Changing agents just might make the difference

SMART MOVES

September 20, 1992|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

The house was a respectable two-story Colonial on a corner lot in a new section of Aberdeen. But the listing agent took a lackluster approach to selling it. And after six months on the market, just a half-dozen prospects had walked through -- no one making an offer.

Anxiously, the seller changed to a new agent, Connie Harrell. Immediately, she launched a renewed marketing campaign -- involving a mass mailing of fliers and an open house for agents. She also put ads in a newspaper serving families tied to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a market she figured was right for the home.

The fresh strategy worked and, in just over three weeks, Ms. Harrell, an agent for ERA Robert Ward real estate in Bel Air, sold the Colonial to a military family.

"Sometimes it just makes sense to get a fresh look or a fresh start. Properties can become market worn or stale," advises Mike Brodie, president of the Chicago-based Residential Sales Council, a realty education group with ties to the National Association of Realtors.

To be sure, it can be unfair and unwise for a seller to blame an agent who fails to sell a home while the seller clings stubbornly to an unrealistically high price. By the same token, there's little point in dumping an agent when an extremely poor home-selling market is to blame.

"Blaming the agent when it's not the agent's fault is scapegoating," Mr. Brodie says.

Still, if your home is truly priced to market and you're convinced the agent has lost energy or enthusiasm for its sale, realty experts say it could be time for a change. At the minimum, you'll gain a different point of view on how your home should be sold and likely you'll get a different type of advertising.

L Realty experts make these points related to agent-switching:

* Don't change agents until you're sure your house is priced right.

"Lowering the price is definitely a cure all," says Ms. Harrell, the Bel Air agent.

By lowering your price by just $500 to $1,000 below comparable houses for sale in your community, you can sometimes greatly enhance buyer interest in your property.

Facing the realities of the marketplace, many sellers will drop the price after they change agents. But why not see what a price cut can accomplish before you switch to Agent No. 2? After all, Agent No. 1 has probably already invested both time and advertising dollars in the marketing of your home.

* Don't change agents just to get a new listing or a new sign in front of the house.

Chances are that changing agents will give you a new listing through the computerized Multiple Listing Service. Surely, the change will mean a new sign stuck in your front lawn.

But relisting your property on the MLS or getting a different sign will have limited impact on your market. Most buyers are not as naive as you may imagine.

"It's still the same house, with the same characteristics. None of that will change," points out Sandy Sadler, sales manager for the Pasadena office of Prudential Preferred Properties.

* Do change agents if your current one seems to have lost enthusiasm for the sale of your home.

Some agents simply have longer attention spans than others.

If a house isn't capturing the interest of prospects over a protracted period, the tenacious agent will persevere. He'll simply get up earlier in the morning or stay awake later at night to devise new marketing plans. Unfortunately, some agents become discouraged and lose interest in a particular listing if it presents a tough marketing job. And a discouraged agent is a poor bet to promote your home.

To gain some perspective of whether your agent is performing up to par, it's perfectly appropriate to consult with agents from other companies as to how they'd handle the marketing of your property. Remember, there's no ethical violation in calling other agents even before your current contract expires or lets you exit through an escape clause.

Before you bail out for good, however, you may want to arrange a discussion with the agent to patch up broken communication lines or explore new marketing techniques. You might want to include the agent's sales manager in such a discussion. Who knows? By talkingthings out, you may be able to revitalize your mutual sales effort.

* Do change agents if the one you have now has failed to live up to his marketing promises.

"The time to change is when the agent is not doing what he said he would do," says Mr. Brodie of the Residential Sales Council.

Remember when you first engaged your current agent? Chances are that at the outset the agent tried to dazzle you with mention of all the marketing activities -- such as open houses he would conduct for you or ads he would buy.

If your contract with the agent is due to expire soon and you're not sure whether your agent has lived up to his word, it might be worthwhile to request an accounting. Ask the agent for a written summary of exactly what he has done to market your home. If he appears to have fallen short, don't hesitate to switch.

"It's important to look at this as business rather than a personal relationship. You're dealing with the biggest investment of your life," Ms. Harrell stresses.

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