Want to sell your home quickly? Amid all the chatter about power-washing your siding and weeding your flower beds, sellers often overlook one crucial factor: choosing the right real estate agent.

Several studies by Bennie Waller, professor of real estate at Longwood University, reveal the outsized effect that real estate agents have not only on home prices but also on speed of sale.

Be careful of agents spread too thin

When it comes to selling your house, more isn’t always better—at least not in terms of agent listings. Real estate agents with 15 or more listings may take as much as 26 percent longer to sell your home, according to a recent study.

"People often choose a real estate agent after seeing her face on billboards all over town, which leads them to assume the agent will do a great job selling their house," said Dr. Scott Wentland, who conducted the study with Waller. "But an agent can only devote so much time to a client. The question is: Will that agent sell your house faster because she’s a better agent, or will her workload dilute her efforts? We found it will take longer to sell your house."

But can a busier agent command a better price for your home? Not according to the data—the amount of inventory has a negligible effect on home prices.

Are they selling their own properties?

Real estate agents sell their own properties a lot quicker—and for more money—than they sell yours. In fact, your house could languish on the market up to 46 percent longer if your real estate agent is selling his own property at the same time as yours.

"Agents who sell their own properties while working for clients tend to reallocate their time to support their own sale," said Waller. "This certainly affects clients negatively and argues for increased transparency on the part of agents."

Furthermore, the price you’ll get for your property is lower, on average, if you use an agent who is also listing his own properties. The study estimates that those properties sell for 1.5 percent lower than comparable sales, corresponding to a price reduction of about $2,300. "We are talking about an economically significant amount of both time and money," said Waller. "If you are interested in selling your house quickly, knowing what the broker is up to can mean the difference between a property that sells and a house that doesn’t."

Pay attention to distance

Gas prices hit everyone’s wallet hard, but it especially hurts those who are in their cars often—including real estate agents. As gas prices continue to rise—$4 a gallon doesn’t seem very far off some days—home sellers who want a quick sale need to pay attention to the numbers at the pump and consider choosing an agent who is closer to their property.

"Increasing gas prices and commuting distance reduce a property’s sale price and liquidity," said Waller, who has completed a study on the impact of gas prices on real estate sales. "Just a one-dollar price increase at the gas station combined with a 20-mile round-trip commute to your house extends the average time on the market by 24 days—nearly a month."

For many properties, the study shows that increased gas prices contribute to a lack of effort by the agent. In addition, if the agent is inexperienced or at a new firm, resources may be scarce and insufficient to offset increased transportation costs.

[Real estate agent image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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