You see “For Sale” signs listing real estate agents everywhere and may even know some realtors but where do you start when you are ready to list your own home? How do you pick out the best realtor for yourself? It can be a trying experience. This article is for Ohioans, I don’t know what happens in other areas but I’m sure there are similar issues everywhere?
For Sale By Owner – Let’s start with the basics. The time has come to put your house up for sale and you have done everything you can to make it look great and bring in top dollar. Of course, you could put a For Sale By Owner sign in your front yard but do you recall the fun you had when you tried to sell something else, strangers at all hours, broken appointments, discouraging remarks and just a plain miserable experience? It’s no different with real estate. You will have people driving up your driveway, knocking on your door, walking around your property whenever they feel like it, not a comfortable feeling in this day and age. What if you are not home when they show up? There is just to many “ifs” attached to this and bottom line is, you are not likely to sell the house this way as realtors are not going to help promote your home within their own vast network. You won’t be in the MLS listings which serves the entire country. All you have done is delay your sale.
Another problem is not having the knowledge of what comes next. If you do decide to try For Sale by Owner method, how do you handle the prospects and get them to actually commit to a purchase or at least an offer. Do you have a legal contract for them to sign? Are you comfortable negotiating as few prospects are going to offer you full price? Can you handle the negatives they will present about your lovely home? Your emotional attachment to your home will have to be kept in check during this process. Can you actually ask them if they want to make an offer? Can you provide them a way to finance the home? Can you show them reasonable proof as to why your home is worth the asking price? Have you done some shopping around in your own area to see what homes like yours are selling for? Have you had a professional home inspection on your home so that you can show buyer – making them feel comfortable knowing all is well? Have you done a termite inspection and so on? Do you know what legal forms are required? These are all things that a true professional realtor does for both you and the buyer. They are the go-between, they handle all this for you and for the buyer, advising you both along the way. So let’s hire that realtor!
Finding a Real Estate Agent – Check with friends and neighbors or anyone you know in the area who has recently sold a house and find out who they used. Next look around for a “known” real estate agent. I have googled “top realtor” or “top real estate agent” in specific areas and often find a rating system that helps guide me to the right person. Just because you know someone doesn’t mean they are the best agent for you. Also remember you are looking for a realtor who sells homes like yours; in other words, not a commercial realtor or land speculator. You want a true “home” agent. It goes without saying that the known real estate companies do offer the advantage of popularity and knowledge. But that doesn’t mean the little guys might not be a better choice. I can say that the amount of promotion and effort put out on your behalf may be directly related to what they can afford. Remember they don’t get any money from you until the house is sold …so consider that fact, can this agent afford to work for me?
What does the agent do – or might I say, should do?
Listing Agreement – First off they will have you sign an agreement that they are “the” listing agent for a specific amount of time. This means you can’t hire another realtor until that specified time elapses. Try to keep that time short, say 90 -120 days because if they don’t do the job, you want to be able to move on to someone else until that time period is up. You need to be reasonable here, give them a fair amount of time to try and sell your home. Home buying is a big investment and doesn’t happen quick. Also home buying is somewhat seasonal with Nov-March being very slow.
Staging – Another thing you want is for the agent to make any recommendations for your home that they think will help you sell it. Maybe remove some clutter or paint a room or add some flowers, just small things that would help. Hear what they say and try to do it. Their experiences help them know little things that really make a home attractive, take their advice where possible. When trying to sell your home Less is More! De-cluttering and putting things in storage can go a long way in making your home more appealing.
Set A Listing Price – They will do a price comparison of the area to see what price is reasonable for your home and the two of you can discuss and work on this together. Should you have something unique that adds value, you can raise your price but the realtor needs to know that. If your home is a bit out of date or has some issue, you need to tell the realtor and reduce the price. They have to have a reasonable price to attract buyers and close a deal. Let them guide you through this.
Advertising – Next the agent will take photos of your house, put out a For Sale sign, post your home on MLS and every other site they are connected to including Facebook etc. The wider the spread, the better the chance.
Open House – They can host an Open House so the neighborhood can come see what the home looks like and help spread the word. Don’t overlook this as often prospective buyers visit the neighbors and ask about your home and you want your neighbors to give it a glowing review. Encourage neighbors to come see all you have done and try to eliminate any issues they might present prospective buyers. So the Open House both helps you promote to buyers who see the Open House sign and to the neighbors who are your best promoters (let them spread the word – rather pick their own neighbors)! Be sure your realtor holds this Open House. Also be sure you are not present during that Open House. It is hard to hear people say discouraging things, so best just stay away – after all, you are paying the realtor to work, so let them do it. You do not want an agent who won’t hold an Open House. Don’t be afraid to hold another Open House sometime later too.
Commission – Speaking of pay, your realtor will get a commission for 1) listing the property 2) selling the property. If they list your house and sell it they get the greatest commission but also do the most work. If they list the property and another agent from somewhere else sells the house, your agent gets a smaller commission. The problem with this system is that a lot of agents love listing houses and getting that small commission and then do nothing but sit around and wait for someone else to do all the work and then just collect their listing fee. You do NOT want this agent! You want a go-getter, someone who lists your home and then goes out to promote it and finds a buyer or co-ops with other agents to find a buyer.
Not selling? – It’s all too easy to say the reason it didn’t sell was too high of a price. Remember those sales comparisons you had in the beginning…if you are within that range and time-frame, your house will sell. If it hasn’t sold, then look for another issue you overlooked before price dropping. Check Zillow, Truila, and other listing sites for your home and see if the ad looks right to you, is something wrong? We had several issues here and didn’t discover them until a month later! One said the house was NOT for sale and one had the house photos all wrong. Don’t leave this up to your realtor – check it out yourself right after they list it and keep checking. IF you find anything wrong, contact your realtor and anyone else involved – don’t expect them to “discover” this and then correct it on your behalf, you do it and follow up to be sure it is done. It may be as simple as too much clutter, pictures that are too dark, too bright of paint, or outdated carpet. I know it sounds crazy but these have all been reasons why a house has sat on the market for months. Sometimes a quick change can make all the difference!
Updates – Last of all – be sure they call you with updates! If they do not return your calls or fail to keep you informed, don’t renew. That is why I am saying keep that time-frame short for signing up with them. Ideally you want them to let you know that they have a showing and when. Obviously that would be nice because you might need to make a quick cleanup or need to request a different time. Do NOT be home during a showing. They also need to give you feedback both good and bad after a showing so you can try to find out what issues may exist you didn’t see before now. Most of the time the buyer has already researched the home on the internet and done a drive-by and are interested. So now is the time to make your house shine its best.
So to sum up …finding the right realtor isn’t easy. You have to shop around, talk to them and be sure they do all the above. Check various commissions and costs. The cheaper agent might not be the best for you. Find a professional who will actually do the job, not just tell you what you want to hear. Selling your home is an emotional roller coaster as well as stressful but in the end, if you did your homework, you should have your rewards. Hey, if this realtor does everything we mentioned in this article why not use them to buy your next house and be sure to give them a glowing review, help promote them too! They’ve earned it!