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5 steps to picking the right agent to sell your home...

Interview more than one agent before you choose one — and be sure to ask the right questions.

By Pat Mertz Esswein of Kiplinger's

If you're selling a home, a good real-estate agent will help you set the right price, market the home professionally, qualify the buyers and expertly negotiate and finalize the deal.

A great agent has long experience with recent sales and can walk a tightrope, balancing optimism with realism and diplomacy with brutal honesty. You'll pay big bucks for an agent's service — an average of 5.3% of the sale price in 2011, according to Real Trends, a real-estate consulting company. So you owe it to yourself to interview more than one agent.

1. Round up good prospects

To identify prospective agents, you can ask for referrals from neighbors or friends or use the search tools on the websites of the National Association of Realtors or the Council of Residential Specialists

Try to limit your search to agents with credentials that match your needs. For example, on the CRS website, you can search for agents who specialize in the sale of single-family houses, condos and luxury or resort homes, as well as short sales (selling a home for less than the owner owes on a mortgage) and assisting seniors.

Leigh Brown, an agent with Re/Max in Charlotte, N.C., says you want someone who is on his game. Although many half-hearted agents left the business after the housing bust, she says some of those who remain live under a black cloud, having lost a lot of income and confidence. Not only will you feel that lack of passion, but it may alienate prospective buyers. You want someone who will work assertively on your behalf but won't come on too aggressively, like a used-car salesman. That will turn off the buyers' agents, too.

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Date In 5/26/2012 9:51:00 AM

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