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Getting The Best Representation When Selling Your Home
Home sellers often know very little about the home selling process. Choosing the right real estate agent might seem an easy task when there are plenty available who have the license that allows them to represent you. Making the wrong choice may mean the difference in hiring an agent who’ll do the bare minimum for you and one that has the knowledge and experience to keep up with how the real estate industry is evolving and putting this into practice for their home selling clients.
The manner in which a home seller can select an agent often comes down to a flawed process. They might call on the agent that helped them buy the property, or a referred agent from a friend, perhaps even an agent that appears to be the neighborhood expert. The idea is that home sellers are assuming we all do the same and better the devil you know that the devil you don’t know. Some might even consider it something that can achieve themselves and go it alone.
Considering the bad name we real estate agents have, that’s no great surprise. After all, add your property to the MLS and put a sign in the ground might be all you’ll see and all you’ll get, you might think that’s what happens with every real estate agent. You might not be far from the truth. That is what 80% of real estate agents will do for you, maybe that percentage is higher! And for that you’ll be paying somewhere around 2-3% commission. (Your real estate agents cut of the total you’ll pay).
More Than The Multiple Listing Service
The multiple listing service is a big part of the marketing of your home but it’s not all of it. This is where many real estate agents stop. Largely because they have no idea what to do next. Marketing is a process that requires knowledge and effort; effort is another issue with agents. Could not be bothered, don’t have time, don’t understand the benefits, are all excuses. Is that what you want from your agent?
As real estate agents we have a duty to provide you with the best possible service, we must abide by the law and Ethics, the goal being to get the best possible price for your home but obeying your instructions at all times. I cannot count how many times I run into problems because real estate agents are taking it upon themselves to make decision on behalf of clients with no authority to do so. This causes headaches and none of us want that!
So let’s look at what you should expect from your real estate agent. Armed with knowledge you can go on the hunt for the best agent, not just one you think will do the job.
Here Are Our Top 8 Things Real Estate Agents Should Do to Sell your Home
1. Pricing Homes Correctly
Ethically we have a duty to you to get this right. Whether it hurts to deliver news you don’t like or not, it’s the most important part of the process. While it’s often hard to come up with an exact number, especially in areas that have more custom homes than cookie cutter, the best agents have the experience and know how to arrive at a good range of pricing that your home falls inside. We must understand each market we serve and how to find comparable homes that have sold.
Pricing using any of the online automated systems can give you a broad range and idea, but they are inherently flawed, they simply gather sales of homes around you using the limited data they have to arrive at a valuation number. They cannot adjust for homes that are completely different by size, age, accommodation, upgrades etc. let alone school districts, zip code or other factors such as busy roads, distressed sales, premium location versus poor location and so one.
The goal is to sell your home at close to asking price or above the average percentage of list price to sales price. We must set your expectations on the timeframe for selling as well. This means not telling you what you want to hear but telling you the truth.
If you want to price your home higher to test the market, or shoot for the Stars, you’ll likely be quickly disappointed and then point the finger of blame at your agent. For this reason no agent should accept an over-priced listing. It’s Ethically wrong. It will also result in few to no buyers looking, no offers, and likely at the end you’ll sell for less than you would have had you priced it right at the start. You lose and our reputation suffers even more.
In the business we have a name for this. It’s called buying the listing. An agent tells you what you want to hear because they are afraid to walk away. It might be deliberately accepting your price over theirs or they may lack the skill to price correctly and deliver that number and information to you.
The hardest part of pricing homes comes when we are at the top 10% of homes for the area and there are no comparable sales. Typically we look back 6 months at home sales. For the top tier homes we may have to go back farther, homes in these price points don’t increase as much. We may also need to go out to similar areas to see what homes there sold for. There’s always a way to come up with a number without inflating to make you happy. That happiness won’t last long but your time on market surely will.
2. Marketing Is Our Job
The one thing we should be doing the best job at is the one thing most real estate agents are clueless about. Corners are cut, sub par photos, poorly written descriptions are just the start of a mediocre job. So what should you expect and inspect?
Preparation and Staging – A good agent cares about the presentation of your home. Hiring the best means you’ll have help getting your home ready for marketing. This can be done in the run up to listing or if pushed for time, a few days of hard and guided effort can make all the difference. It’s not always necessary to have a full blown staging down with an outside company. Often your own furniture can be used for dramatic results. An experienced agent will know what to do, how to re-arrange furniture, which items should be removed and so on. It starts outside with curb appeal and extends throughout your house. Big or small we prepare them all! From seasonal plant ideas, to paint color suggestions, and room arranging, we’ll let you know what we think and why.
Photographs – Get the professionals in for this job. You real estate agent should have connections to photographers they use on a regular basis. They should be hiring a professional photographer for every home they list. It’s the most important element of marketing real estate today. Why? Your home will receive expansive internet exposure and the one thing buyers want over everything else is photos, so they must shine. How many? Proportionately for the property. A minimum of 10 pro photos and up to 50 or 60 for expansive luxury homes. Photography should include exterior photos and as necessary elevated shots and drone photography.
MLS – Multiple Listing Service. It’s true this is how to get your home the most exposure to buyers. Buyers work with real estate agents who use the MLS to find property. With huge coverage over the Chicagoland area your home can be exposed to agents in Northern Illinois who have buyers looking to move to your area. The MLS listing for your home is exposed by hundreds of real estate brokerages and all the agents who have websites. Sadly not every brokerage or real estate agent has a website. This is a big disservice to both their clients and themselves. In todays world of real estate having a website is not an option, it’s essential!
Other Marketing Channels. Exposure using other marketing channels is where many agents struggle. The first is your real estate agents website. It cannot be a place holder. It must get traffic. Your home must be showcased by your real estate agent on the front page. The world of internet marketing involves SEO – search engine optimization. Most real estate agents are clueless how to put a website together much less know how to optimize for traffic. Don’t be wowed by the agent having a website. Ask how much traffic they get and for what. Many agents just use their brokers template page on the corporate site. They add a little about themselves and consider the job done. A real estate agents website should be a point of marketing exposure, education and the author should be writing a regular blog.
Social media is here to stay. Is your agent using social media to get eyeballs on your home? Ask. There are many platforms and we cannot effectively use them all but your agent should be active on 2 or 3. Facebook for example gives users the ability to have a business page and advertise your home. Are they? Ask!
Property Websites. There’s nothing like an individual website for your property. It can easily be promoted by your agent, you, and get organic traffic for your property address. I like producing postcards with a domain for this, it saves on producing printed material which ultimately just gets thrown out. It’s long lasting and easily edited. It must have an easy to remember domain like 60010home.com which we point to one of our active listings. We have several of these to use. Each listing has a website under the property address which helps it rank in the search engines.
It takes time and effort for a real estate agent to develop all these marketing channels, it’s the number one reason most agents don’t bother. Effort! Is that the agent you want to market your home?
Updating Marketing – Not all real estate markets are fast and furious. Parts of the country right now are selling homes in days. Every market is different. The midwest is always more reserved. Some markets here in Chicagoland at time of writing are less than 2 months, others have an average of 6 months. Make sure your real estate agent is updating your photos for the seasons. Snowy pictures are pretty in winter but when spring in full bloom, buyers want to see green lawns, flowers, shrubs and pretty landscaping.
This is still the number one complaint we hear from home sellers. I listed my house and I never heard from the real estate agent. Home sellers want to know what’s going on with their home sale, even if it’s nothing. Real estate agents should keep their home selling clients updated. You should know how many showings, if any feedback was given. If your home is not getting offers, assuming your expectations were set correctly at the start, your real estate agent should be keeping you apprised of activity on similar homes.
Communication methods can be phone, email, text, whatever you prefer. We all have busy lives and we aim to work with your preferences, always. Staying in touch does not take long.
Standing up for what we believe is right is also an important skill. You need to know why we don’t do things you may request, why you feel they are needed and why we don’t. Open houses and printed flyers are something we never do here at Barrington Realty Company. One wastes trees, the other wastes time. Neither will sell your house.
4. Offers and Buyers.
Any offer that comes in must be presented to you by law. However not all the buyers are positioned financially to submit an offer, let alone buy your property. For any buyer that needs a home loan, there are different types of letter a lender may issue. A qualification letter is pretty much worthless. We need to see a pre-approval letter before considering any offer. This means a buyer has provided income proof, tax returns and been subject to a credit report review by a loan officer.
A pre-approval letter should not be any older than 30 days either. Ask for an updated letter before negotiating. A cash buyer should be able to provided proof of liquid funds. A bank letter or financial advisor letter should state the amount too.
We’ll also go through the finer parts of every offer, it’s not just about the dollar amount buyer is willing to pay. You need an agent that will take the time to explain everything.
5. Time to Negotiate.
A good real estate agent knows the art of negotiation. A good real estate agent should be able to give you a strategy, and be able to adjust it throughout the negotiation. We are paid to get you the best terms and conditions acceptable to you. Real estate agents should never think of their pocket first, i.e. potential commission check at the end. Selecting an agent who is desperate for money might give away too much of yours. Picking an agent who is too busy or working two jobs may not have the time to strategize with you.
A good negotiation will give a little and get something in return. This will bring buyer and seller together to reach terms agreeable to both parties. A good agent will know when to advise you that an offer is just not worth dealing with or not worth trying to negotiate.
Offer terms may change throughout a contingency period. Issues arise in home inspections, some with size-able cost. Closing dates may be moved, contingencies may need more time. A good agent with experience will understand the best way for all parties to move forward.
6. A Lender Will Require a Home Appraisal, Your Agent Must Attend.
Aside from being the one person that can open the door for an appraiser there’s more to consider. Many homes have lock boxes to facilitate access for buyers with their agents to view your home. Appraisers often have the equipment needed to access a home for an appraisal. However easy this might be, the appraiser may have questions. If your real estate agent is present, the questions can often be answered right away, rather than the appraiser going hunting for his answer and getting the wrong information.
Recent updates to your home may add to the final valuation number. Visually it’s hard to know what was upgraded or replaced and when. Your agent should know, they should have asked you all about your home at the very start! Having your agent attend the appraisal makes sure this information is passed on.
7. Vacant Homes.
It is not really our job as your listing agent to babysit your vacant home. But a great agent is going to do that! We understand you cannot be present, you maybe out of state, far away. So whatever the reason we’ll be there to open the door. Maybe for more inspections, contractors to prepare quotes for a buyer or to fix things you need after inspections. It’s an ideal time to do. quick inspection to make sure nothing is awry.
It’s one reason never to hire agents that are too far away from the property or who don’t like driving to your area. For example I will not list property in Chicago, I don’t want to drive 45 miles and have no where to park and no permit to park on a street. You are better off hiring a city agent!
We’ve done other things beyond our scope to keep our home contracts moving forward. I’ve helped a tenant move out because she completely under estimated the job at hand and time was of the essence. The best real estate agents simply step up to the plate!
8. Preparing for Your Closing.
Everything is done, at least as far as the contract is concerned. The closing is booked. But you still have a lot of work to do, especially if still living in the home. Aside from moving out, which on it’s own is a pretty intense process, you need to be sure everything else is done. Canceling utilities, arranging moving security services, lawn mowing services, just remembering these things is easily overlooked at the busiest time.
Selling homes is stressful. Hopefully we’ve given you a glimpse into what the best agents will do for you. We’re here to help you through all of it.
So What Should You Be Looking For?
Choosing an agent is more important than you may have thought. Consider the traits to look for when interviewing and choosing your agent:
- Honesty. While it’s supposed to be an absolute in the industry, we know it’s not. Your needs come first, always.
- Knowledge and experience. Rookies or overloaded agents are not the right choice. You need someone who’s tackled the problems that might arise. Someone with the time to tackle issues.
- Locality. Choosing an agent that knows the market your home is in, is important.
- Reputation. Testimonials can help you decide is the agent is the right person for you.
- Strong communication skills. From start to end we need to talk to each other!
- Marketing differentiation. What are you being offered? Is it the same ole same ole or not much at all.
- Digital expertise. From marketing to digitally signing contracts and more, paper is a thing of the past.
- Character. This is as important to me as it should be to you. We need to be able to get on with each other! It’s not always a great fit.
- You get what you pay for. This is true in life and true with real estate service as well. Bear this in mind if you consider a discounted commission rate. What are you losing before you even started?
Finally remember. You are hiring the agent, not the company. Even though legally your agreement is with the company, it’s not the company that does the work. The company has very little to do with it. Agents do not work for companies. They are sponsored and more or less have free reign over how little effort or how much they put forth.
We thank you for taking the time to read this post and hope in some way it will help you. If you have a home to sell in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, and especially our primary market of Barrington Illinois, let’s meet and see if we are a good fit to work together. Fill in our form below and we’ll be in touch promptly.
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