Home listings are gradually picking up in some Bay Area markets as we move into the spring home buying season. Successfully selling your home for the right price and with the right conditions is no easy task, even in this market. So picking the right agent for the job is more important than ever.

A recent article on the financial website NerdWallet offers these tips for selecting the best person for the job:

  • Get referrals from people who have worked with the agent. Word-of-mouth referrals are important, but also make sure someone who sends a name your way has actually used the person to sell a home. Ask the person who’s doing the referring if he or she worked with the agent, says Tom Salomone, president of the National Association of REALTORS®.
  • Interview at least three agents. As NerdWallet points out, you wouldn’t settle for just one bid if you were renovating your kitchen or getting a new roof, right? Similarly, you should interview at least three agents in person to see whether you feel comfortable with them, Salomone says.
  • Look at productivity and education. Some agents have plenty of experience and happy clients to their credit, the article says. Some, however, haven’t closed a deal in years. Research credentials online, they suggest, and make sure agents you’re considering are licensed to practice in your state. When you visit an agent’s website, check the number of current and recently sold listings.

Real estate agents can earn professional designations conferred by trade organizations, such as the National Association of REALTORS® or other groups. While there may be good real estate agents who don’t have these designations, extra training shows a commitment to learning best industry practices and delivering top-notch service.

  • Ask the right questions. When you interview potential listing agents, you want to see if someone is qualified and has the right experience not only to market your home, but to get it sold as quickly as possible and for top dollar.

You may want to ask, among other questions: What are the comparable listings they’ve had in your neighborhood? What do they think your home is worth and why? What would a marketing plan for your home include? Are they a full-time agent or is this a side job?

Selling your home can be a stressful at times, but having the right agent on your side can make the entire process go a lot smoother – and get you the results you’re after in the process!

Below is a market-by-market report from our local San Francisco Bay Area offices:

North Bay – Inventory picking up slightly but still not close to meeting demand, our Greenbrae manager reports.  Multiple offers are prevalent. Seller’s market conditions still exist in the Santa Rosa area with no end in sight. There are multiple offers and it’s very competitive for buyers except in the very upper end of the market. Trending about the same this year to date (92 closed units) compared to last year to date (86 closed units). Attendance at open houses in the Sebastopol area continues to remain very strong with groups of 50 or more visiting almost all new listings.

San Francisco – Inventory has ticked up, but not enough to meet buyer demand, according to our Market Street office manager.   Open houses and Broker Tours continue to be well attended.   Agents have seen properties with multiple disclosures requested, but no offers on the official offer date.   And they’ve seen sellers counter multiple offers only to have all the buyers fall away.   Has buyer fatigue set in?   Or are sellers operating with unrealistic expectations?   We’ll know better as the Spring season gets into full swing.

SF Peninsula After a staggered 3-week hiatus for various public and private schools, our Menlo Park manager is seeing some listings come available. A slowness is very apparent around any holiday now.  Our clientele look and move when they want to.  Any holiday creates a slowdown in sales and agents now time the market and the marketing of their listing to fit this clientele schedule. Low inventory and a large buyer pool is the norm, especially for San Carlos, according to our local manager. Lists are still creating multiple offers. It’s a challenging market for both agents and buyers, she says. The San Mateo area inventory is getting better and the local market is hot, according to our manager. Big buyers are out there but some tech buyer are more reticent now after the equity market swooned earlier this year, our Woodside office manager says.  It has pretty much come back. Woodside continues to be a slower high end market. Agents are going far afield to get deals.

East Bay – Open Homes continue to be heavily attended with buyers coming from all areas, according to our Orinda manager. Multiple offers are the norm.

Silicon Valley – Lots of folks are on spring break, but our Cupertino manager says the activity is steady and open houses are booming. Los Gatos area buyers are encouraged as more inventory is hitting the market. Our San Jose Almaden office manager reports that inventory is higher than last year at this time. Agents are still seeing multiple offers and an increase of the number of units sold.  Prices seemed pretty flat for the first 2 months of the year but now are increasing, especially in the lower end market of under $650,000 for SFR.  The average sales price for the Almaden, Blossom Valley, Cambrian and Santa Teresa areas was $913,921, which is up 11% from last year at this time and up 8.1% from last month. Willow Glen active listing inventory remains steady, meaning homes come on the market then they are consumed week to week thus agents can’t get any net gains in listing inventory. The market is driven by price point at this time. There was a $750,000 listed average home that garnered 26 offers went into contract at over $900,000 – a new record high price point for this neighborhood. Some homes in the mid to higher price point ranges are typically taking longer to go into contact and aren’t bring in the multiple offers well over the list price.

South County – A Morgan Hill agent recently listed a home for $589,000.  It was an older home, just 3 bedrooms 2 baths in about 1200 square feet.  Though it was well maintained, it was minimally updated but presentable.  It garnered 15 offers and went into contract almost $75,000 over the original asking price.  Many of the potential buyers made their offers non-contingent upon appraisal or condition.  This is very typical for South County homes in this price range.  The demand remains strong and the inventory remains low.  Our local manager is, however, seeing a slight increase in the number of homes being offered for sale and these homes are in all price ranges—from entry level to multi-million dollar properties.  The good news for South County Buyers is that there tends to be a better selection than areas to the North (San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale).   Savvy buyers are learning that their buying power goes much further in both Morgan Hill and Gilroy.

Market Watch is a bi-weekly column by Coldwell Banker San Francisco Bay Area president Mike James exploring the local SF Bay housing markets. Click here to view previous installments.