Main Content

Home » Resources » Real Estate Tips » Sellers

Sellers

“The Role Of A Listing Agent”
Home sellers reading this article should understand that like every other industry, there are those who are exceptional and others not so much. Most businesses have an 80/20 rule where 80 percent of the business is done by 20 percent of the people. The real estate industry is skewed much greater than that. In fact, you might be amazed to know that 93% of all real estate transactions are completed by 7% of the members. That is staggering!

What this means is one thing – there is a lot of room for disappointment by picking the wrong real estate agent to represent your interests. When selling a home, it is very easy to choose a wrong agent, after all, the odds are stacked against you. Understanding how to pick a real estate agent is something many sellers get all wrong.

How can you increase the chances you will make the right choice in picking a real estate agent? This is an easy question to answer. You need to understand what things real estate agents should be doing for home sellers! When all of these tasks are completed in the correct manner the likelihood, you will be a happy camper will increase exponentially.

Your job now is finding that agent. By understanding the most important tasks, a Realtor should be doing you will be better equipped to make a smart decision.

1. Price The Home Correctly.

Pricing a home properly is bar none the most important thing you can do as a Realtor. Exceptional Real Estate agents avoid giving in to the desire to say what will make sellers happy just to attract business. Top notch Real Estate agents will price each home using their training, understanding of the market and comparable sales.

Understanding how to price a home is one of an agent’s most valuable skills. Smart sellers should be looking for agents who sell homes for close to the original listing price. The best Real Estate agents have a reputation for pricing homes accurately and not telling a seller what they want to hear to get a listing. This is one of the lowest things a Real Estate agent can do and violates the code of ethics we are supposed to follow.

As a seller, you should be aware that pricing a home too high can cause major issues in the sale. Buyers may avoid it, and if they avoid the home long enough, it will develop a bad reputation. Eventually, you will be forced to drop the price to be competitive in the marketplace, but by that point, the bad rep will have stuck.

Even with a competitive price, buyers will be likely to low-ball you after a period of time. Ultimately you may sell the house for less than what you would have if you had priced it correctly, to begin with. The seller loses out, and the agent’s reputation suffers.

While some agents will intentionally misrepresent a home’s value to get business, others lack the skill to price a home correctly. The perfect example is the Realtor who takes shortcuts and uses things like price per square foot to determine value. Unless you want your home priced wrong, don’t ever listen to a price per square foot of being an accurate way of pricing a property. The only way this indicator is useful is if all the homes in your neighborhood are identical. Rarely is this ever the case.

2. Market The Heck Out of The Property.

Marketing is one area where your Real Estate agent should shine. Your agent should be taking great pictures of the property – hiring a professional photographer if necessary. The photography on your home is absolutely one of essential elements in selling homes today. I can tell you first hand how appalling it can be seeing some of the photos real estate agents post of their client’s homes. What is probably even worse is the sellers who never bother to look!

The internet will be where home buyers discover your home. If your homes pictures are lousy, you will lose out on a significant amount of traffic.

Your Real Estate agent should be well versed on how to get the word out using all available marketing channels, not just the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Ideally, your Realtor should have a website that draws traffic and showcases all their properties for sale. They should also be using social media, like Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms, to spread the word. All of these online options take some time for an agent to develop, but will ultimately strengthen their business and help their client’s homes get sold.

The Real Estate agents marketing material should be top-notch, from photographs to videos to the brochures used to market the home. Investing in a quality Real Estate agent who understands how crucial the marketing is will reap substantial benefits.

3. Communicate Properly.

A seller needs to know what is going on with the sale of their home. Too many Real Estate agents get a client and then only check back in when they get an offer. Real Estate agents should regularly update their customers on the feedback from showings and about anything else that may concern them. Even if there are no offers, keeping in touch lets a seller know that you are doing something – and worth paying for.

Often surveys are done, and the #1 complaint from consumers with towards real estate agents is a lack of proper communication. Real Estate agents who don’t communicate get bad reputations among their peers and their clients. There are some clues as a home seller you can observe before you hire an agent that will give you a pretty good indication of how things will be moving forward. Do they return your calls or emails promptly? In my mind, all phone calls or emails should be returned within an hour unless you are already with another client. There is no excuse for poor communication. Staying in touch is something all sellers have a right to expect from their Realtor.

4. Make Sure The Buyer is Qualified.

Anybody can say they are interested in buying a house. Not everyone can get pre-approval for a home loan, though. A good listing agent will make sure that buyers are pre-approved – not just pre-qualified. There is a big difference between mortgage pre-qualification and pre-approval. Pre-qualification does not include an analysis of the buyer’s credit report, verify income, or employment, which will be key factors in whether they can get a mortgage.

A pre-qualification in most instances is not worth the paper it is written on. You want buyers who have already submitted all information, including a credit report, and been given the go-ahead for a loan. As long as nothing changes with their financial situation or their credit, they should be able to get approval and buy your client’s home.

5. Negotiate The Best Terms.

The best agents will go out of their way to fight hard for the best terms and conditions for their clients. This, after all, is what they are paid to do. A great Real Estate agent will never think about their pocket book but what makes the most sense for their client. This is one of the reasons why you should never choose and an agent that “needs” to make a sale. When you hire an agent who isn’t worried about when their next sale takes place, you will get much better advice.

Real Estate agents who advocate for their clients are always striving for the best possible terms for the transaction. Everything in Real Estate contracts is negotiable, good agents when warranted don’t hesitate to counteroffer with a price that is more favorable to their client. They have the negotiation skills necessary to get the job done right.

If a client wants adjustments to contingency dates or closing times, these should be negotiated appropriately. A good agent will understand the real value of each element to the customer. Pushing to get clients everything they possibly can is what the best of the best do on a regular basis.

6. Attend The Home Inspection to Represent The Seller.

A seller client may or may not expect a Real Estate to attend the home inspection, but they should do it regardless. By being there for the inspection, the agent gets to hear all the feedback from the inspector first-hand. So when I am asked if a listing agent should attend the home inspection, the answer is a resounding yes!

Your agent can keep track of everything that is said and keep things in perspective should the buyer ask for concessions based on the inspection. Some requests may be reasonable. Others may not. When a sellers agent is there and can see everything in person, they can protect a seller from unreasonable requests.

Here is the perfect example: A home inspector says during the inspection that the roof has 3 to 5 years left before it needs to be replaced. The translation after a home inspection from the buyer to the seller is that a new roof is needed immediately. Sometimes what the home inspector says and what is written in his report are two different things.

When the listing agent is present, they can see and hear first hand what exactly the issues are. Some buyers will exaggerate everything in the hopes of getting a closing cost concession or the seller making repairs. Home inspections often become the second place of negotiations.

Don’t be misled by the real estate agent who tells you that they shouldn’t go because “it creates too much liability.” That is complete nonsense! The only thing that creates liability at a home inspection is what you say and do as an agent, NOT your attendance there. Agents create their liability by speaking out of turn. A Realtor should not be attending a home inspection to be a 2nd inspector but to observe and listen. That’s it! It is the real estate agent that thinks they are a know it all who end up getting sued and losing.

7. Attend The Home Appraisal.

A good real estate agent will attend the home appraisal, so they can answer the questions the appraiser has and make sure they understand the facts about the home. Appraisers may need feedback from someone who knows the house to do their job. Your Real Estate agent should be there to help clarify any confusion. In many instances, your Realtor will be the best qualified to answer an appraiser’s questions.

For example, the appraiser could be looking for all the recent updates, among other things, that have been made in the home. Major updates are certainly something that can influence the value of your home. This something the agent should be there to point out. Updates are the kind of thing that can have a significant bearing on the outcome of the appraisal.

8. Finalize Loose Ends For Closing.

Selling a house involves a lot of work. There are so many little details that must be taken care of, which is one of the big selling points for your services. As the closing draws near, you will need to take care of all the loose ends for your client. . The less work, your client, has to do, the more appealing you are as an agent.

Selling a home can be very stressful, but when you have a top shelf agent in your corner who is taking care of the little details, the burden can be eased just a bit. Hopefully, you now understand the things to expect from your real estate agent when selling a home!

Final Thoughts

In summary, the traits you should be looking for in a real estate agent consist of these attributes:

  • Honesty above all else. The Realtor should put YOUR needs before their own.
  • Professionalism. From the dress to manners, the agent you hire is the extension of yourself to everyone they encounter in the home sale journey.
  • Excellent communication skills – does the agent stay in touch with their clients?
  • Strong negotiator – You want a tiger, not a pussy cat.
  • Creative marketer – remember you are not looking for the agent that does the bare minimum. Is there a comprehensive marketing plan?
  • Exceptional company and personal reputation – is the agent and the firm they work for looked up to as leaders?
  • Experience and proven results – does the agent possess the knowledge and expertise to guide you in unforeseen circumstances? Do they sell in all types of markets? Are they successful in all kinds of markets and not just when homes are selling like hotcakes?

When you take the time to look for these things in a Real Estate agent, your success will skyrocket.

“Home Selling Advise”

Overpricing A home

The best piece of home selling advice I can ever give any client is to price the home correctly coming out of the gate.

Overpricing a home is one of the hardest things to overcome. In fact, I tell people all the time that the price you set for a home is 80% of the marketing. What do you mean by that Bill? If you set the wrong price, all of your other efforts to sell the home will be meaningless.

The best online marketing, fantastic photography, beautiful brochures and fancy video tours aren’t going to mean squat if you help sell the competition by overpricing YOUR home.  One of the sure fire ways to prevent your home from selling is to list it at a price that the market will not bear.  Most people don’t like to overpay for any kind of purchase, never mind one as large as a home.

Selling a property can become an emotionally charged event.  Many people think of their homes as an extension of who they are and their life time memories.  Our homes are places where some of the most important events and memories in our lives occur. From holiday gatherings, birthday parties, the baby’s first steps, to simple things like family meals. These are all extraordinary things to many of us.

When selling a home, however, you need to take the emotion out of it and think of it strictly as a business transaction. Trust me I know this can be hard to do!

Keep in mind that market value is determined by what a motivated and qualified buyer is willing to pay for your home, not simply what you feel it should be worth. Carefully looking at comparable sales data is very important. The last thing you want as a seller is to let “the days on market” become inflated. I can tell you with certainty every buyer will ask their Realtor how long has the home been on the market. Buyer’s do this because they want to know how much they can negotiate.

A home that has been on the market for a long time is inviting lower offers. Over the years I have met numerous sellers that have explained they want to try a higher price because they have all the time in the world to sell. Folks this is totally incorrect thinking. In Real Estate time is your enemy NOT your friend. The longer it takes to sell your home the fewer dollars you will be putting in your pocket. Without question the number one home selling tip that any Realtor should be giving to their client is to price the home correctly from day one!

Neglecting Necessary Home Repairs

In a challenging Real Estate market otherwise known as a “buyers market”, the condition of a home becomes critical. In a tough Real Estate environment the homes that need work of the ones that take a beating at the negotiating table. Buyer’s today are spoiled.

They do not want to lift a finger. Buyers to move into their home and that’s it. They look for turn-key properties where the owner has taken pride in their home. Buyer’s today have plenty of choices, and they know it!

If you put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment, it would probably be easy enough to see why they won’t settle for a home they need to invest a significant amount of time and money into when they can go down the street and find something else without these headaches.

If you have a substantial amount of issues be prepared for a second round of negotiations after the buyer does a home inspection. In a buyers market a home inspection is often used as an opportunity to renegotiate the deal. This makes it imperative to ensure you are keeping up with your property in order to get top dollar. Right or wrong a buyer is going to try to maximize the best deal they can get. When you have not prepared for the home inspection the door has been left open for a buyer to seek to get more from you.

Neglecting To Stage and Prepare For Sale

There are times where some folks just don’t have the money to make repairs for some major items. This is where the appeal and showing condition of the rest of the home become critical.

First and foremost the home should be cleared off all clutter and unnecessary items. The term “de-cluttering a home” is one that is often used in Real Estate circles. If you have no where to put the items in the home to maximize the appearance I would suggest either putting them in storage or getting a temporary solution such as PODS. PODS are the containers that allow you to store items right on your property in a compact container.

Making sure your home shows well is an absolute necessity in a competitive market.  If you don’t have the time or the inclination, you may want to hire a professional home stager to take care of actually putting your home in showplace condition. A professional stager can make a run of the mill home and turn it into something special.

One of the things that will bring the biggest bang for your buck if needed is painting. First impressions in home sales are critical. Since painting is relatively inexpensive, I would consider this one of the top home selling tips for changing a homes appearance. A fresh coat of paint on walls and wood work can dramatically improve homes feel.

You will want to stay as neutral as possible with your color selections. Light earth tones work really well when selling a home.  Keep in mind you want your home to appeal to the masses! Don’t get caught up in selecting colors that appeal to you. Remember you are making selections based on selling. Often times sellers forget this and make choices based on their taste, not would appeal to the most people. This is the reason you will see many of the national home builders hiring professional decorators to assist with the design and staging details.

One last tip is to eliminate any odd decor items that may appeal to your unique sense of style, but which may appear strange to buyers.

Getting Hung Up On The Small Stuff

Top home selling tip # 4 is not to lose site of the goal of selling your home! There are times in my career where sellers get worked up over some of the most little issues. It could be the buyer has just rubbed them the wrong way, and because of this, they lose focus. A few times over the years I have seen sellers almost blow an entire deal over $500.

When you are selling your home, you need to keep the big picture in mind rather than allowing yourself to get hung up on something small. For example, is it worth blowing the sale over a cheap repair?

As previously mentioned, a home sale is just a business transaction, although it can often be difficult to make this distinction when you have so much of yourself and your finances invested into your home.  On some occasions over the years, I have had clients who didn’t like the people buying their home.

I have had to gently remind them that they will not have to deal with the buyer for very long and will soon be moving on with their lives.  Don’t let your emotions prevent you from getting your home sold.  If you don’t like the buyers, does it matter as long as the terms are in your favor? Keep the big picture in mind and get to the closing table!

Trying To Sell For Sale By Owner

Nationally, over 80% of all homes listed “for sale by owner” end up failing to sell and then end up listing with an agent.  Clearly, this is a very poor success rate which gets even worse in tougher times. There are a host of reasons why so many for sale by owners fail. These include improper price, lack of marketing and accessibility to the home among others.

To be sure, there can be exceptions, such as when you are in a great area with high visibility such as a main road.

If you do decide to “go it alone”, keep in mind that you are responsible for screening everyone that sees the house, and for being available during the day for showings. When selling for sale by owner you will also need to make sure the buyer is qualified. It is highly advisable that you understand the difference between a mortgage pre-qualification and pre-approval letter. There is a very big difference between these two mortgage terms. When selling a home it is advisable that you make sure the buyer has been pre-approved for a loan. A pre-qualification letter does very little to prove the buyer has the ability to procure a mortgage for your home. This is a home selling tip you do not want to overlook!  These are all details that a Real Estate agent can and will handle for you.

Choosing The Wrong Realtor

Other than over pricing your home the next biggest mistake that many consumers make is picking the WRONG Realtor to represent their best interest. The problem is that many people think all Realtors do the same things to sell homes. This could not be further from the truth! Trust me there are some great agents and others that are clueless.

If you choose the wrong Realtor to list your home, it is a difficult mistake to overcome during the sales process.  If the agent has pushy or argumentative personality, run the other way! Above all else choose and honest and ethical real estate agent.

Some Realtors will mislead you by giving you an inflated value for your home to get you to list the home with them. They then brow beat you for price reductions for the remainder of the contract until the home sells.

Primarily, you want someone who is friendly, loyal, honest, and who has your best needs in mind. Having someone who knows market values inside and out is crucial. The Realtor you hire should be making sure you understand what homes you are competing with and which homes have recently sold.

Lastly, an agent with excellent marketing skills is worth their weight in gold. Make sure the Realtor you choose knows how to market your home online This should be a critical piece of the agent selection process. Asking great Real Estate interview questions of the Realtor can go a long way in selecting a real pro! Real Estate agents are a dime a dozen. Since there are so many it is easy to make the wrong selection. Do your home work like you would selecting any other contractor.

Selling At The Wrong Time

Selling with bad timing can happen in a few different ways:

  • You decide to sell your home but have nowhere to go to.
  •  You put your home on the market immediately before you have to move.
  • You decide to sell at the wrong time of year.

If you don’t have a clue where you are going to buy next, it is probably not the greatest idea to put your home on the market, unless you just cannot afford your home anymore. The inevitable outcome of listing too soon is that you will get an offer from someone who wants to move into the home right away. You will then be forced to either reject the offer or move to temporary housing. The flip side of this is finding a home you love and then not being in a position to buy because you don’t have your home sold.

It’s never too early to contact a Realtor and ask when you should list with your particular needs and timing. We sometimes have clients who spend too much time getting their homes ready to sell, and they end up missing the big selling window in our market.  Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time preparing your home for sale and end up missing the primary selling season. Here in Massachusetts, the best time to sell a home is in the Spring.

Not Giving Buyers Access or Having Accompanied Showings

Home buyers should not be made to work around your ideal schedule. If it is a reasonable time of day LET THEM LOOK.  Even if things are in disarray, LET THEM LOOK.  Even if the buyer’s agent doesn’t give you any notice, LET THEM LOOK. Every showing you miss is a lost opportunity that you many NEVER get back. I can’t even count how many times over the years where a seller refused a showing and a buyer never made it back to the house because they found something else before doing so!

Although we like Realtors to call for showings the day before they happen (or at least several hours ahead of time), there are times when a buyer will spot a sign or see something online and want to see it right away.  Sometimes this is the home they end up buying.  Keep that in mind when you have your home listed.

Make showing your home as easy as possible. DO NOT require accompanied Real Estate showings. Realtors do not sell homes. Homes sell themselves! A home purchase is an emotional transaction – NOT a sales pitch. Click the link to see why buyers do not need or want a listing agent present at the showing. Not having a listing agent present for the showings is one of the top home selling tips that many homeowners don’t realize.

You should also vacate the home. At the very least go for a walk so the buyer can feel comfortable speaking to their agent in private.  Buyers never feel at ease when you are in the home hovering around them.  Let them look on their terms, not yours.  If you are concerned about valuables, lock them up somewhere. Most importantly a lock box is highly advisable! Don’t make a Realtor NOT want to show your home.

Buying The Wrong Home In The First Place

This is where a good buyer’s agent is necessary for a customer to make a smart decision. After all, at some point, you will be probably be selling the home.

While you are certainly able to think on your own, an excellent buyer’s agent will advise you against buying something that is not a wise investment. Things, like being near a hazardous waste site or close to a loud highway, might not be right decisions. When it comes time to sell, you will be glad you listened.

Following all these top home selling tips will significantly increase your chances for a smooth and effortless home sale. Best of luck!

Things Your Home Stager Wishes You Knew

1. Don’t take it personally

We know you love the way you set up your living room. That eclectic collection of wicker baskets from all your European travels stacked up in the corner? It’s the perfect detail for you—but not for your stager. Not even close.

So here’s the thing: When they tell you what to change (and they absolutely will), don’t be offended. It doesn’t mean they think your style is awful. Not necessarily, anyway.

“It’s not about whether I like something or not,” Burke says. “It’s about how we’re going to present it. I know what photographs well and what looks dated.”

Her favorite clients are the ones who know tough feedback is coming and don’t care: “I walk in and they say, ‘You can’t hurt my feelings. Do whatever you want.’”

2. Toss your stuff, and disconnect emotionally

For many sellers, home staging will be the first time they realize they’re really, actually moving. Family pictures come down, the sofa goes into storage, and suddenly this place you called yours is looking less and less like you.

If you need to do some emotional processing, we understand: It’s hard to put your family home on the market. But don’t subject your stager to your stress. Detach. Chill out. Help the process, don’t hinder or fight it. Keep your eye on the prize: selling your home at the right price, to the right buyers, within the right time frame.

What does that really mean? Try removing as much of your stuff as possible before the stager comes. By tackling spring cleaning you’ll not only accomplish some necessary decluttering before your move, but you’ll also get used to the idea that this is no longer your home.

“We need to make sure that they’re truly ready to sell their house,” says David Peterson of  Portland, OR. “That’s a big part of emotionally disconnecting.”

3. Move out (if you can)

Both Peterson and Burke find staging a home vastly easier when it’s vacant. If you can afford to move out when the home goes on the market, do it.

“It’s easier for them, it’s easier on their pets, and it’s easier on the buyer,” Burke says. “We can create one cohesive look and don’t have to blend anything.”

Occupied houses present more of a challenge (and take substantially more time): Stagers have to accommodate daily living, as well as risk the homeowner not preserving their layout (or any rented furniture).

Occupied homes can even cost more to stage. “It’s just a lot more work, timewise, when the owners are still living in the place,” Burke says.

4. Stay out of the picture(s)

According to the 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 92% of buyers use the Internet to look for homes—meaning the pictures posted alongside your home’s listing are wildly important.

“Much of what I’m doing is to appeal to people through photographs,” Burke says. “I hope that photo will touch people and they’ll say, ‘That’s going on my short list.’”

Peterson aims to be the “last person in before the photographers. We want those pictures to look great.”

But no one wants the buyers to be disappointed with the home’s real-life presentation after seeing photos online. So here’s a bonus: If you’re staying in the property, make sure to keep it in tiptop shape.

5. Get your money’s worth

Staging isn’t a last-minute addition before your home officially goes on the market. Stagers work far in advance and can’t always fit in last-minute work. Costs start around $1,250, depending on your state of residence, square footage, and what—if any—furniture you rent, according to the Real Estate Staging Association.

That might seem like a lot of money to spend on a home you’re about to sell, but both Burke and Peterson say staging is an investment with a very high return. “Anything we put in, we want to make sure you’re getting your money back,” Burke says.

6. Stay on schedule

Don’t dillydally on making the recommended changes for your stager, who can’t begin rearranging until you’ve finished renovating. Usually the requested changes are small (new paint, fixing chipped tiles in the bathroom, etc.).

Not finishing small jobs on time can push the entire project back.

“If we get there and a place hasn’t been cleaned, or there’s still a painting crew, we can’t do our jobs. Then we have to charge them a fee, leave, and then reschedule,” Peterson says. “If we’re booked out several weeks, it really makes it hard.” And maybe even more expensive. So get moving.

Jamie Wiebe writes about home design and real estate for realtor.com. She has previously written for House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Real Simple, Veranda, and more.