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Selling 101: How to Find Brokers and What to Ask Them

Curbed University: We guarantee it to be the most non-boring expert advice you have ever gotten about buying, selling and renting a home in the Hub (not a guarantee). Additional questions welcomed through the ever-trusty tipline.

So, you've decided to sell your Hub single-family or condo (or, in rare cases, co-op). You will most likely need a broker. But what kind of broker? And under what terms? This person will be getting at least 3 percent of the closing price of your home. Three percent here, 4 percent there—pretty soon we're talking serious money. Some questions on finding the right broker to sell your home—and the answers:

Where Should I Start Looking?
In your own backyard! So to speak: find out who might have sold in the building or at least in the neighborhood. They’ll be very familiar with apartments that have recently sold, and they’ll know how to price your apartment accordingly. Of course, any broker will be able to look up this information, but someone who specializes in the area will be able to rattle off the numbers as a second nature.

I Can't Find Someone in the Neighborhood or the Building. Now What?
Well, how about similarly price property? Go on sites like and, and start plugging in addresses, streets, etc. Or Work your way through there to brokers who have worked with condos or single-families like yours in size and scope. A broker who's sold a lot of one-bedrooms in the Fenway, for instance, will be a better fit if that's what you've got to sell rather than a broker who's been trading Back Bay townhouses for 10 years.

What Do I Ask When I Interview Brokers?
O.K., so you've culled the herd and have some prospects. Make sure to ask the brokers you will interview to bring a presentation. Most brokerages have presentations that show off their marketing abilities, website views, number of brokerages, etc. (Please note: Brokers are often independent contractors contracted with a particular brokerage and do not necessarily work for them; they get desk space, maybe some advertising/branding, and other professional help in exchange for a cut of their commissions.) There are many aspects that you’ll have to judge during these interviews, but one thing to be very aware of is that some brokers will try to convince you that they can get a better price than anyone else.

Oh Yeah?
Ask them what numbers they have to support this. They should have a summary of the current average price of apartments in your area—not one from the past 3 years. If the numbers are just an opinion of the broker, they might be trying to “buy” the listing—selling you with sugar-coated promises rather than facts and figures that are easy to obtain (try or for recent neighborhood and municipal stats). A main selling point for a broker should be that he or she should be able to get you comparable, contract-signed prices through their contacts in the industry.

Should I Ever Just Trust My Gut?
Yes! And the little voice in your head! Go with someone who you feel comfortable calling up and asking about the status of your apartment, someone who seems to you forthright and honest, and eager to communicate. Remember, homes in Greater Boston take on average well over 100 days to sell. You need to work with this broker for months to a year.
A final note: If your apartment is way up at the top in price.... there’s a good chance that the broker will be showing it him or herself. If it’s down toward the lower end of his or her listings, it’s probable that someone else on his or her team will (even someone who could be very new to real estate). Ask about that, too.
Remember: No one gets paid until your home moves.

· Our complete Curbed University syllabus [Curbed Boston]
· Rookie Roosts Week 2012 [Curbed Boston]