To some, they are the snake oil salesmen of the property industry, presiding over open home inspections – clipboard in hand – like haughty gods.
But not all real estate agents should be tarnished with the same brush.
A good agent is worth the money sellers pay them: they are professional, excellent negotiators and up-front with their clients.
But a bad one – the agent who cannot do basic maths, is pushy with potential buyers and sellers, is slovenly dressed – is an expensive mistake.
So how do you ensure you don’t accidentally hire the wrong one when it comes time to listing your most expensive asset for sale?
Research, research, research
Despite many people’s all-out distrust of the profession, there are indeed good agents in the field, according to Real Estate Buyers’ Agents Association of Australia President and CEO of propertybuyer.com.au, Rich Harvey.
“You don’t necessarily have to be highly intelligent to be a good agent but you do have to have a lot of street smarts,” he says.
Chief Executive Officer of real estate agent comparison site LocalAgentFinder, Michael Banks, says sellers get into trouble when they do not do enough research before shortlisting a few agents to interview.
“Most people tend to go with the agent who has the most boards up in their area or the one that sells in their suburb,” he says.
“There is nothing wrong with interviewing just a handful of agents, but you would have wanted to do your research first and shortlisted effectively.”
If it’s too good to be true…
Some sellers may be tempted to choose the agent who promises to sell their home for the highest price.
This is a common trap, according to Mr Harvey.
“Beware of the over-quoters and the under-quoters in real estate,” he says.
“If they give you a quote range, you should ask them to detail how they came up with that figure.”
Nor should you be beguiled by a cheaper commission, according to Mr Banks.
“Sometimes there is a good reason some agents are cheaper,” Mr Banks says.
“And if someone is charging a lot less they are probably going to need more listings to make money, which means their attention may be divided.”
Take charge of the interview
Most agents know how to make a great first impression and sellers will have to dig a little deeper to sort the wheat from the chaff.
“There are real estate seminars devoted to securing listings at the home interview stage,” Mr Banks says.
“Agents are very adept at making a good first impression.”
To make sure sellers make the right decision, Mr Banks suggests asking which agent would be the best person to deal with “if things do not go well”.
“People often think the ruthless agent is the one to go with but that is not true,” he says.
Mr Harvey agrees, adding that sellers should look for signs the agent is emotionally intelligent.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is that they are good communicators,” he says.
Bad agents will also be poorly dressed, will fail to make eye contact and lack other social skills, and will have no marketing strategy for the property.
“They should be able to tell you what kind of market your property is sitting in, what kind of buyer would be attracted to it,” Mr Harvey says.
Check the data
While a solid rapport is imperative, a good agent will also have the data to back up their claim that they are the best person to sell the home.
“It is important to look at how many properties they have sold, but the time those properties spent on the market is often a terrible statistic,” Mr Banks says.
“You don’t necessarily want an agent who can sell quickly, you want someone who can also get the best price.”
Sellers should also check that the agent they sign up with will be the one attending the open for inspections, taking phone calls and that they don’t have annual leave coming up.
“Put it in the contract if need be, that they are the person that you will be dealing with so it cannot be passed on to another staff member,” Mr Banks says.
Follow Johanna Leggatt on Twitter: @johannaleggatt