In this two-part series on finding a real estate agent to sell your home, Paul Valentino, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the Greater Washington area, offers tips on how to find the right real estate agent for you. Here he discusses what sellers should ask agents about their online savvy. In Part Two, he will discuss negotiating fees and assessing the agent’s track record.

I’ve often wondered why more focus has not been placed on helping homeowners interview and evaluate real estate agents before trusting them with the sale of their home. As one of the largest financial transactions of your life, the interview process should be akin to that of a financial adviser or divorce lawyer.

The key to selling your home successfully is finding someone who will help you net the most from your sale and do it in the least amount of time. (Jay LaPrete/BLOOMBERG)

First let’s dispense with the trite questions everyone always suggests you ask. You know them: How long have you been in the business? How many properties have you sold? What commission rate do you charge?

I’ll cover all of the in Part Two. However, to start off, I want to help you understand the real issues when selecting an agent and company with whom to do business.  The real issue is: Who will help you net the most from your sale and do it in the least amount of time?  Which agent/company performs the best?

Let’s face it, isn’t walking away with the most money why you ask all of the above questions?  And who wants to have their home on the market for an extra month or two forcing you to live in perhaps a neater lifestyle than you want and pay an additional month’s payment or two?

How your agent performs is what the selection process is all about.  To learn this you have to ask a few other questions: How will you market my home?  This question evokes a lot of potential responses and there’s a lot an owner needs to understand. 

So, let’s go over a few:

●Agents may say they will put your property on the Internet. Sounds good. However, every listing goes on the Internet automatically on (as well as a few others).  The seller deserves more than this. 

Instead, ask: On how many Web sites will my property be listed?  In my opinion, the more the better. You want to get that listing information in front of as many eyeballs as possible. More than 90 percent of consumers are online doing their house hunting.  Your property needs to be where those people are searching.  

●The follow-up question is: What will my listing look like when someone views it?  Again, there are huge differences here. Many sites have a feature called an enhanced listing.  These show up higher on the search results so there is a greater chance the enhanced property listings will be seen by more people.

●How many photos will be available and what’s the quality of the images?  You want the most allowed and highest possible — and not photos taken by a cheap camera.  A good agent can demonstrate how your listing will appear on a variety of Web sites and show you the difference between a regular and an enhanced listing. 

●Will you also provide a video?  Video is huge. If your agent doesn’t provide a video, walk away. This agent/company is in the Dark Ages.

●If a potential buyer requests more information on my property, how is the agent notified and how long does it take for you to respond?  Agents who don’t have a system in place which notifies them of an inquiry within minutes are once again in the Dark Ages.

●How will I know how many people view my property online?  A top performing agent/company has tools and systems to provide this information to you.

●Does your company have a mobile app?  This is a very important marketing tool for you given the growing popularity of mobile devices.

●Be sure to ask for a demonstration of all these online marketing tools before determining whether this is the right agent for you.

Next: Negotiating a fee and communicating with your agent

Paul Valentino, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the Greater Washington area, is a 30-year real estate veteran. A certified residential broker, he holds the National Association of Realtors e-PRO professional real estate designation and is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Virginia Association of Realtors and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.