How to Find the Right Person to Sell Your House

Your guide to hiring the listing agent who can set you up for success.

Finding a Listing Agent Who's Right for You
Image: HouseLogic

Your home is where you’ve lived and loved, where you’ve laughed and cried, where you’ve huddled and snuggled. You’re the pea, your home is the pod. And you’ve been through a lot together.

Now that it’s time to put it on the market, you’re likely experiencing some sadness, plus plenty of anxiety. Because really: How often does your future depend on selling your past? If you’re a little overwhelmed, we don’t blame you.

But there’s also good news: You don’t have to go it alone. 

A listing agent has your back when it comes to the financials, like setting a listing price and marketing, staging, and making repairs to your house. He or she can also help you navigate more personal issues, such as your timeline, and what you’re hoping to achieve with the sale.  

For all of those reasons, it’s important to find an expert who is right for you and your specific situation, and who can help you get what you want. Here’s how.

Know What a Listing Agent Can Do for You

Before you start interviewing prospective agents, have a clear sense of what you want to get out of the selling process. When so much money is on the table, it’s crucial to know what your goals are, so that you can find an agent who really speaks to them.

Then, it helps to understand what a listing agent does (other than sell your most valuable asset — no big deal).

The listing agent will: 

  • Work with you to price your home
  • Market your home (we’re talking pretty pictures, social media promo, cute staging — the works)
  • Negotiate with home buyers
  • Usher the home sale through inspection and closing

Now, let’s break all of that down . . .

Pricing your home. This is the BIG question, right? How do I set the price? The short answer is you’ll need to trust your agent to recommend a smart listing price. 

So how can you tell whether an agent — a relative stranger to you — is choosing the best price for your home? You need to do two things:

  1. Know, generally speaking, what your property is worth. Do your own research on the prices of local comps, (but understand the limits of online property sites). Run your info by your agent for an informed perspective. 
  2. Ask the agent for pricing information on homes he or she has recently sold. Specifically, what the differences were between their listing prices and how much the homes ultimately sold for. 

When it comes to the agent’s pricing history, you’re looking for accuracy. Anyone could suggest a high price for your home, knowing it’s what you’d like to hear. But nobody (especially you) wants to have a house languish on the market, or to reduce a price repeatedly.

Marketing your home. The listing agent will also get the word out that your house is on the market, using a combination of old-school (but powerful) marketing techniques — such as direct mail, signage, and open houses — and the modern methods we know and love, like social media. Savvy agents will post pics of your house on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and any other platform that can get likes plus the attention of other real estate agents who can bring buyers to the table.

Negotiating with buyers. When offers start pouring in, your agent will negotiate with prospective buyers on not only the sale price but also on what contingencies (aka special circumstances) are attached to the contract. As with any negotiation, there could be some stressful, fraught moments with the buyers. You’ll want an agent who can step up for you, and who has a negotiation style that you’re comfortable with.

Closing the sale. Once you’ve signed a purchase agreement with a buyer (woo-hoo!), your agent will help you navigate the sale’s remaining steps. This includes negotiating home repair requests post inspection and dealing with any last-minute surprises before closing.

The average listing agent does all of the above. A great listing agent does all of the above, while also inspiring your confidence — that they’re getting the best price for you, and that they’re representing you and your home in the best possible light. 

So, let’s talk about how to find and hire that kind of agent.

Ask These Questions to Find a Great Listing Agent

Here, time is on your side. Aim to hire a listing agent six to eight weeks — or more — before the day your house is listed on the market (also known as the “go-live date”). You’ll be grateful for the cushion, especially if the agent you ultimately hire recommends that you make repairs or upgrades to your home before it’s listed. (That wouldn’t be unusual.)

To find prospective agents, start with your network. Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues for recommendations. Word-of-mouth endorsements, as always, can be priceless.

You can also turn to another trusted friend: the internet. Property websites such as realtor.com® have directories that let you search for agents in your area. These databases can clue you into important details, such as an agent’s years of experience, number of homes sold, and past client reviews.

Three out of four home sellers only contact one candidate before picking their listing agent, according to a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® report. While that may be the norm, it’s smarter to shop around. Interview at least three agents before deciding on the one you want to work with. 

During the interviews, ask these questions to help assess whether an agent is the right fit you:

  • Do you work as an agent full-time? As in most professions, work experience doesn’t guarantee skill. That said, much of real estate is learned on the job.
  • How long have you been in the business? Generally, the more experience an agent has, the more they’re tapped into the local market. 
  • How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood in the past year? You don’t need to find an agent who specializes only in your community, though that would be ideal. You do want someone who has recently sold at least a few homes in your neighborhood and knows the local and hyper-local inventory.
  • What’s the typical price range of homes you sell? Most agents work across multiple price points, but you don’t want an agent who has never sold a home in your range.
  • What’s your fee? An agent should be able to articulate their value and explain their commission rate.  
  • How will you market my home? You don’t want to hire someone who’s just going to stick a For Sale sign in your yard and call it a day. The agent should present a comprehensive marketing plan for your listing. This should include strategies for staging your home, taking professional photographs of your home, promoting the listing on social media, marketing to other brokers, and scheduling open houses.
  • Will I be working with you directly, or with a team? Some agents lead or work as part of a sales team. The lead listing agent shares client responsibilities with other agents. Where one agent may handle private showings for a listing, another may host open houses. A benefit is that for the same fee, you get many people working for you. But if you want the sole attention of the listing agent, you may want to stick to a one-on-one arrangement. 
  • Will you provide one-on-one service? Whether you’re working with one agent or a team, ask how responsive they can be to you, your timeline, and your goals.
  • How long on average are your listings on market? Your average sold-to-list price? This can help you suss out whether the agent is a solid marketer and negotiator. These are real estate stats that the agent can pull from your local multiple listing service, or MLS. 

The bottom-line: It’s in your best interest to pick an agent who understands your goals, fits your personality, and can get your home sold for top dollar. When you meet someone who can offer all of the above, congratulations — you’ve found your listing agent.

First Thing: Know What You’re Signing up For

Now that you know what you’re getting when you find the right listing agent, let’s make sure you know what you’re committing to when you sign that agent’s “representation agreement.”

The most common type of representation agreement is the exclusive right-to-sell agreement — a legally binding contract that states you’re going to use that agent to sell your house. Under this agreement, you’re giving the agent (and the agent’s brokerage) the right to sell the home for a mutually agreed-upon time period and compensation. IOW: You get peace of mind that you have a dedicated agent; the agent gets peace of mind that you’re only using their services. Other common terms include the agent’s duties to you, like marketing, and a dispute resolution plan.

There are other types of representation agreements, where agents don’t have exclusive rights to sell the property — meaning multiple agents can try to sell the home and compete for the commission. However, when agents know a listing is exclusively theirs, they’re fully invested in selling the property (which, again, should also give you peace of mind).

Every contract has an expiration date, but the length of the contract can vary. Some are three-months; others six months. It all depends on what you and the agent agree upon. If the contract expires before your house is sold, you can re-list your home with another agent. 

Of course, there’s a chance you sign an exclusive listing agreement but just aren’t satisfied with the job your agent is doing. To protect yourself, make sure the representation agreement has a cancellation or termination clause that lets you void the contract before the expiration date without any financial penalty.

Understand How a Listing Agent Gets Paid

So  . . . at the end of the day, how do listing agents get compensated for their work? 

Real estate commissions — including the listing agent’s commission — are typically charged as a percentage of the home’s sales price. For example, on a $300,000 house, a 6% commission would cost $18,000. Commissions are negotiable. The commission is usually split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent as well as their respective brokers. 

A caveat: If an agent represents the seller and the buyer, the agent becomes a dual agent and earns both sides of the commission. In dual agency, you may have more room to negotiate the rate — just keep in mind that you’re not being represented exclusively as you are in single agency. You may want to hire an attorney to review documents and help you negotiate.

The listing agent’s commission fee often covers the cost of professional photos, marketing and marketing materials, and any administrative fees charged by the agent’s brokerage. 

Also, consider this: Great agents — with their pretty photography, HGTV-worthy staging tricks, and marketing smarts — earn their keep. 

So, if you’ve read all of the above, you’ve done your homework to find a great agent. Now you’re ready to sell that house.

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HOUSELOGIC

HouseLogichelps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible. 

4 Bottom-Line Tips to Decide: What Is the Value of My Home?

Here’s how to price your home to sell fast.

Your home is more than just a bunch of rooms under a roof. It’s the space where you watched your daughter take her first steps, hosted Super Bowl parties, and celebrated holidays. Those memories are priceless. But when sell your house, the warm and fuzzies can’t factor into the question: What is the value of my home?

You aren’t selling your memories; you’re selling a house.

This is where an agent can help. You’re the one who will set your listing price, but your agent has the expertise and local knowledge to advise on how to price your house so it doesn’t languish on the market.

#1 Don’t Go High Out The Gate

You think your house is great. The problem is sellers often think their house is so great that they list at too high of a price and miss the window of sales opportunity that comes with a new listing.

“By listing too high, you lose your most important leverage and timing because it’s new,” says Ali Evans, an agent in Santa Barbara, Calif. “If you overprice it, you miss out on all those buyers.”

The longer your house sits on the market, the less likely you are to get your asking price. Because buyers expect there’s a deal to be made on a house that’s been on the market for months. 

“If something doesn’t move in the first 30 days or so, then people start thinking that they’re not going to be paying full price any longer,” Evans says.

Bottom line: Listen to your real estate agent about home value, because she knows how to price your home to sell fast. She’s looking at all of the comp prices and knows what the competition is like in your market. 

#2 Don’t Assume Upgrades Will Get You A Higher Price 

You renovated your kitchen after you watched too many episodes of Property Brothers. You looooove the way your reno turned out, because your kitchen is now stunningly modern, as kitchens on HGTV are. Everyone else will love it too, right? So you want to push up the listing price.

Don’t be so sure everyone else will pay big bucks for it, Evans says.

“Upgrades that are done in very specific taste can be tricky. Updates that are neutral are going to appeal to a lot of people will see more value,” she says. “But upgrades don’t always equal value.”

In fact, research from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® shows you might recoup 59% of your costs, based on a national average, on a complete kitchen upgrade.

In other words, just because you put $65,000 into your kitchen renovation doesn’t mean you can list your home for an additional $65,000. Your agent can help you assess the market value of your upgrades and answer the big question, What is the value of my home?

#3 Don’t Set A Dollar Amount You Need To Make

Having an idea of what you want to earn from your house sale is fine, because you’re looking at your home as the giant investment that it is. But pricing your home so that you will make a certain amount of money is the wrong approach.

The number you have in your head may not be in line with the market. This is where doing research on the housing market comes in handy, as well as listening to your agent. 

“Make sure you understand the logic behind the price your agent suggests,” Evans says “It’s important to not be frustrated that it’s $20,000 below where you want to price it, and understand the thought process.”

Your agent will research the market to see what other houses in your area are selling for. He also knows the market, the inventory of houses for sale, and how your home compares to others in the area.

If you’ve listed the home too high, and you’re not getting any bites, don’t be afraid to do a price correction, Evans says. Lowering the price shows buyers you’re realistic and motivated. Adjusting the price is a key part of knowing how to price your home.

#4 Don’t Let Emotions Get The Best of You

For most people, selling a home is emotional. Whether you’ve lived in your house for four years or 40, you’re attached to it.  But it’s important to not let your emotions drive you to price your house for more than it’s worth. 

Listen to your agent on how to price yourhome. His cool-headed knowledge of the market and real estate inventory will be a wiser guide for pricing than your irrational love for the bay window in the living room, the restored hardwood floors, and the way the light shines in your beloved sunroom in the morning.

“Pricing can’t be an emotional thing,” Evans says. “It needs to be based on market analysis, which is why an outside perspective is important.”

When you ask yourself, ‘what is the value of my home,’ think with your head, more so than your heart.

HOUSELOGIC

HouseLogichelps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible. 

Making a Good Buying Decision

c21
Hello,

Making a good home buying decision is crucial when looking for a new home.

Sometimes we want something so badly, we’re not willing to ask all the questions we should.

Here are a few tips to consider :

1. Visit at various times of day
The windows that let in so much light during the day may be a peeping Tom’s dream at night. That seemingly quiet residential street may be a noisy, highway-feeder street during morning or evening rush hour; or it may be near impossible to get from your quiet street across traffic and onto the feeder street in the morning. The adjacent school may seem like a nice perk if you’re buying in the summer, but during the school year, daily playground noise and extra traffic may be more than you bargained for.

2. Look through recent newspaper archives
“Make sure you’re getting information on what you can’t see,” Levine suggests. Perhaps the municipal water well that feeds your neighborhood has high levels of contaminants or a proposed high-voltage power line may soon be coming through your back yard. You can also check with the city or county to see if there are any proposed projects.

3. Talk to neighbors
How many people in the neighborhood own their homes? Sometimes it’s hard to tell at first if you’re choosing a neighborhood that’s primarily rental houses.

4. Ask if the neighborhood has an association
“Is there a newsletter for it? How often does the neighborhood get together? Do they have a block party every year? “Even if you don’t plan to attend, the fact that they’re having a gathering says they care about their community, that they want to get to know each other, that they’re willing to socialize that way. People who behave that way are building a community. They’re going to look out for your kids; they’re going to look out for your house. It’s a nice, safe way to celebrate something.”

5. Quiz the sellers
What problems are they aware of that the house had in the past – even if they’ve been fixed? An ice dam five years ago may have caused water damage that has since been repaired. But it’s good to know that the house may be prone to ice dams so you can take preventive measures rather than find out the hard way. Discovering the basement flooding was solved by building up the landscaping in a particular area will prevent you from leveling the ground there in later years.

6. Get a home inspection
Virtually all houses have defects, according to National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents. Some will be obvious and most will be curable. But knowing what needs fixing can help you negotiate a lower price – or at least prepare you for costs you’re soon to incur. Strongly consider getting inspections, too, for lead paint, radon and wood-eating pests.

7. Get detailed records on past improvements
This isn’t always possible. But if you’re told the house’s exterior was painted two years ago – and then see a receipt noting the whole project cost just $1,000 – then you’ll be forewarned that cheaper materials were used and that you may be looking at repainting sooner than you thought.

8. Don’t just assume remodeling will be a snap
If you voice your ideas to the sellers, you may be able to glean valuable insights. For instance, perhaps that shower is in an odd location because, when remodeling 10 years ago, the previous owners discovered a costly structural impediment to putting a shower where it would seem more appropriate.

9. Consider the view
“So many neighborhoods now have teardowns. So look at the two houses on either side of you. If this neighborhood has had some teardowns, one of those houses might be a candidate. And they may build some behemoth structure that affects your light or the way your house looks or your view,” Levine says.

10. Ask for utility bills
You may adore the Cape Cod architectural style or the high ceilings and walls of glass in a modern home – but those winter heating and summer cooling bills may push your monthly payments beyond affordable. Ditto for the water bills you’ll pay to maintain a pristine landscape.

11. Pay close attention to taxes
Don’t just ask what the seller’s most recent tax bill was; ask what several recent tax bills have been. In some areas, houses are re-appraised – and taxed at higher rates – frequently. That great deal and good investment may not seem quite so grand if the property taxes skyrocket year after year. Again, look at newspaper archives or talk to your Realtor about the way taxes are used in this area. In some cities, schools are substantially funded through property taxes – which means you can count on yours increasing regularly.

12. Check with city hall
NAEBA recommends looking into the property’s and neighborhood’s zoning, as well as any potential easements, liens or other restrictions relating to your property. The seller should disclose these facts, but it’s better to be safe. If you’re using a buyer’s agent, he or she should be able to help you with this.

13. Reconsider the bells and whistles
Are you sure you can live with a one-car garage, or a detached garage, or on-street parking? The pool may be a nice bonus, but can you afford the upkeep?

14. Explore the surrounding area
If you’re not just making a cross-town move, you may not know that only three blocks away, this pretty neighborhood backs up to a dumpy commercial area or a less-than-savory part of town. If the home is near an airport, fire station, police station, hospital or railroad track, expect to hear trains, planes or ambulances throughout the day and night. Make sure you’re not too close to an agricultural area that may generate odors or kick up dust or other airborne problems.

Scott Myers
Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers
(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222
email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com

San Antonio Housing Market and Texas Business Climate – STILL STRONG!

The following excerpts from a recent update from the SAN ANTONIO BOARD OF REALTORS® attest to the continued strength of the San Antonio housing market, as well as the overall business climate in Texas.

November Home Sales Hold Steady as Holidays Approach
The San Antonio housing market is poised to close out the year strong with 1,531 single-family homes sold in November 2012, a 21 percent increase compared to the November 2011 sales. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAIL >>

Texas Ranks in Forbes’ Top 10 States For Business
The Lone Star State ranked seventh on a new Forbes list that measures the business climate in each state across the country. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE>>

 

If you are considering a move to San Antonio, or if you are already here and would like to discuss buying or selling a home, give me a call or e-mail me and I will put you in touch with one of my experienced agents to get the process started. Now is a great time to take advantage of our strong housing market and vibrant economy!

Scott Myers

Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com

The Holiday Season – A Great Time to Sell Your Home

Conventional wisdom has it that The Holiday Season is not a good time to put your home on the market. After all, most people have their minds on family get-togethers, Thanksgiving meals, shopping for gifts, winter vacations – the last thing on their minds is buying a home. So why should you spend your holidays with the hassle of getting your home ready for sale. It just makes sense to wait until after the beginning of the new year when things pick up again. Right?

 

Actually, our experience in over 33 years in the San Antonio real estate market shows that in this case conventional wisdom is far from the reality. True, there may be fewer buyers looking between now and the new year, but those who are looking tend to be very serious (fewer “lookie loos”). This is also a time of the year when people often have out-of-town visitors, some of whom may be considering moving to our area, and plan to spend part of their visit exploring neighborhoods for a future house-hunting trip.

 

Since many sellers fall for the conventional wisdom (often promoted by real estate agents who don’t want to work as hard this time of the year), there are usually fewer new listings on the market during the Holidays. This translates into less competition for you.

 

As far as the hassle of preparing your home for showing, you are already doing that if you are decorating your home for the Holidays. If you are planning any outdoor lighting displays, think about how that “For Sale” sign in your yard would attract attention if it was outlined in lights! And your nicely decorated tree will make your home feel inviting to prospective buyers if it is one of the first things they see when they enter your home.

 

If you need to sell your home but have been advised to wait until the new year – think again. If you wait, you have potentially delayed your closing date by several weeks. When January comes around, wouldn’t you like to have a closing date already scheduled when your neighbor is just putting a sign in the yard?

 

If you like the idea of getting a jump on the competition, but have a few days when you don’t want your home shown over the Holidays, no problem. We can temporarily suspend showings anytime you ask us to. If getting your home sold is a priority, and you want to work with a REALTOR® who understands how to market your home during the Holiday Season, give me a call, e-mail me or visit my Web site.

 

 

Scott Myers

Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com

 

Keeping In Touch With Your Real Estate Agent

When selling a home, silence isn’t always golden — especially when you’re expecting your real estate agent to call. In fact, it’s one of the leading complaints among sellers in the real estate market. Often times you find an agent who is more than willing to take on your listing, but once the agreement is signed, your agent is too busy to return your calls.

We train our agents to establish with the client up front the expectation that regular communication will occur – and on a schedule and in the form desired by the client. Even if it’s just to check-in, we know that you will be more satisfied being kept “in the loop”.

Keeping the communication lines open between the two parties assures sellers that the agent is keeping them apprised of any and all offers. In addition, agents often provide valuable insight on why prospective buyers weren’t interested. Often times, an agent is privy to the buyer’s dislikes of the property. For example: “this room’s too dark” or “the kitchen has a funny smell”. This allows the agent to give the seller constructive feedback and offer important tips on how to make the home more attractive to prospective buyers.

If you’re a seller and are not hearing from your agent, be sure to keep calling until he or she gets the message that you expect regular updates. If the agent doesn’t return your calls, leave a message for the broker or office manager.

Selling a home can be a lot of work and sometimes quite stressful. It is incumbent upon an agent to satisfy the seller’s expectations of routine updates. As a seller you deserve to be kept informed on how things are going with the sale of your property. If both parties work in a cooperative effort, the selling experience will be more successful and enjoyable for both the agent and the seller involved. If you use my office to list your home for sale, you have my personal assurance that your agent will provide regular updates – daily, weekly, monthly – you determine the frequency; by phone, e-mail, social media – you determine the format.

 

Scott Myers

Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com

Smart Home Improvements

What home improvements really pay off when the time comes to sell your home? That’s an important question for any homeowner contemplating moving or remodeling, and the answer is somewhat complicated.

 

That answer starts with the fact that really major improvements – room additions, total replacements of kitchens and baths, etc., — rarely pay off fully in the near term. It ends with the fact that small and relatively inexpensive changes can pay off in a big way in making your home attractive to buyers if your decision is to move now.

 

It’s a simple fact, consistently confirmed across America over a very long period of time, that even the most appropriate major improvements are unlikely to return their full cost if a house is sold within two or three years.

 

Does that mean that major home improvements are always a bad idea? Absolutely not. It does mean, though, that if your present house falls seriously short of meeting your family’s needs you need to think twice – and think carefully – before deciding to undertake a major renovation. Viewed strictly in investment terms, major improvements rarely make as much sense as selling your present home and buying one that’s carefully selected to provide you with what you want.

 

Even if you have a special and strong attachment to the house you’re in, and feel certain that you could be happy in it for a long time if only it had more bedrooms and baths, there are a few basic rules that you ought to keep in mind.

 

Probably the most basic rule in this regard is the one that says you should never – unless you absolutely don’t care at all about eventual resale value – improve a house to the point where its desired sales price would be more than 20 % higher than the most expensive of the other houses in the immediate neighborhood. If you raise the value of your house too high, surrounding properties will pull it down.

 

Here are some other rules worth remembering:

 

  • Never rearrange the interior of your house in a way that reduces the total number of bedrooms to less than three.

 

  • Never add a third bathroom to a two-bath house unless you don’t care about ever recouping your investment.

 

  • Swimming pools rarely return what you spend to install them. Ditto for sun rooms – and finished basements.

 

  • If you decide to do what’s usually the smart thing and move rather than improve, it’s often the smaller, relatively inexpensive improvements that turn out to be most worth doing.

 

The cost of replacing a discolored toilet bowl, making sure all the windows work, or getting rid of dead trees and shrubs is trivial compared to adding a bathroom, but such things can have a big and very positive impact on prospective buyers. A good real estate agent can help you decide which expenditures make sense and which don’t, and can save you a lot of money in the process.

 

If you want to discuss the specifics of improvements to your home, give me a call or e-mail me and I will put you in touch with one my agents to go over your options and help you develop a plan.

 

 

Scott Myers

Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com