Spring market has already begun here in Western North Carolina and man, it's a crazy one!  This weekend I was speaking with several sellers and heard more than a few horror stories from them about their previous real estate agent and what they did (or didn't) do that prevented the property from selling.  It honestly breaks my heart to see desperate sellers question why their property isn't selling when they're doing everything right.  Here are three tips to help you pick a good listing agent right from the very start so you don't have to experience the same heartbreak when selling your home.

 1.  Many agents employ the 3 P's of listing a house: They PUT a sign in the yard, they PUT it in the MLS, and they PRAY someone wants to buy it.  Hire someone that is going to do more.  

I heard this little tidbit from a vendor at United Real Estate's convention in Miami two weeks ago and I have to say, it's absolutely correct.  Ask your agent how else they will market your home besides doing these things.  What about online ads?  I'm not talking about Zillow and Trulia and Realtor.com because those sites just pull information from local MLS sites...agents literally don't have to do ANYTHING to get your property onto those sites.  Will they pay for online advertising through Facebook?  Will they pay for follow ads for people that have clicked on your property (you know, those ads that follow you around the internet after you've viewed a certain page)?  Will they do a "Just Listed" mailing to your local zip code(s)?  Discuss the advertising strategy that the agent intends to employ in-depth before signing an agreement with them.

2.  Professional photos are a must (and if your agent is the one getting the listing, they should be the one to pay for them!).

Not everyone is going to agree with me on this point and that's OK.  Let me tell you something groundbreaking: real estate agents are not professional photographers (well, the majority of them aren't anyways).  And if your agent says they can use cell phone pictures effectively DO NOT BELIEVE THEM.  Meeting adjourned.  Cell phone pictures do not have high enough resolution to look good in both, online and print marketing.  Professional photographers not only know how to make your home and property look phenomenal in photographs, they provide a lot of photos!  According to The Wall Street Journal, buyers spend an average of 20 seconds looking at the photo of the front of your home and a full 60% of their time just looking at photos of homes rather than reading the descriptions.  More importantly, according to MarketLeader.com, homes with professional photographs sell for up to $19,000 more than homes with photographs shot by amateurs (i.e. your real estate agent).

3.  Ask to see the MLS info your agent has put into their system.

This one is a biggie and often overlooked after an agreement has been signed.  You have no idea how many people I have spoken to that didn't know their agent was taking a majority of the commission and only offering the buyer's agents less than half (sometimes only a third!) of it.  Even if it is outlined in your listing agreement what the buyer's agents are to be offered, you must double check this.  I've seen some creative "mistakes."  Errors in MLS data also account for people skipping over your property entirely.  For instance, here in North Carolina we have a Mineral, Oil, and Gas Rights Disclosure that sellers fill out to disclose whether they have severed/sold those rights to someone else.  If so, banks will not loan on those properties and many clients won't even consider those properties.  I have seen sellers inadvertently say they've severed all the rights when, in reality, they just didn't know how to fill out the form.  Did their agent walk them through that process or even double check their work before uploading the document to the MLS for everyone to see?  Nope.  Get an agent that is focused on you and the sale of your home, not just doing the bare minimum to earn a commission check (that's not a good business strategy for them anyway, but that's a discussion for another day...).

Bonus Tip: Don't let your agent upload your property into the MLS before the professional photographs are back.  

Listen, I get the desire to jump into a hot market as soon as possible, but don't jump the gun.  Selling your home is a lot like dating.  You're not just trying to woo potential buyers — you're wooing their agents too.  Many times it's the agents that pick properties for the buyers to consider, so you need to be marketing to us as well.  Don't let your agent put your home in the MLS with one cell phone picture of the front door.  Sure the professional pictures can be added later, but I've already viewed your property and moved on to the other 48 properties that just came on the market.  You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so make it a stellar one.