Selling your house in Austin, Texas, for the highest price involves more than a "for sale" sign and a signature. From marketing to pricing to educating, sellers need a knowledgeable, trustworthy real estate agent in their corner to help them make informed decisions. Asking the right questions can help you find an agent who best fits your needs – and who will help you quickly grab an excellent offer.
"There are three primary pillars – price, promotion and product – that must be aligned to have selling success. When you're interviewing agents, ask questions that revolve around these pillars," says Chris Watters, Realtor, broker and owner at Watters International Realty.
To help you find an agent you trust, U.S. News spoke with some of Austin's top real estate agents to gather insight about what questions sellers should ask when interviewing potential agents.
How successful have you been with other sellers in my area?
Real estate is a local business, and your agent needs to know who's buying in your area, alternate spots buyers are considering and competition in surrounding neighborhoods. Look for a full-time agent who has strong sales results in your neighborhood.
"Experience is important – not just by years, but by the number of transactions the agent's been involved with in your particular area," explains Matt Menard, Realtor and partner at Austin Real Estate Experts. "The stakes are high and you want someone with expertise." Menard also advises asking if they've ever had complaints filed against them with the state real estate commission.
Successful agents know their sales numbers inside and out, and should be able to tell you what their sold price (as a percentage of the list price) is on average. It also should be clear how their stats, like the number of days their properties spend on the market, compare to the local board of Realtors' average numbers.
Don't get caught up on accolades or big-name brokerages. "Realtors love to tout awards, but what do they do for the consumer?" Watters says. "Many new agents work for big-box brands because they have no experience and want to leverage the name to look better than they are."
What's your recommended list price?
When it comes to price, sellers should ask about what comparable properties have sold for and where the market is going in their location and price range. Watters suggests finding an agent who sees the historical data, but who also has a laser focus on the absorption rate – or the amount of available inventory – for your price bracket.
If an agent suggests your home is worth more than you think, he or she may be only telling you what you want to hear. Bounce the number off at least one other agent to see if the value sticks. On the other hand, if you think your property is worth more than the market suggests, expect the agent to have a conversation about setting realistic expectations that are backed up with facts from previous sales in your area.
Signing with an agent who has financial knowledge also helps once potential buyers get serious. Menard says the agent should be able to evaluate the risks, advantages and likelihood of success of each offer.
How are you going to market my home?
Marketing your home means professional photography and staging, syndicated listings and maximizing the number of online impressions to drive as much traffic as possible to the listing.
"If an agent doesn't have a formal listing presentation, let them go," Watters says. "They should sit down in a consultative manner to find out your goals and educate you about the marketplace. Then, they should be transparent by showing you the exact marketing plan they'll utilize to sell the home."
It's critical to select an agent who has an online and offline marketing plan plus the financial resources to market your home on third-party sites like Zillow, Realtor.com and Trulia. For an additional fee, these sites will rank your listing at the top of the search results and won't limit the amount of uploaded photos.
How are we going to communicate?
Ask potential real estate agents how often they expect to communicate with you during the selling process and make sure it matches your expectations.
"Good communication skills are helpful, and knowledge equals credibility," Menard says. "People make the mistake of listing with the first person they meet, and if they sound experienced, have good results and a good plan, they're probably fine. But if the agent doesn't have you feeling like this is the person for you, talk to someone else."
Watters says the most successful real estate agents he's brought into the company come from a consultative background and listen 80 percent of the time while talking 20 percent. Finding a real estate agent who asks relevant questions and connects frequently with you is crucial.
Looking for a real estate agent in Austin? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.
Ellis graduated cum laude with a bachelor's in English from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Texas Freelance Association, Freelance Austin, and Women Communicators of Austin. You can find her on LinkedIn and her website, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.