Selling your house? Don't be bamboozled by a listing presentation

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A good rule of thumb when you're selling your house is to interview three real estate agents before picking.

But how do you decide who to pick? Any real estate agent worth his salt will have a slick presentation ready, complete with a marketing plan, a comparative market analysis, and pages and pages of Xeroxed content designed to convince you that he or she is the agent for the job.

The problem is that a lot of the stuff that they'll hand you is just utter garbage -- and it's all the same. That comparative market analysis is generated by a computer and is accurate about as often as it isn't. And the "technology savvy marketing plan?" Also likely to be complete barf.

One agent I spoke with recently bragged that all of his listings were featured on HGTV.com, Realtor.com, AOL Real Estate, Trulia, Zillow, and a slew of other sites. The problem? All of those sites are aggregators of MLS listings, so any property that is listed with any Realtor will appear on those sites.
If you don't know the real estate industry, that line of name-dropping might impress you in a listing presentation, and you could be snookered into picking an agent based on total spin.

Writing on The Huffington Post, real estate expert Jim Randel has a good suggestion for how to separate the wheat from the chaff: "When I negotiate a listing contract for a seller, I require that brokers identify with some specificity the kind of marketing program they are going to undertake and the dollars they will be spending."

This is great advice. Ask the agent: How much money will you spend marketing my listing? Because the agent pays the marketing costs out of his own pocket, he will want to spend as little as possible. But you want someone willing to invest in marketing the property.

What do they think about home staging? Do they have experience with interior design and decorating? Will they spend time preparing the home to show well and, if not, will they pay someone to stage the property? Most agents won't but some will. All other things being equal, you want someone who can make your home show well at no additional cost to you.

Above all, don't let an agent fool you with buzzwords, handouts and hype when they don't offer unique service. Interview at least three agents, and find one who has something special to offer.
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