The Top Six Questions to Ask Before Signing

You've decided to sell your home. It's probably the most valuable thing you own, and you're hoping to get top dollar for it -- soon. Don't take the easy way out. This is no time to go with your next-door-neighbor's cousin Teddy because he needs the money or that cutie-pie agent whose photo you see in the local homes magazine.

You're hiring someone to do an important job for you, and you're going to pay him or her big bucks to do it. What do you do when you hire an important employee? Interview them.Here are six critical questions to ask an agent if you are selling your home:

What is your marketing plan?
Will the agent list it in the newspaper or in free real estate brochures distributed along with the newspaper or available in heavily trafficked areas such as the entrances of the local grocery stores? Does the agent have listings on the Internet? Does the agent plan to schedule an open house?

What do you suggest to make the property more attractive to prospective buyers?
Good agents will know what types of improvements will increase your chances of selling.

How much commission do you charge?
"The average is 6 percent," said Donald R. Brenner, professor of real estate law at American University and former columnist for the Washington Post, "but if you are buying a home and listing your old home with the same agent, you may be able to work out a lower commission, since they will have two sales. Of if you are dealing with a million-dollar house, you may be able to negotiate the fee downward 1 or 2 percent."

What neighborhoods are you most active in?
A real estate salesperson who buys and sells homes frequently in your neighborhood is more likely to know what homes have sold for and other information that ups your chances of selling quickly for maximum dollar.

What is the average time before a home in your neighborhood sells?
Follow up by asking how your house fits into that time frame.

Will you take a three-month listing?
Some experts recommend a three-month listing with the option of renewing. The shorter the listing time, the harder your agent will work to sell your home.

Buying and selling your home can be a period of high stress. But if you take the time to find the real estate agent who is right for you, you can look back on the buying or selling of your house as an exciting experience.