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The Question:

I live in an especially nice neighbourhood with a great plot of land. Agents and house hunters periodically leave notes at my door asking if I'm interested in selling. I'm actually considering a move now. What due diligence should I do if I'm tempted to discuss a sale with one of these people?

The Answer:

Many homeowners are inundated by solicitations from real estate agents asking if they are interested in selling or suggesting that they have a buyer interested in their home. I know I get at least a dozen post cards and brochures in my mailbox every week.

And if that isn't enough, think about how many real estate agents you already know. In Toronto, where I work, there are over 30,000 licensed agents - one for every 160 people! Of those, about 27,800 registered at least one sale in the past year according to real estate tracking firm IMS Inc. A good portion of these agents are part-timers just dabbling in the business. Others are inactive members who are just holding on to a licence. Still, it's a very saturated and competitive market.

My first general piece of advice is this: Don't feel pressured into using a family member or a friend who has just got their licence. If your friend or family member has what it takes, great! Otherwise, you are doing yourself a big disservice by not hiring the most qualified person for the job.

Let's touch on some specific strategies:

A prudent seller will always interview at least three agents. Talk to people who have experience in your neighbourhood and understand the nuances of that specific market. When interviewing, go beyond statistics and track record; rapport and comfort level are key.

Ask specific questions about their way of working and strategies to market your home: A competent agent should be able to confidently speak about the way they work, with specific reference to how they will market your home.

Ask for references from previous clients in your neighbourhood: It surprises me how rarely people ask for references from agents. If you have ever been on either side of the job interview process you know that "past performance predicts future behaviour."

If it is a big name agent from the neighbourhood, find out if you will be dealing with them or a member of their team. People are often surprised when they hire an agent but end up working with a member of their team. You may be fine with that, or you may have hired the agent for their specific expertise and want their personal involvement. Make sure you know what you're getting and are comfortable with that.

Finally, cheap doesn't equal good: Many sellers today are concerned only with the fees they are paying aan agent. In my opinion, the old adage of "You get what you pay for" extends to real estate services.

If someone is offering a discounted rate, ask what they will be offering co-operating brokers (i.e. buyer's agent). They should be offering 2.5 per cent; if they try to offset their discount to you by offering less to the co-operating broker you may not get motivated agents wanting to show and sell your property. Technically, rules of conduct clearly state that an agent must bring prospective matches to a buyer's attention irrespective of remuneration. But do you think this happens in reality?

Find out what other aspects of service are being sacrificed by offering discounted services. Here are a just a few things to consider:

· What kind of marketing materials and tools will be used? (Brochures, postcard delivery, website, etc).

· Will they be hiring a professional photographer/videographer, or taking photos themselves using a smartphone or point-and-shoot camera?

· Will they be providing staging services and/or consultation?

· What are the office hours to handle inquiries and appointments?

Whichever real estate agent you choose in end, make sure you do your homework and figure out what services and what qualities are important to you.

Ricky Chadha is a broker with Royal LePage Estate Realty in Toronto, and specializes in applying social media and other digital tools to the business of real estate. You can find Ricky on Twitter @your416 or at his website

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