“To give real service, you must add something that cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” ~ Douglas Adams
“In the real estate business, you learn more about people, and you learn more about community issues, you learn more about life, you learn more about the impact of government, probably than any other profession that I know of.” – Johnny Isakson, U.S. Senator, Realtor
“The minute you decide to sell your house, start packing.” ~ Paul Leis, Realtor
Continuing my series, Your Home/Selling and Buying, I want to focus on one of the most important components of this adventure: the realtor. Some home owners are tempted to sell their properties on their own; we’ve seen those signs on lawns, “For Sale by Owner.” That, of course, is an option; but choosing to skimp on a realtor’s commission might cost you on the other end by not getting the best price for your home.
Ted and I were very fortunate to have the best realtor on the planet in our family! And while there is a bit of partiality in that comment, it is also true that our son-in-law, Paul Leis, is one of the top realtors in our area. Paul pointed out that according to an industry report, homes for sale by owners sell for approximately 27% under the average sale price for homes in which an agent is involved.
With this in mind, the optimal way to find the realtor that will guide you to the successful sale of your home, and help you to buy your new one, is to ask family and friends first. They might know people who live in the areas you plan to house hunt, and the best recommendations are word-of-mouth from those who have had first-hand experience with a particular realtor. Another way is to find a trusted realtor who can recommend a counterpart in your areas of interest.
I also believe that you should not pass up the talent, expertise and personalized service you will need to sell your house by selecting a realtor based solely on the amount of commission charged. The current typical commission is six percent; but while hiring a realtor that charges a two percent commission might seem to be a smart move, remember the old adage “You get what you pay for.” Hiring a realtor for a cut rate could produce cut-rate service. When selling your home, which usually is your biggest asset, hire the best to get the best results. And remember that when you go with the best you are not just getting a realtor; you are also getting a marketing expert, an industry adviser, a regional authority, someone who is well-connected to recommend other professionals you might need, and a partner in selling your property for the best possible price.
In our case, Paul guided us through the entire complicated and emotional adventure of selling our old home and buying our new home. And while we found that to be exciting, even fun at times, and ultimately fulfilling and rewarding, it was also scary, nerve-wracking and physically and mentally demanding!
Following are examples of services offered by a first-rate realtor in New York State:
- Takes the time to know you and your goals, desires, time frame for selling, budget and other important details to help you devise the best plan.
- Knows your neighborhood and can analyze recent sale prices of houses similar to yours in order to price your house accurately and effectively.
- Understands the competition you’re up against and helps you to get in the game by advising you on everything you need to do to get the best price for your home, including decluttering, repairs, upgrades or just some sprucing, staging and so on.
- Assesses your home and advises you accordingly. The best realtors are on top of trends and know what buyers are looking for during any given period (location, open-concept floor plans, eat-in kitchens with lots of counter space, current popular finishes, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, fireplaces, back yards, swimming pools, multiple bathrooms, home office, guest and entertaining spaces, etc.).
- Maintains a list of local professional contractors that can help you get your house ready to sell if necessary (i.e., real estate attorneys, painters, heating and cooling companies, electricians, plumbers, power and window washers, landscapers, masons, movers, etc.)
- Lists your house for sale on multiple sites and arranges for professional photographs that display your home in the best possible light to sell.
- Arranges for showings and open houses. Your realtor can bring house hunters to your door and knows precisely how to present it to them, pointing out its strong points and helping prospective buyers envision how your home can become their home.
- Negotiates Offers, not only regarding the sale price, but also other contract terms (timeline, inspections, financing, personal items, etc.). A skilled, experienced negotiator can put thousands of dollars more in your pocket.
- Manages multiple offers. Your realtor’s expertise can create the kind of interest that sometimes prompts multiple offers, and help you sort through and analyze all offers, pointing out pros and cons of each that you might miss.
- Explains the results of the inspection. Once you have accepted an offer, your prospective buyers will want to have your home inspected for any issues that might need to be remedied prior to closing. The buyers pay for the inspection. Your realtor can help you to understand the results and what you must do to remedy any issues that were uncovered.
- Provides both moral and practical support through contract negotiations. Even when there is an attorney involved, your realtor can prompt some good questions to ask your attorney and, if necessary, intervene to clarify certain points. Some states require that an attorney be involved with a sale or purchase; others do not. In the latter case, a realtor becomes even more valuable in guiding you through the complicated minefield of issues to consider.
- Attends and represents you at the closing. In many cases, you need not even attend the closing of the sale of your house. Your realtor, along with your attorney (if you need one) will represent you.
- Ascertains your must-haves versus the nice-to-haves in your next house. Your realtor will advise what you might practically be able to find in consideration of your needs, lifestyle and budget versus the availabilities in your preferred neighborhoods. Your realtor will also follow up on listings and tips you might find on your own; online listings are sometimes outdated or inaccurate and your realtor will have, or be in position to obtain, the accurate and current information.
- Recommends a bank or mortgage company, if necessary and especially if you are a first-time buyer. It can be helpful to be pre-approved for a mortgage before you go house hunting.
- Schedules appointments for house viewings and accompanies you to them. Your realtor will recommend homes that fit the criteria you have set, as well as properties that might broaden your horizons a bit.
- Arranges for an inspection of the property on which you have an accepted offer, and will accompany you to help you “kick the tires.” An experienced realtor often will point out things that you might overlook, will have pertinent questions to ask the inspector, and help compile a list of items that require fixing to use as you (or your attorney) negotiate your contract with the sellers.
- Follows up with various parties, as necessary and appropriate, to keep everything on track and help coordinate the many moving parts, which will be explored in future posts.
- Negotiates Offers, just as in selling your home. On the buying side, the best realtors can help you negotiate the purchase price and, again, those other contract terms (timeline, inspections, financing, personal items, etc.). That kind of expertise can often save you thousands of dollars.
Paul Takes Us by the Hand
We announced our decision to sell our house to Lyn and Paul, and asked Paul to help us sell our home and find a new one. After the usual familial chit-chat, Paul took us by the hand and sat us down to talk about our goals and contingency plans. Wait, contingency plans? Paul explained that the results of putting a house on the market can range from selling it fast at asking price or above to not receiving any viable offers and failing to sell. He explained how the fluctuations of the housing market can affect our outcome and wanted to be sure that we would be able to handle whatever that might be. The realization that after all the agonizing over selling our cherished home it might not even sell was like having a bucket of cold water emptied on our heads! That was good, actually, because my hair was now standing on end and catching fire!
Paul kindly reassured us that he was confident that our house would sell, but wanted to prepare us for the worst case scenario. The factors that go into the successful selling of one’s home are many, but in the end our house had to be correctly priced and presented. And it was Paul’s expertise that we needed to hit the bull’s eye on those targets.
Having managed our expectations, Paul then got down to business. He queried us on the timing of selling, buying and moving (more about that later). He counseled us on what we needed to do to prepare our home for showings. He conducted a walk-through of the house he had visited many times as our son-in-law, but now scrutinized it as a professional with an eye to selling it. He made suggestions with regard to staging the house based on his knowledge of what buyers look for — what they like and what they don’t like. And he compared our home to others in our area that had recently sold in order to begin the process of determining our asking price.
Once we finished this initial — and very illuminating — session, it was time to make our decision to sell our home official by signing the standard realtor contract. What would have been a stressful exercise turned out to be less so because of the very thorough way Paul walked us through the entire process, briefing us on what to expect with regard to both selling and buying — the prep we needed to do, setting the asking price, hiring an attorney, listing our house, the open house and individual showings, offers, inspections, contract negotiations, the timing of everything and the possible outcomes. We trusted Paul because he was part of our family but also because of his outstanding reputation as a realtor and how he was demonstrating that expertise.
We now had an overview and a roadmap to the selling and buying processes. We were on our way! And our first task was to declutter and “start packing.” Join me next week for Your Home/Selling & Buying: Part 3 – Decluttering.
Until next time,