Imagine you need complicated surgery and you have an amazing insurance plan that allows you to choose your doctor from among every surgeon in your city. Not only that, but you’ll pay the same amount for whomever you choose.

Will you decide on the fresh-from-residency or part-time doc or the surgeon who has a proven track record in the very type of operation you need?

While the sale of your home isn’t a life-or-death proposition, it is a significant financial transaction which requires taking your time to do the research to find the real estate agent that will best help you reach your financial goals. If you’re looking for an listing agent to help you sell your home, look for the following three qualities.

“Ten Years of Silence” or Experience

After studying thousands of symphonies produced between 1685 and 1900, Carnegie Mellon University psychologist John Hayes narrowed down 500 that are, today, considered “masterworks.”

These 500 pieces were produced by only 76 composers, and all of them but three were written after the composer had been in “business” for at least ten years. Yes, this even includes Mozart. Hayes referred to this decade of hard work and education as the “10 years of silence,” and found that it applied equally to famous poets, artists and others.

Another study claims that to become an expert in any field requires a minimum of 10,000 hours working in it (K. Anders Ericsson and Malcolm Gladwell).

But there is more to it than merely showing up for ten years or 10,000 hours (sounds like a warranty, doesn’t it?). As in most things in life, becoming an expert requires deliberate practice.

Kobe Bryant can walk onto the basketball court and make the game look easy. But, he didn’t become a multiple world record-holder by working part-time. In the off-season, Bryant spent a minimum of six hours/day, six days/week, for six months in deliberate practice. From running to weightlifting to shooting hoops, he worked tirelessly to not only maintain but also to improve his skills.

Real estate agents don’t become expert marketers and negotiators by working only on the weekends. Those with the skills required to sell your home quickly and for top dollar take the time to study the current housing market and the local economy, learning how they affect their clientele and their real estate. They’ve used various negotiating techniques over the years and honed this aspect of their businesses to perfection. They tour the current crop of available homes instead of relying on MLS photos in their comparisons.

Now, the best agents aren’t always veterans and they don’t all work full-time. In fact, rookie agents typically have their brokers working with them on their first few transactions so you’re actually receiving the benefit of the broker’s experience. But if your transaction is complicated, such as selling a luxury home or performing a short sale, you should rely on an agent with lots of experience.

Good Listing Agents are Responsive and Happy to Answer Questions

How well does the listing agent handle your questions? Even homeowners who have sold a home before have questions about the listing and selling process. A professional agent will take his or her time to answer these questions in plain English and ensure you understand the entire process.

Good agents are also responsive. While ten years ago, an answer within one day was considered good, today consumers want a response within one hour. If your agent can’t take the time to respond to you quickly, how well will they do when buyers call?

Listing Agent with a Plan That Works!

A listing agent has many tasks to perform, from before the ink dries on the listing agreement until the final walk-through just before closing. The most important of these, especially in a slow market, is marketing. Ensure that the agent you hire has a proven marketing plan and the funds to implement it.

Ask for MLS printouts of the agent’s last couple listings and check the photos – they should be clear, compelling and there should be lots of them. Here’s a couple of our recent examples: 238 Greenfield Court, Sterling, VA and 43262 Somerset Hills Terrace, Ashburn, VA 20147

Agents that you interview may try different tactics to get you to list your home with them, from inflating the home’s value (known in the business as “buying the listing”) to claiming to be a “neighborhood expert.” When it comes to the sale of your home, however, go beyond the rhetoric and find the agent you feel the most comfortable with and the one that you feel can best market your home.

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