When it comes time to sell a home in NYC, the first step for most people will be finding a real estate listing agent. That’s because selling a home in NYC — not to mention getting the highest price possible — is a lot of work. The burning question is, how to choose a listing agent, particularly a real estate professional who understands you and your property?
Enter StreetEasy’s new Expert Match tool, designed to make choosing a listing agent a snap. Expert Match combines StreetEasy’s extensive proprietary research and years of market expertise to recommend up to three agents (out of thousands!) whose experience is perfect for selling your home. Even better, every real estate agent recommended is a top-tier member of StreetEasy’s Experts program.
There’s more to know about how to choose a listing agent and the Expert Match tool. Here, the market wizards at StreetEasy, along with a few top NYC real estate agents, share advice and tips.
How to Find a Listing Agent in NYC
It’s vital to speak to multiple listing agents before choosing one for your home. Unfortunately, many NYC home sellers don’t do this.
“In New York, everybody knows a real estate agent,” says Matthew Bizzarro, who runs the Bizzarro Agency, a boutique brokerage specializing in Upper Manhattan. “But just because you know someone doesn’t mean they’re good at their job.”
Expert Match pairs your home with an Expert Match agent based on factors determined by StreetEasy research to be most crucial in selling a home. These include their general experience, deal history in your area and with your unit type (co-op, townhouse, etc.), and price performance.
Tip: Expert Match is 100% tailored to you — agents cannot pay for recommendations.
How to Interview a Real Estate Listing Agent
You can contact Expert Match agents right on your Owner Dashboard. Just click the button under each agent, and they’ll be in touch within hours. Plan to have a detailed conversation with each prospective listing agent. Just as you’re looking to see if they’re a good fit for you and your home, they will be seeking the same about you. Expect to spend the better part of an hour getting to know each one before you make a decision. Here’s what to ask:
What’s Their Deal History and Experience Level?
The top agents we spoke with agreed that experience is the most critical quality of an agent. “Your home is your main asset, so this is a big deal,” says Bizzarro.
Every agent shown to you in StreetEasy’s Expert Match will have a track record that makes them ideal for your property. In general, expect real estate listing agents to have different kinds of relevant experience.
- Agents who have done numerous deals in your very building and have the co-op board paperwork on file are a great asset.
- Agents who have an excellent deal history in your neighborhood but not in your specific building can also be helpful.
Tip: Compass agent Kristen Jordan says, “You don’t necessarily need someone who has done deals in your building. If they’re a good agent, they’ll be able to get you a good price and have a positive process and a transaction.”
What’s Their Selling Style, and Does It Fit With Yours?
Personal style may be nearly as important as experience, according to Jordan. “People can do a bunch of deals, but it doesn’t make them the perfect broker for you,” she says. It would be best to find out which of these agents will be a great partner for you.
Things to consider:
- Do you share common interests?
- Are they a Type A personality, while you are not?
- Will you be comfortable — and trusting — if they have to deliver bad news?
- How will you feel about handing this person the keys to your home, knowing they’re going to bring strangers?
Tip: Doug Perlson, StreetEasy’s senior director of real estate strategy and operations and a seasoned NYC broker, says, “You want to feel good about that relationship, not frustrated or contentious. You want to pick someone who has a personality that you will like working with.”
How Much Can a Listing Agent Sell Your Home For?
Getting the most money for your home is a big concern — but it shouldn’t be the only deciding factor for choosing an agent. If an agent comes back with a price estimate that’s far higher than your StreetEasy Valuation, that may not be a good thing. (Read more about the StreetEasy Valuation.)
“Sometimes, unfortunately, brokers give a high number because they want to get the listing. But then they’re not able to sell at that price,” says Liza Nematnejad, a top broker at Douglas Elliman who specializes in luxury Manhattan properties. “That, I think, is the biggest trap for a seller.” In fact, the false hope it gives can delay a deal by months or even years.
What should a good broker bring to your interview? A competitive market analysis explicitly prepared for your property, says Perlson. It will show what homes they think are comparable to yours and how much those homes sold for recently.
More useful tips:
- Review the agent’s deal history (it’s on their StreetEasy profile page). If many of the agent’s listings enter the market for lofty prices but then sell for much lower, that could be a red flag, Nematnejad says. (You can see the price history of any StreetEasy listing toward the bottom of the listing page.)
- Review your home’s value using StreetEasy Valuation. It is a great place to start for a data-driven, realistic price estimate.
How Do They Plan to Market Your Home?
A real estate agent’s marketing strategy is vital for selling success. “Anybody can hire a professional photographer and put the listing on StreetEasy,” says Bizzarro. “But are they going the extra mile?”
Here’s what to know or ask about marketing a home:
- Listings posted through Expert Match are automatically eligible to be featured on StreetEasy, meaning they could appear in the top two slots of search results pages.
- Social media is a big part of home marketing. Ask agents about their social network presence and whether their listing will include rich media like video and 3D tours.
- Staging can quickly seal the deal, so ask if an agent plans to do it in the physical space or virtually.
- Events and virtual tours are beneficial when promoting higher-end listings.
- Client lists and client outreach are also significant factors, so ask an agent how they plan to reach people who will be interested in your listing.
- Experience with your home type is essential. For example, if your home is an HDFC unit, a condop, or is in a land-leased building, you’ll want an agent with selling expertise.
Tip: Ask an agent if they have a great team in place to manage your transaction. Their arsenal of people and contacts may include a team to deal with floor plans and co-op board packages, as well as real estate attorneys, home stagers, and handypeople for small upgrades.
What Kind of Commission Do They Expect?
It may be tempting to consider the broker’s commission as a critical factor in choosing an agent. But actually, Perlson advises thinking of it the other way around. “The first thing you want to do is establish whether this is a business relationship you want to be in,” he says. “Then, just like hiring anyone else, you’ll talk about fees.”
Here’s what to consider:
- The standard commission for a listing agent in New York is 6%, split with a buyer’s agent. But it’s negotiable, and it’s common for agents even at major brokerages to accept less. They may also throw in extras you’d usually pay for — like home staging — to sweeten the deal.
- The commission is partly an incentive for buyers’ agents to bring their clients to view your property. So going too low has risks. “Going under 5%, I don’t see how you’re getting enough engagement from the outside brokerage community to sell the home,” says Jordan. “Unless it’s a huge price point.”
Tip: If your listing agent finds a buyer who isn’t represented by another agent — meaning they’ll get the entire commission themselves — they may accept a much smaller percentage.
How to Choose an Agent to Sell Your Home During COVID-19
The top agents we spoke with all identified essential things to keep in mind when choosing a listing agent to sell your home during a pandemic:
- Trust matters more than ever. You’re not just trusting an agent to help you negotiate the market. You’re trusting them to decide who should be able to enter your home and when. COVID means there are vastly higher stakes anytime strangers occupy the same indoor space. So you want to feel extra sure about your listing agent’s judgment and caution.
- Buyers are vetted before they tour. Bizzarro says his brokerage vets buyers in four ways before allowing an in-person tour: They need to be preapproved for the mortgage amount, have the purchase funds immediately available, have viewed the home’s virtual or 3D tour, and certify themselves free of COVID-19 symptoms.
Tip: Those looking to sell during COVID-19 should expect the process to take longer. In today’s NYC real estate market, buyers hold the upper hand. Homes in Manhattan are selling more slowly, and while the number of signed contracts is rising in parts of Brooklyn and Queens, prices in most neighborhoods are flat or falling.
What if I Don’t Like My Listing Agent?
NYC home sellers usually sign a contract with an agent giving that agent exclusive right to represent their home on the market for a given period. Typically that period is six months, though it can be negotiable. After the contract expires, sellers are free to find another agent to work with if the home has not sold.
If your home didn’t sell or you don’t feel good about your agent anymore, remember StreetEasy’s Expert Match will recommend up to three top agents whose experience makes them an ideal choice to sell your home. Access Expert Match on your Owner Dashboard, where you’ll also find your home’s StreetEasy Valuation. (You’ll need to enter your property details first, but remember — your StreetEasy Valuation and Expert Match details can only be seen by you.) Read more about how Expert Match works, or visit your Owner Dashboard to get started.