Updated: Aug 10
I am a full-service agent, not a limited-service agent, and never plan to be anything but a full-service agent. While I don't recommend using limited service agents, just like I don't recommend using other highly discounted agents due to sellers often receiving lower net profits vs a good standard agent, in this article, I wanted to go over what to look for in limited service agents in the event that you want to use one.
How Experienced Are They?
Consider their level of experience in being able to quickly weed out a number of limited service agents. Some sellers like to only consider agents with 5 years of experience or more, 50+ transactions over their career, or 100+ transactions over their career.
What do Their Reviews Say About Them?
Consider their reviews in being able to quickly weed out a number of limited service agents who don't have practically any ratings or who are poorly rated. Be sure to not just look at the volume of reviews but to see what is actually being said & the worst review(s).
What do Their Most Recent Listings Say About Their Work?
Before you ever speak to a limited service agent, be sure to look at their listing recent history, particularly looking for the volume of non-required information that is input & if it is clear that the sellers were educated before they input information into the listing. Even if a limited service agent doesn't give any personalized advice, general advice (i.e. articles like this one) should be very beneficial in assisting sellers to more consistently input good information, pictures, and condition into their listings. If you see consistently worse listings than other limited service placement agents listing properties in the same price range, that's one of the top reasons to no longer consider the agent. Also, be sure to ask the agent if all of those recent sales you are seeing are limited service listings. Some agents do both limited service and standard listings and the way they approach them can be very different.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, there isn't just 1 MLS. In some cities/counties, even in parts of SE VA, 1 MLS doesn't make up a majority of the total MLS based listings. I actually pay for access to 5 MLS, though most real estate agents only have access to 1 or 2 to cut down on their costs. Be sure to know what MLS (whether 1 MLS or 4 MLS) it will take to get at least 95% MLS coverage for the city/county that you are selling in. I have that information for SE VA here. Once you have that information, pick an agent that can give you at least 95% coverage via MLS, though >99% is ideal. Don't be surprised if they charge extra for each MLS. It will likely be worth whatever extra fee they charge as long as the MLS being added makes up 5% or more of a city/county's listings that your property belongs to.
I've seen where a "limited placement service" listing had less than 1% MLS coverage for an area, where other MLS were much more prevalent. The listing agent likely covered a large territory and the seller likely had no idea that they were getting shortchanged tremendously. One of the top benefits of being put in MLS is to get in the feed of buyer's agents for the area sending homes to buyers, and because of the MLS that the property was put in, that positive element of being listed in MLS was negated by >99%. I bet the limited service agent was cheap...
Will They Show You the Data Input Forms Before Listing Input?
While some MLS require that sellers sign data input forms prior to input, others don't, and sometimes sellers never see these prior to listing. In REIN, the primary MLS of Hampton Roads, & in WBG MLS, sellers need to sign data input forms, but that's not the case for the form used for the CVR/CBRAR co-op.
Will They Require You to Input Information in the Data Input Forms Before Listing Input? If not, how much will they input?
Especially if using more than 1 MLS, & if you don't have a program that makes it easy digitally, it can be quite tedious to input information in data MLS input forms. It can easily be a multiple hour long project even for just 1 MLS data input form. If you are listing your home in an area with a high level of crossover MLS, it's ideal for a real estate agent to have an extensive seller survey in which you only need to answer questions once so that they can then input that information into MLS multiple times. These surveys are also ideal when they include hyperlinks & instructions with the questions. It's not unusual at all for limited service agents to skip over all non-required information for data input because the limited service placement agent is trying to get to the next property rather than going for quality if they are going to survive in the business since they need to do higher volume than a typical agent in order to make a decent wage. An ideal seller survey shouldn't skip over the non-required questions. Here's an example of search data where I focused on non-required questions:
Any guesses on which 2 listings above are the limited service placement listings? That's right, the 2 on the bottom with the least information that wasn't required. That missing information means that any buyers or buyers' agents inputting non-required search criteria could weed out those properties automatically even if the home would fit the criteria in reality of the agent had been more thorough with non-required information. Considering that the above search is for properties with $300+ in fees, the missing HOA amenities are especially alarming in my opinion, though again, not unusual at all.
If you'll need to input into the data input forms yourself, and they don't provide you something like Authentisign, one option is PDF Reader:
Will They Include ShowingTime?
ShowingTime is a highly effective tool that I would definitely recommend that your limited placement service agent has, even if including it costs you hundreds of dollars extra compared to another limited placement agent who doesn't have it or if it's an add-on. In some cases having it vs not having it can cost you thousands of dollars in lost net profits, especially if there are times of the day when you won't be available to be on your phone and the home is vacant or if you go to bed before 9 PM and the home is vacant. I've seen where some sellers get so overwhelmed with appointment requests that they essentially quit all showings in favor of an open house, despite the fact that they are lowering their net profits in the process since some buyers won't be able to come to that open house and fewer buyers means a lower net price with less favorable terms statistically. Sometimes if a buyer can't see a home less than 10 minutes after the buyer or their buyer's agent reaches out, again, you'll never have an opportunity for them to come back. That might sound shocking, but I've seen where a buyer could be in town for a short window of time, planning on making an offer after a 1-day string of showings, and see a sign for a property in the neighborhood while they are exploring a nearby home. That string of showings they have often has time windows attached to it per property, so if they stick around too long waiting to hear back from a seller, they could miss out on the properties that they have appointments for. If the seller responds later, they may not want to backtrack 30 minutes or an hour for double that time in round-trip transit because they may be running a tight schedule.
For more details on ShowingTime vs competitors, go to my article on the subject here.
What Lockboxes Do They Include, if Any?
Theft in the home selling process happens often enough to be a significant concern, especially if you don't have the right tools in place. Electronic lockboxes that real estate agent in many MLS use are significantly more secure than manual contractor lockboxes. Unless you'll be available to show all day every day, if you're unable to show a home to someone and the lack of a lockbox on the property means they don't see it, you may never get an opportunity to have that buyer come to the property again. Sometimes if a buyer can't see a home less than 10 minutes after the buyer or their buyer's agent reaches out, you'll never have an opportunity for them to come back. The lockbox or other coded entry on the property should be for licensed real estate agents (often accompanied by buyers), & if you desire, for contractors, & inspectors. You shouldn't let buyers know the lockbox code. It's ideal to have a digital record of who came when, so if doing an MLS limited placement service, be sure to ask them if they will provide a lockbox, what kind of lockboxes they'll provide, and if there is any added fee for that.
When I list a home, it has 2-4 lockboxes, including at least 1 contractor lockbox, at least 1 electronic lockbox (excluding some lower priced properties where the seller has opted for my lower % commission option for listings in the Northern Neck), & up to 2 more types of electronic lockboxes.
If they have lockbox options, be sure to inquire about the cost. They shouldn't be too expensive for a limited service agent, & are typically well worth the additional cost for reduced security risks. I recommend at least enough electronic lockboxes for >95% MLS coverage & at least 1 manual lockbox.
What Digital & Physical Resources do They Have That They Offer at No Additional Cost or at a Low Additional Cost?
Educated sellers make the best decisions. A limited service agent is able to provide significantly superior service than they could otherwise if they have extensive digital writing & resources on various topics. By having the writing already present, they can send you information specific to the region and specific to local contracts so that you can be informed up front.
Well equipped sellers can market their homes better and prepare their home better and at a lower cost than other sellers. Some limited service agents have purchased equipment, tools, items for staging, and more that they can offer for free or at a cost to the sellers they serve.
Will They Include Any Picture Captions, Especially of Area Photos?
While area photos within the community & outside of the community of a home are often completely neglected from listing photography, they really shouldn't be. That said, a listing with no public remarks about the area photos and (in MLS) no photo captions is lacking vs those that have them. Ideally area photos should include the proximity to the home & the amenities being offered at the location of the area photo. Adding photo captions is extra work for the listing agent, so be sure to ask the listing agent if you plan on including area photography about whether or not he can include photo captions that you author in each area photo especially in each MLS you list in. For hidden features (i.e. soft close cabinets), it's also nice to add photo captions.
You shouldn't just be hiring a limited service agent. If going the limited service route, you should also hire separately:
Top 3 People to Hire In Addition to Limited Service Agent
1. A closing company 2. A professional cleaner if you're unwilling to make the home very clean 3. A professional photographer (or more than 1 combined) who can do still photos, aerials, area photos (especially of association community amenities & other visually appealing amenities within close proximity) and a Matterport virtual tour of the interior, garage if applicable, & exterior.
Consider hiring as well...
1. A contractor if you're not handy for repairs prior to listing 2. An hourly fee agent for advice (i.e. before listing on what to do to the home to get it ready to sell, how to respond to offers, which offer to select, and subsequent negotiations), especially if the limited service agent doesn't have an hourly fee-based or add-on packaged-based option for advice, or if you think the advice they gave was inadequate. When involving more than 1 agent on the same transaction, just be sure that you aren't in breach of contract with your listing agreement. 3. A home inspector for a pre-listing inspection 4. An appraiser
5. Other inspectors like septic/well, termite/moisture, etc., but keep in mind that with some of these inspections, they have limited timelines before they expire for the buyers who may not be able to use them & who may need to get a new one.
6. Landscaping company