How to Choose a Realtor to Sell Your Home: Where to Look, What to Ask

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By Steve Nicastro Updated October 19, 2023

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✍️ About this guide: Clever interviewed several real estate agents and industry experts to complete our guide, and our advice is based on hundreds of hours of collective research. Here's why you should trust us.
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What to look for in an agent | Red flags | How to find a listing agent | FAQ

Choosing a realtor to sell your home is one of the biggest financial decisions you'll ever make. You'll get the best results by interviewing 2–3 qualified realtors to understand their experience, expertise, and communication style.

To find good agents to interview, we recommend using a free agent matching service like Clever Real Estate. Clever has a large network of top local listing agents who have already been screened for experience, sales performance, and customer ratings.

Keep reading to learn more about picking the right real estate agent to sell, including how to find and interview agents and what red flags to avoid.

Key takeaways

  • An agent matching service can connect you to good real estate agents at no cost, so it's your best starting point.
  • Screen realtors online before setting up interviews. Make sure they're full time, experienced, and highly rated.
  • Meet with your top picks. Agents will tour your home, give you a free home value estimate, and discuss the local market, their sales strategy, and their commission rate.
  • Only sign a listing agreement if you fully understand the contract and you're ready to move forward with the agent.

What to look for in a realtor when selling

Most real estate agents have experience helping clients buy and sell homes. When an agent represents a home seller, they're called a seller’s agent or a listing agent.

A full-service listing agent guides you through the entire selling process. They typically help you:

  • Set a fair asking price
  • Prepare your home for sale
  • Market your home, including listing it on the MLS and popular home search sites
  • Coordinate showings with prospective buyers
  • Host open houses
  • Negotiate contracts

You can find lots of experienced real estate agents. But each has their own personality, selling strategy, and communication style. Here are a few qualities to look for to help you find the best listing agent.

Relevant experience and expertise

Look for an agent who has experience with real estate transactions like yours in terms of property type, price, and location.

The best real estate agents usually have a long list of past sales and active real estate listings. They've successfully sold homes in different markets and can show you their sales record to prove it.  

They can also demonstrate an understanding of the broad and local economic factors that may impact your sale. And they may have special designations, such as Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) or Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI).

Full-time availability

Real estate transactions are time-intensive and require an agent to juggle schedules and deadlines. So you want an agent who treats selling real estate as their full-time profession rather than a side job. In a slower market, a part-time agent may not hustle to successfully sell your home. In a fast-moving market, that same agent may not be as responsive as you need them to be.

Local market knowledge

Real estate markets change, and what's normal for one market may not apply to another. A good real estate agent knows your area and can educate you on current market conditions. For instance, they can tell you the number of active listings in your area, how quickly homes are selling, the average list-price-to-sale-price, comparable listings that have recently sold nearby, and more. 

A top local real estate agent knows which homes are selling quickly versus sitting on the market and why. When they offer pricing or marketing suggestions, they can back their opinions with MLS data.

Marketing skills

Selling real estate also involves strong marketing skills. Real estate professionals know how to highlight your home’s best features, attract the right buyers, and get the word out. They can offer ideas for marketing hard-to-sell homes or a property that needs to sell quickly. If they market their brokerage and listings well, chances are they’ll do the same for your home.

Negotiating skills

Top real estate agents are comfortable negotiating. They understand what each side wants, advocate for you, and know how to finesse a deal. They should be able to describe success they’ve had with hard-to-win deals and offer strategies for various scenarios. 

Strong local network

Look for an agent with a strong local network in their industry. They can help you find quality lenders, photographers, contractors, appraisers, and other professionals who can move your home sale along.

Professionalism and integrity

A good agent operates transparently and sets realistic expectations based on your property and local market. They're clear and consistent communicators who put your best interests above their bottom line. They’re also organized, on top of deadlines, and tactful in their dealings with you and others. 

Focus on the client

A high-quality agent understands your goals and does what they can to help you achieve them. They won’t push you toward a particular course of action that isn’t in your best interests.

Red flags to avoid in a listing agent

Selling your home is a high-stakes decision. You need someone you can trust to help you establish a selling strategy and navigate the process. 

Here are some red flags to watch out for to avoid bad selling agents.

  • Lack of experience. Newer agents aren’t necessarily bad. They often work hard to earn your business. But you'll want to interview them to make sure they understand the local market, your needs, and the selling process. Steer clear of agents who provide vague answers to your questions about their selling strategy and the state of the market.
  • Overpricing or underpricing the home. Some agents will overprice a home to earn your business. But if you're home is priced too high, there's a huge risk that it'll sit on the market for a long time. And an agent who underprices your home can cost you money compared to an agent who does a careful comparative market analysis.
  • Unwillingness to negotiate commission. It can be a red flag when an agent refuses to professionally discuss their rates and consider negotiating with you. Most realtors are willing to at least listen to your reasoning behind asking for a lower rate than the current average realtor commission or a low flat fee.
  • Weak online presence. Realtors who have an outdated or minimal online presence may not have the technical skills to effectively market your home across multiple online platforms. Online marketing is essential since buyers and their agents research online before visiting properties in person.
  • High-pressure tactics. Avoid agents who are impatient or create a false sense of urgency. You don't want an agent who tries to push through a sale at all costs just so they can collect their commission. You need an agent who uses thoughtful strategies to help you reach your goals.
  • Lack of transparency. Avoid realtors who supply only vague answers to questions, won’t provide references, engage in dual agency without disclosure, or have unclear listing and contract terms.
  • Lack of communication. A real estate transaction requires regular and open communication. You want to avoid realtors who are slow to return your calls, emails, or texts and don’t respond to questions thoroughly. Also avoid realtors who have a communication style that doesn’t match your needs. 

How to find a good realtor for selling

Choosing the right real estate agent can make the selling experience easier and less stressful. So it’s important to find an agent you like who has the knowledge, experience, and communication style you need.

Here are four steps for how to choose a realtor to sell your home.

1. Gather referrals for at least 2–3 agents

You want multiple candidates from reliable sources. That way, you can compare quality agents and save time. Here’s how to quickly create a short list of options.

Use an agent matching service

Using an agent matching service is a fast, convenient way to find top realtors in your area. Many of these companies also negotiate discounts with their agents so you can save on realtor commissions.

For example, if you request agent matches from Clever Real Estate, the company learns about your situation and preferences. Then it matches you with top real estate agents from name brand brokerages like Keller Williams and RE/MAX.

Clever also has built-in commission savings, so you don't have to negotiate. You'll get a 1.5% listing fee instead of the typical 3%.

Agent matching services are free, and there's no obligation to move forward with an agent. They're worth at least trying out to see if you like any of the agents they recommend.

Try Clever’s free agent-matching service!

Clever matches you with top local agents and negotiates savings on your behalf. This service is 100% free and there’s no obligation.

Get recommendations from neighbors and friends

You can ask for referrals from neighbors and friends, and they can help you know what working with a particular agent is really like.

However, even if an agent is well-recommended, you don't want an agent who lacks experience in your area. Real estate is local, and you need someone who knows the area and can education you on the local selling market.

Also be cautious of hiring a friend (or a friend of a friend) you can’t easily fire or confront if they don't meet your expectations.

Search online

You can do a quick Google search for “best realtors near me” to find well-rated real estate agents in your area. You'll likely get a lot of results to sift through, and it'll take time to research and reach out to agents. 

2. Check the agent’s credentials

Once you have a short list of agents, you’ll want to do some online research to ensure they're a good fit for you. Here are three ways to check their credentials.

Look for excellent customer reviews

Search for customer reviews across various platforms and the agent’s personal website. Read both positive and negative reviews, focusing on ones within the last year. See if previous customers liked working with them and if they appreciated their communication style, office efficiency, and professionalism.

These reviews can give you a feel for what it's like working with a particular agent.

See if they have recent and active listings in your area

Find out how many recent and active listings they have in your area, and see if the listings are similar to your home. This can help you know whether they're up-to-date on current market conditions and have relevant experience.

Verify their real estate license

You’ll also want to verify that they have an active real estate license in good standing. You can visit the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials website for a national search or view your state’s website.

3. Schedule interviews 

After screening the agents, set up a time to interview them. This important step helps you understand their personality, communication style, local market knowledge, and selling strategy. You'll also have a chance to ask the listing agent questions.

Here are tips to help you prepare and get the most from your interviews.

Do a walk-through

The listing agent may want to meet at your home. They'll see how it shows, factor that into their pricing analysis, and talk through a strategy to sell your house.

During the walk-through, tell the agent about notable features and any repairs or improvements you've made. The agent should listen carefully, take notes, and provide sound advice, including whether you need an appraisal before selling your house

Discuss the local market

A listing agent should have insight into the current market, what homes are selling for relative to their listing price, and how long your home might take to sell. They should also have ideas for how to market your home based on local market dynamics and your selling timeline.

Review your goals

The agent should ask about your goals — whether you want a quick sale or the highest price, whether you need to time the sale with buying a home, and what you want your level of involvement to be. This information helps them customize their strategies to your needs.

Talk about the listing price

A quality agent can clearly explain their pricing strategy for your home, including providing a comparative market analysis. The agent may also give you a seller net sheet. This one-page document gives you an estimate of how much money you could make after factoring in all sale costs.

Go over a sales strategy

A good agent has a plan to make your home stand out to buyers, like through photography, advertising, and open houses. They can also make suggestions for selling your home based on your needs, like if you need to sell as is or on a specific timeline. And they can tell you which repairs and updates will likely get you the most return on your investment.

Questions to ask a realtor when selling your home

  • What are homes selling for in my neighborhood?
  • Have local housing prices increased more or less than the state and city average?
  • How fast are homes selling?
  • What's a reasonable timeframe to get offers and go under contract?
  • How long does it typically take to close in our market?
  • Are there any homes like mine for sale?
  • How fast have your past three listings sold?
  • What was the list price and sale price for those three homes?
  • How do you determine an appropriate list price for a home?
  • Can you give me a comparative market analysis?
  • What do you think is the best strategy for marketing my home?
  • Do you foresee any challenges to selling it? What can we do to work around those?
  • What is your listing commission?
  • How much do you recommend we offer a buyer's agent?
  • How will you communicate with me about the status of my home sale? How often?
  • Will I be communicating directly with you or members of your team?

4. Agree on the details

Make sure you understand the listing agreement before you sign it. A listing agreement is a legally binding contract that gives the agent an exclusive right to sell your home.

Here are some the key details you need to understand and agree on before signing:

  • The listing price and how the agent determined it
  • The length of the listing term (e.g., 3 or 6 months)
  • The realtor commission for the listing agent and buyer’s agent
  • The agent’s responsibilities, including what services they provide
  • Your responsibilities as a seller
  • Who gives you updates on the sale and how often
  • Guidelines for terminating the relationship if either party isn’t satisfied 

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Choosing a realtor to sell FAQ

When should I start looking for a realtor to sell my home?

Ideally, at least three months prior to target list date, and at least four months prior to when you need to close on the sale, although it depends on how long it takes homes to close in your market. You'll need time to prep and make any necessary repairs or improvements, put your belongings in storage, and get the house show-ready.

If your timing is more flexible, six months or longer can be a smart timeframe. It gives you plenty of time to find and compare agents, spread out prep work, and plan the ideal time to hit the market for the best results.

How do I find the best realtor to sell my house near me?

The fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to find top-producing local realtors is through a free agent-matching service like Clever, which recommends local agents from top brokerages. You can also ask family and friends for recommendations, or find a realtor online, but these approaches take longer and don't provide built-in savings.

What percentage do realtors make?

Realtor commission varies by market. Clever surveyed realtors from across the country, and found the average realtor commission is 5.49%, which covers both the listing agent and the buyer's agent commission. That figure does not include closing costs, which can add up to 1–3% of the sale price. However, agent matching services like Clever offer pre-negotiated discounts on listing commission.

What are signs of a good listing agent?

We interviewed numerous licensed realtors and investors, who agreed on the certain qualities to look for in an agent when selling:

Full-time and committed: Selling houses is the agent's livelihood, not their side hustle, and the agent helps more sellers than buyer clients.

Experienced: The agent closes a minimum of 10 transactions per year with at least 2–3 years of experience, as it shows the agent is active and successful.

Responsive and accessible: The agent is easy to get a hold of at nearly any time of day. Real estate is a 24/7 job for full-time agents.

Pulse on the local market: The agent has a firm grasp of neighborhoods and recent developments, and knows what buyers are looking for in your market.

Well-connected: A strong network of contractors, inspectors, and lawyers helps get your home sold.

Why choose one realtor over another?

If you find two equally qualified realtors, consider factors like communication style, personality, and availability to help you decide which one to hire. You’ll spend a lot of time with your listing agent, so you want someone you're comfortable with and trust to have your best interests in mind.

What are things I shouldn't tell a real estate agent?

As a home seller, there are certain things you want to avoid telling your listing agent, including the following:

You won't sell to a certain type of buyer: Sellers are federally prohibited from discriminating against prospective buyers based on race, sex, religion, and other protected classes.

You won't disclose your home's issues: If you know of an issue or defect that could negatively impact your home's value, state law probably requires you to disclose it — so it's best to avoid hiding any known defects from your agent.

You want to list at a sky-high price: Listing at too high of a price puts your home at risk of sitting on the market longer (or not selling at all). Agents may still want to win your listing, but may focus their efforts on other clients with better near-term prospects, which could hurt your listing.

You're getting advice from another agent: It's best not to go behind your agent's back if you've agreed to work with them. If you're unhappy with their service, you can ask to work with another agent from their brokerage, or cancel your listing (then hire another agent).

Related links

Why you should trust us

Clever has helped thousands of home sellers choose the right realtor. We strive to deliver objective advice that we'd give to our friends and family, and follow ourselves. You can learn more about Clever and our editorial policy here.

Our guide represents hundreds of hours of research and interviews with real estate agents, investors, and home sellers.

We spoke to Bill Donius, former CEO of Pulaski Bank and NY Times best-selling author (who happens to serve on Clever's board of advisors). Donius has sold numerous homes and spent many years working with agents and brokerages as a loan office and mortgage executive.

We also studied research from the National Association of Realtors 2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report.

About the author

Steve Nicastro is a real estate agent and investor based in Charleston, South Carolina. While working as a full-time agent in 2020-21, he closed 19 transactions totaling $6 million in volume, assisting both buyers and sellers.

Before working in real estate, Steve spent more than 6 years on NerdWallet's content team as a personal finance writer, where his work was published at USA Today, The Associated Press, and US News, among other publications.

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