Before you start making lofty demands of your listing agent, it's important to understand what the agent is actually responsible for. We're not saying you're high-maintenance; you just need to know what you can and can't ask the agent to do.
By setting realistic expectations, you're likely to leave the home-selling process feeling like your agent really did all she could to get you the best deal—even if you didn't see or hear about every little thing she did to market your home. In the interest of transparency, let's dive into the things a listing agent is responsible for once you sign a contract.
What role does a listing agent play?
A listing agent's job is “to help direct the seller in preparing the house for sale, market the property to buyer's agents, and handle the offer and transaction process to get the sale to completion,” says Teri Andrews Murch, a Realtor® with Lyon Real Estate in Auburn, CA.
So when you think about your expectations for your agent, make sure they fit within that scope.
However, the specific responsibilities can vary from agent to agent. A good listing agent will help you price your home, attend pitch sessions, recommend a photographer and stager to make your home look its best, and put your home on the multiple listing service.
Some agents might be unwilling to fulfill every one of your requests if they don't think they will help your home sell. For example, you might want to advertise your house in the local paper, but “depending on the area you are in, print advertising may not be used much at all,” says Murch.
Set expectations from the start
To make sure you're both on the same page, you should discuss your expectations from the get-go with any real estate agent you plan on hiring. Find out how often you’ll communicate, and by what means.
“Usually I try to touch base with my sellers when I have feedback from showings or agent tours, and at least once every seven to 10 days by phone,” Murch says.
“Don't be afraid to be upfront and to the point with your real estate agent,” she adds. “We want to know when our clients aren't happy.”
Once you're in agreement, put it in writing in the form of a listing agreement.
“A listing agreement should be a partnership,” says real estate consultant Cathy Baumbusch of Alexandria, VA. “Both parties should outline their expectations in the beginning, in detail, and in writing. That is the only way you can do business.”
You won’t see all the agent's work
Just because things seem quiet doesn’t mean the agent isn’t working on your behalf.
"A lot of the work we do—such as networking with other agents, maintaining the listing, answering calls or inquiries, and sending out information—tends to be invisible to the sellers unless we communicate that,” says Murch.
However, if more regular updates will make you happy, speak up
When things go wrong
Sometimes, even after you’ve agreed on everything with your agent in writing, your expectations aren’t met. What then?
Before you send that angry email, be honest with yourself and see if you're holding anything up.
“I would look at the home’s condition—how does it show?" says Murch. "Are there too many restrictions on how or when the property can be shown?”
If you truly believe that your home looks show-ready and that you’ve made it available, Murch says you might need to revisit the pricing. That could be why you haven’t attracted interest yet.
Other ways to troubleshoot your stalled sale?
“Ask your agent to provide you with the list of all marketing avenues, and then see how it looks in comparison with other properties that are active or sold in your area,” says Janice Caputo, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Pittsburgh.
Definitely have a conversation with your agent if you’re unsatisfied, and try to be receptive to the agent's feedback. If you believe that your agent isn’t taking your concerns seriously, your next course of action is speaking with the agent's agency.