have a high deductible as well. And should you need to make a claim? The customer service is terrible.
See where I’m going with this?
You can pick the cheapest Realtor®, but don’t be frustrated when you receive poor service. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
If the cheap option is for you, then you can easily find a flat fee Realtor® who merely lists your home for the lowest possible fee on the MLS. These agents typically don’t negotiate when contracts come in; you have to set up the tours directly with the buyer’s agents, you get little help with pricing, marketing, minimizing risk, and customer service. However, if you need the cheapest and don’t care about any additional services, then that may be the service for you.
According to the 2018 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers when determining which type of agent home sellers chose between there are three categories: 1) “a broad range of services,” 2) “ a limited range of services,” and an agent who 3) is a “flat fee agent” who just put the house on the MLS and provide few, if any, additional services.
Since 2006, sellers have chosen an agent with a “Broad Range of Service” just over 84% of the time. Both “limited and flat fee agents” tend to be hired about 8% of the time.
A limited range of service agent will often provide a discount fee but not as low as a flat service agent. They tend to provide a few more services as well but they vary greatly.
An agent who provides a broad range of services oftentimes works with you to help maximize your return on your investment through preparing the homes for sale, marketing and negotiating. A honey-do–list of repairs and staging tasks will help a home sell for more and often cover the difference between a flat fee agent and a full-service agent.
Another reason to consider a full-service Realtor® is motivation. How motivated is the flat fee service or limited service Realtor® to get you the most money for your home? If a low offer comes in and they have to negotiate to get you more money, how hard do you think they will fight for every last dollar that you deserve?
I once received a call from a homeowner who had her home on the market for six months and didn’t receive a single offer. I scheduled an appointment and toured her house. She had a great house with a lot of positive features: pool, updated kitchen, large living room, one story home and so forth.
I made some minor suggestions for improvements and she completed most of them. We re-listed the house and a buyer came in through the open house, submitted an offer, and we negotiated and accepted a full price contract within seven days of listing.
Her previous agent was a friend who was a discount agent, and she just did the bare minimum to try and sell the home, but it wasn’t enough.
The first area to consider when hiring a professional agent is to know what they charge. Consider what type of service you need: a full service, a limited service or a flat fee agent.
*Note: there is no standard real estate fee or commission. All fees are negotiable.
2. Know Their Marketing Plan
The researchers in the 2018 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Seller asked what home sellers want in their agent, and 20% respondents said they wanted “help marketing to potential buyers.”
We joke in our industry about the triple “P” agents. These are Realtors® who “Place a sign in the yard, Put it on the MLS and Pray that it sells.” I’m up for all of those, but it takes more work than that to sell a home.
The agent should be able to identify the most likely buyer based upon the area demographics and current buying trends. Identifying buyers in this way is important because it will direct the marking efforts.
A home that is in the suburbs with excellent schools has a different selling proposition than a modern townhome in a trendy part of town. The house in the burbs is more likely to have a buyer who is a move up buyer looking for more space for their family. Whereas, the three story home in the trendy part of town will likely will attract young professionals who want to be close to work but around all the hot bars and events. (This is not to say either buyer can’t buy other location but you see where I’m going with this)
With the agent’s marketing plan, you should know more about what they do for social media marketing, print marketing, open houses, and networking with other agents.
It is also a good idea to talk about any pre-listing help they provide such as home staging or design.
Marketing is the top job of a real estate agent so make sure they have a great game plan for getting your home in front of the most buyers possible.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Home Fast for more info on marketing and tips to getting the most for your house.
3. Communication Plan – How Often Will You Hear From Your Agent?
Be sure to ask the agents you are interviewing what their communication plan entails. Imagine you are selling your home on the market and a month goes by without hearing anything from your Realtor®. Would you be concerned? Frustrated? Ticked off?
I know I would and unfortunately, this happens more often than you would think. For some reason, many agents go incommunicado during the listing phase.
I received a call the other day from a home seller who has their home on the market and it hasn’t sold in over six months. She was undeniably frustrated for having to pay a mortgage for a vacant house, but she was more frustrated by the fact that her agent hasn’t called or emailed except for a random text every month or so asking her to drop the price.
Run from agents that don’t have a clear communication plan, otherwise, you just might not hear much from them.
We contact our clients who are listing their home for sale every week and provide them with an update on the marketing activities, showing feedback, website & MLS traffic, and monthly market reports to stay on top of where their local market is trending. This simple email and phone call helps our clients know what is going on, even if nothing happens to be going on.
Make sure your agent spells out how they will communicate with you so that you are informed about the marketing of your home.
Check out this simple and free spreadsheet you can use to evaluate each Realtor®. (need link)
4. Additional Free Real Estate Services
As I have mentioned before, some agents will provide a larger array of services to help market and sell your home. Here is a short list of services they may provide:
Do they provide a stager?
Depending upon what type of agent you go with (broad service/full service, limited service or flat fee service) will net you various benefits. As a full-service agent myself, I provide a complimentary 3-hour consultation with a professional stager/designer because I know that on average, staged homes sell faster than non-staged homes and for more money (The Mortgage Report).
If I spend a few hundred dollars on the staging consultation and it helps the house sell faster for $5k, $10k or even $50k more, then it is absolutely a Win/Win deal.
Why should you get a stager? This article covers the top 23 Houston Home Stagers and the top mistakes home owners make when preparing their home for sale.
Do they provide a professional photographer?
I know I harp on it all the time, but professional real estate photography is critical. 93% of buyers find the home they end up buying online (National Association of Realtors, pg 55), so doesn’t it make sense to have amazing pictures to attract more buyers?
I believe so firmly in professional photography that I wouldn’t recommend anyone hiring an agent who doesn’t have a professional take HDR photography of your home. Don’t even consider it unless you have to take them yourself or hire a professional photographer because you selected a flat fee or limited service agent (or a lazy full service agent).
My photographer uses HDR technology in which he takes the same picture with three different exposures and they are compresses into one picture to make a stunningly beautiful picture.
Do they provide a video walkthrough?
Another thing buyers love is a video walk-through. Great pictures provide an glimps of the condition of the house and what each room looks like, but it is hard to see how the rooms relate to one another. With a video, you can see the flow and size of the house.
Aerial drone photography and video is really popular and can add an extra touch to your listing.
Virtual reality is becoming more and more common and it will soon take over listing pictures and videos. VR video walkthroughs are slowing becoming more affordable so this could be another service your agent can provide.
Do they provide accompanied tours?
For some luxury homes, it is important not to let in any “Joe Schmoe.” That is why it is good to ask if the agent provides accompanied showings. Know that it will lower the number of tours you have, and thus lower your likelihood of selling, but for a luxury home, buyers in that price range will understand.
As you can see, there are a variety of services agents provide, and often these services come out of pocket to market and sell your home. Be sure to ask what additional services are provided when hiring them to sell your home.
5. A Real Estate Agent’s Experience is Important
Okay, let’s get real with about a Realtor’s expertise. Just because they have been in the business for 30 plus years doesn’t make them 30 times better than a brand-new Realtor. Some Realtors with 30 years of experience really just have one year of experience repeated thirty times (that is so profound, I’ll add that to my journal entry today…).
Experience is important because selling and buying a home is often the most significant financial transaction a person makes, and having a professional that has been through a good number of sales and dealt with various problems is vital.
Therefore, I would recommend a real estate professional who has had at least three years of experience and completed at least 20 transactions. You can feel confident that they have a solid grasp of the process and that they have the ability to overcome common challenges.
Does that mean that you shouldn’t use a brand new agent? Not necessarily. I would absolutely make sure they have a great mentor watching each part of the process, and if they do, I would feel more comfortable working with them.
Ask your agent “how long have you been in business” and “how many homes have you sold last year” if you’d like to know more about their experience. It’s not a make or break question but another piece to the puzzle when determining which agent is the right one for you.
6. Realtor’s Area of Expertise
Most agents can help you buy and sell throughout your local area or city. Some agents only focus on a particular neighborhood or market. Sometimes it is great to use them when selling your home.
There is an agent who “owns” a local neighborhood who is the most common listing agent there. This all fine and dandy except for the fact that she’s pretty crazy. She will merely “happen” to stop by her listing while a buyer’s agent and the buyers are touring the home and get personal with the buyers (usually sellers and seller’s agent leave while a buyer’s agent tours a house with their buyer. This procedure is different if a buyer requests the seller’s agent to provide a tour. I can get into representation/agency, but I ‘ll have to write it one of these days).
I think its considerate for a listing agent to provide a tour with all the details and intricacies of a home, but when the agent ultimately is playing 20 questions with my clients and pressuring them to buy, I get perturbed.
That’s truthfully just the tip of the iceberg for this agent, but it just goes to show that not all “area experts” (a self-anointed title btw) are great agents.
However, I would encourage you to interview at least one agent who is extremely familiar with your area or neighborhood as they often have connections with other buyers looking in the area. Also, some areas of Houston like The Heights, EADO and other gentrifying areas really require a professional who has experience with marketing and selling homes there.
Sometimes an agent has an area of expertise other than a geographic one, such as foreclosures, VA loans, walkable hipster neighborhoods, scrape and build new home process, first time home buyers, buyers who are expecting their first child and who like fly fishing on rainy days… sometimes their expertise or area of interest will really help you click with them.
Asking what area or specialty an agent has is a great way to see if they are a good match for you. Interview one “area expert”
7. Real Estate Agent with the Heart of a Teacher
During the Realtor interviews (I suggest three), be sure to trust your gut. If one agent only talks about how great they are and all the homes they sold last month, and how amazing a car they drive, then show them the door and wish them the good luck. Trust yourself because you are stuck with them for the duration of your listing agreement.
I suggest finding a real estate professional who has the “heart of a teacher,” as Dave Ramsey would say. Such an agent would be exemplified by someone who is more interested in what your goals are vs. their monthly home sale quotas.
Someone with the heart of a teacher will be honest with you and tell you that your home is over-priced and that it won’t sell. Another agent may merely tell you whatever price they think you want to help win your listing. After the house is on the market, they begin to incessantly beat you down to lower the price.
Someone with the heart of a teacher will understand the hard work and memories that were made in your home. Most agents will see your home as just another listing on their sales board.
Someone with the heart of a teacher will take time to share with you about the process of selling a home, provide guidance on how to add value to your home and what projects could give a good return on your investment and which ones are a waste of money.
You will know if you have an agent has the heart of a teacher if they sit down at your consultation and listen more than they talk because your goals are needs are more important to them than going through a long presentation. In my humble opinion, this is the top gift an agent should develop because anyone can have the heart of a teacher, but very few take the time to cultivate it.
You Can Do This!
Hiring the right real estate professional is a very important decision and not one that should be done on a whim. Make sure to ask about each agent’s fees, communication plan, any free services they offer, their past experience, area of expertise and get a sense if they have a heart of a teacher.
Use the helpful spread sheet to compare each agent and check out the Top 13 Questions to Ask a Realtor Before you Hire Them. These will really help with making a great decision.
Finally, trust your gut. After all, you have to work with this person for the next six months.
All the Best!