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Selling a house is a stressful event for most people. Overnight, your home goes from a private, lived-in sanctum to a showpiece, with the next viewing only ever a phone call away. Life becomes a flurry of floor mopping, pool cleaning and leaf raking, interspersed with frantic attempts to gather up children's toys and general household clutter when the agent calls to tell you that they're bringing people around in an hour.

Which is-why it's so important to choose your estate agent carefully, says Jill Corfield, principal of the Corfield School of Real Estate and an accredited assessor with the industries services SETA. "As a seller, you can reduce your stress levels and speed up the selling process substantially by placing the marketing of your home in the hands of a professional."

Market share
Sellers should take a drive around their area to find out which company's 'for sale' boards are most visible, an indication of their market share and whether they specialise in your particular area.

Ask them how long they've been an agent, what qualifications they have, and to which organisations their company belongs. For example, agents who work for franchise, referral and multi listing groups tend to have access to more buyers.

An increasing number of these companies have websites that are regularly accessed by buyers and sellers across the world, so don't hesitate to ask them how many page impressions they are getting a month. Also, many of the professional companies have aligned themselves with a mortgage originator to source the best home loan deals for their clients and expedite the transfer.

Ask what training the agent has undergone, suggests Corfield, as some of the top companies in the industry have established in-house training academies to ensure consistently high standards among their staff. Other key players take advantage of established training facilities by insisting that their agents participate regularly in high-level training seminars.

Marketing plan
Once you're happy with the above, ask your chosen agent for the details of the marketing plan that they're going to put together for your home. At this point, it would be a good idea to request information on the company's track record in terms of sole mandates. "If they have had 20 sole mandates in the last six months and sold 18 of them, chances are that this is the company that should be selling your home," she says.

Market-related pricing
In conclusion, a good agent will provide you with the information you need to set a market-related and realistic selling price, without trying to inflate it to secure your mandate. When you sign that sole selling mandate, you need to be convinced that you're dealing with a company that delivers on its promises and operates with a high degree of integrity and efficiency.

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