Selling your house? Let Realtors compete for your business

Inman News reports on start-up, a site that allows prospective home sellers to anonymously query three agents, describe the service they're looking for, and find out what kind of commission the agent would be willing to work for.

According to Inman, "Sellers provide an estimate of their home's asking price in their invitation, and the site offers a commission calculator to help consumers and agents try different commission structures. Agents respond with a proposal that includes the services they would provide and the commission they would be willing to work for. Once they have received the proposals, consumers choose the agent or agents they would like to meet with in person, and Agent Invitation releases their contact information."

Here's the catch: It costs the consumers $99 to use the service. The service sounds innovative and possibly useful, but the truth is that you shouldn't have to spend money to be connected with a real estate agent. Your town is full of Realtors who will be happy to stop by your house, tell you what they think it's worth, offer tips on staging, and talk about a commission.

Talk to friends, check newspapers ads, and look for signs and make some phone calls. They'll be happy to come at your convenience, especially in this market. Ali Rogers, the author of Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, recommends interviewing at least three agents before picking one, and that's good advice.

The reason you don't need a service like AgentInvitation is that commissions are always 100% negotiable. They are not set by law or boards of Realtors. In fact, there are strict anti-trust laws that prohibit agents from fixing prices. If you want to negotiate for a low commission -- and there's no reason not to -- you can do that without a website.

The other problem with the AgentInvitationSite is that it allows any agent to participate -- some even pay a $29 per month fee to make their profile information appear on the website. So there's no vetting, and think about it: Are you really going to find a top real estate agent trolling around on the internet looking for penny-pinching homesellers anxious to save a percentage point or two? These are actually the types of sellers that top agents who aren't desperate for business make a point of avoiding.

Stick with the old-fashioned method for picking a real estate agent: Talk to friends and family, interview candidates to get a feel for how they work, and pick one who combines a fair commission structure with an ability to get the job done.
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