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When the time comes to sell your home, you must decide whether to seek assistance from a real estate professional or attempt to sell it yourself. Take a tip from me: You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by listing your home with a broker.

People who try to sell their own homes are denying themselves the benefit of a real estate professional who is trained to sell real estate on the terms most advantageous to the party he or she represents. "An efficient real estate broker keeps the clients' interest in mind at all times, provides frequent status reports and has a clear understanding of the housing market and financing terms.

According to a 1991 survey from the National Association of Realtors, nearly 80 percent of the respondents sold their homes through a real estate professional. The majority of those who decided to "go it alone" had misgivings about doing so again. Among the major problems cited were the inability to sell in the length of time desired, the inability to sell for the price sought and difficulty in understanding and processing paperwork.

To maximize exposure and minimize problems, enlist the services of a broker. Your peace of mind and a great deal of money are at stake. With professional assistance, the home selling process can be made much easier. The following guidelines can help you find a broker to meet your home selling needs.

  • Choose your agent with care, as you would a lawyer or doctor. Talk with friends, neighbors and co-workers who have recently bought or sold a home in the area. What kind of service did they receive? Would they select the same broker or company again?
  • Attend an open house to observe sales associates in action and judge their expertise. Were you shown the home in a professional manner? How familiar were the sales associates with the property?
  • Focus on real estate companies that specialize in residential sales. Look for posted "sold" signs. A company with a successful track record warrants consideration.
  • Read the real estate section of your newspaper for listings of homes in the same price as yours. This will allow you to identify companies that market homes similar to yours, and see how your home stacks up against the competition.
  • Target companies located in your area of the community. They are more likely to be familiar with the area schools, businesses and places of worship -- precisely the type of information that likely will be sought by prospective buyers.

Once you have narrowed your selection of potential listing companies to five or less, contact each for an interview. Look for the sales professional who takes copious notes on decorating, construction, landscaping and any personal property to convey with your home.

The following questions may be helpful in selecting a broker:
  • Have long have you been licensed?
  • How long have you actively worked in the area?
  • How many home sales have you closed in the
  • Do you work full-time as a real estate professional? last three months?
  • Can you give me names of three references whose homes you've recently sold?
  • How will you work to actively seek buyers for my home?
  • Will you participate in a cooperative listing service?
  • Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors?
  • Have you earned any specialty professional real estate designations?
  • What professional courses or training sessions have you recently attended?

Additionally, be sure to ask whether the company is active in the relocation business. Transferees and others moving into your area from out of town often have little information about the new community and little time in which to find a home, so they typically work with real estate brokers. As a result, if the company you select has a relocation division, the number of prospective buyers for your home could be substantially increased.

The size of a company, as well as its status as a franchise, independent firm or conglomerate, are all variables you should consider. However, your choice generally will be a matter of personal preference. Each variable has certain advantages to offer, but the reputation of a particular company is based on the knowledge, competence and professionalism of the individuals who work there.

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