The home is possibly the biggest purchase any of us will ever make and the largest asset we will ever own.

So it is intriguing that when it comes to selling this valuable commodity, so many people make major mistakes in terms of choosing the right real estate agent to deal with the minefield of purchase negotiations.

Walter Burfitt-Williams of the Ray White Double Bay Group in Surry Hills tells the story of a recent prospective client who told him of how unhappy she was with her previous agent contracted to sell her home.

I asked why she chose the agent she had chosen and was now no longer happy with, he recalls. She said that she didn’t trust him, but thought he would get her the best price.

I could not believe that someone would trust the sale of their place to someone she could not trust and work with.

According to many real estate agents, it is often the initial promise of big dollars for the anticipated purchase price that is the determining factor in the choosing of an agent to sell a property.

Christian Payne of the Real Estate Institute of NSW says recent changes in the property laws have tightened the over-inflated promises agents were once able to make, but he says caution and common sense remain the best guidelines to follow.

It is now a requirement by law that if an agent is giving a quote, it needs to take into account recent comparable sales, he says. It was once good enough to pull a figure out of the air, but that is not the case any more.

Beware of the agent who is just going to sit there and agree with you, as you are then only getting half the story. You might be better off listening to the agent who tells you something you don’t want to hear as they are being factual, and might lead to selling your property faster and at the best price.

Before any contracts are signed, it is recommended thorough discussions take place about not only the price of the property, but also the agent’s commission rate and the proposed methods to market and manage the sale.

The agent’s commission rate can vary between two and six percent of the final sale price, with marketing costs either included in that rate or as additional charges.

Ask questions, and then ask some more so you know exactly what you are getting for your money and what they are willing to do to sell the property, Payne says. And remember the old adage, -˜You get what you pay for.’

Burfitt-Williams agrees, suggesting more questions asked at the beginning of negotiations will result in fewer surprises along the way.

Ask about their knowledge of the area, suggested methods of sale, auction versus private treaty, marketing, some of their recent sales in the area, how many active buyers they are working with, etc.

Another tip is to ask the agent if you can call or speak to some of their recent vendors. It might feel a bit odd calling a complete stranger, but you will soon find out how they feel about the agent.

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