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Selling Your Home: How One Bad Agent Nearly Ruined My Life

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When it comes to selling your most valuable asset, you need the best of the best working for you. Choose the wrong agent and your bricks-and-mortar investment could become a millstone around your neck.

On the other hand, a real estate agent can return huge dividends if they are great negotiators, have an in-depth understanding of the market and are experienced in selling your property type.

Here seller Vanessa Roberts shares her first-hand experiences in the benefits of choosing the right agent.

Plumping for a real estate agent purely based on their market appraisal was a bad idea.

I had bought the apartment in 2009 and had watched the area boom as more and more hipsters moved in and trendy cafes began to pop up in the dilapidated backstreets.

With local property prices booming, I decided to take advantage and bought a two-bedroom house in a nearby suburb at auction that offered a three-month settlement, which I thought would allow me plenty of time to sell the unit.

I interviewed three agents, but rather than researching their sales history thoroughly, I chose an agent from outside my area based on the price they estimated they would secure for me at auction. As shown elsewhere on LocalAgentFinder – and I can now tell you first hand – this is a big mistake.

An uninformed agent

The first few open for inspections went well, until we hit a hitch in week three.

A young first home buyer had wanted to make a pre-auction offer, but once he received the paperwork he became concerned that the unit was governed by a stratum (rather than strata) title, which means a unit block’s common areas are owned by a service company that each unit owner takes shares in (similar to an owners’ corporation). The agent was not familiar with stratum title units – even though there were a few older strata properties in the area – and was unable to answer any of the potential buyer’s questions about the way they operated.

Eventually the buyer became dismayed and moved on. Things went from bad to worse after that. A property generally receives its most interest in the first few weeks, and no one else was biting.

It went to auction and was passed in, before being listed for private sale. It was clear by this stage that the property had been over-priced – stratum title properties generally sell for 10 per cent less than their strata cousins – and the realisation left me frustrated, disappointed and financially spent.

A second attempt

After the three-month listing period expired, I decided it was time for a fresh start. I contacted the director of a local real estate agent this time and asked for their best agent.

I was after someone who knew the local area, and had sold properties similar to mine. The new agent was familiar with stratum title unit blocks, and assured me if we priced it correctly we would get some nibbles. The property was empty by that stage, as I had already moved into my new home, but the agent convinced me to decorate the unit with a small amount of furniture to make it look bigger and more attractive.

My fortunes changed quickly. While some buyers were still turned off by the stratum title, there were others who could see the value in the property’s location. The agent cultivated good relationships with the first home buyers and the unit sold within the new (lower) quote range within five weeks.

During this process, I lost close to $10,000 in extra mortgage repayments and advertising costs, and I wish I had originally taken the time to conduct a full market comparison to find the right agent.

Top five lessons I learned

  1. Do not choose an agent based on their sales commission alone; the cheapest is not necessarily the best.
  2. Sale price estimates are just that: estimates. You should focus on the way an agent will market your property because if they get that right then a good sale price will naturally follow.
  3. Check to see whether an agent has not only sold in your area, but sold your style of property.
  4. Ask agents tough questions, such as ‘What are the weaknesses in my property, and how will you overcome them?
  5. Don’t pick the agent you want to be friends with. Nice is irrelevant; you want professional, organised and knowledgeable.

These days sellers can sort the best from the rest byregistering details at LocalAgentFinder to compare local agents and their fees and determine who will be the most adept salesperson. When the difference between the right and the wrong agent can literally be tens of thousands of dollars, it’s well worth doing your homework prior to compiling your agent shortlist.

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