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Choosing an Agent

June 23, 1991

I object to Robert Bruss' advice to sellers ("The 5-Question Test for Choosing Right Agent" June 2). I own a large real estate office with 70 agents, and wince at about half of his advice.

For instance, he suggests that you get referrals from any agent you are considering and call those referrals to see how they felt about the agent. I have agents whose clients love them even if they are not very effective, and other agents who mishandle half of their clients. Which half do you think those agents would give out as referrals?

There is nothing wrong with interviewing more than one agent, but comparing marketing plans is useless. What Bruss doesn't understand is that real estate agents who take a listing do not sell your home. All they can do is expose it. The person who sets the price sells the home. And the owner sets the price, after considering the comparable sales in the area.

If the price is too high, no amount of advertising or open houses will sell the property. Advertising may provoke inquiries, but potential buyers will compare the listing with other listings in the area, and be turned off by any priced high. Buyers do not make low offers on overpriced homes. They make low offers on the lower priced in the area.

Bruss evidently doesn't understand that it is a rarity when the listing agent finds a buyer. More than 90% of all the sales are made by another agent. So it is not even important that the listing agent be active in the area, as long as the agent can find good comparables in order to price the home.

The kind of agent you want is one that you feel absolutely comfortable with, that you trust and like, and an agent who has the courage to tell you the (perhaps unpleasant) truth about what you need to make your home attractive and where you should price it. Most sellers want to price their home at 10% to 20% above what the agent shows them are comparable sales.

It takes a lot of courage and diplomacy to tell a seller (whom you are trying to impress) that he is way out of the ballpark. Unfortunately, many truthful agents lose listings to agents who act like they can sell the home at whatever price the seller chooses, hoping that the seller will agree to lower the price later on during the listing period.

Remember that no matter what agents tell you, the seller sells the home by the way he presents the home and the way he prices it. All real estate agents simply expose it to other agents, and they all do about the same type of job at doing that if they put up a sign, a lockbox and put it in the multiple listing service so that other agents are aware of it.

JIM UTTERBACK

Long Beach

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