How Do You Choose An Agent To Sell Your Home?
If you needed to have life-saving surgery, would you entrust the job to the first doctor you met without question? No, I didn’t think so. You’d want to know their qualifications and skills, their success rate and you’d want to feel trust and rapport with them. What if you had a few hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket to invest – would you hand it over to the first financial planner you met to invest on your behalf without learning about their strategies, results and experience? No, I didn’t think so.
Your home or other properties are often one of the largest assets you own. When the time comes to sell, hiring a real estate agent should involve some careful thought and consideration.
Today, property owners can be inundated with solicitations from real estate salespeople via their mailbox, social media, email or even at the coffee shop. In South Georgian Bay, there are over 500 salespeople competing for the approximately 3800 properties listed for sale in our area each year. A number of these people may be inactive or dabbling in the business part-time but still, it’s a crowded field.
How NOT To Choose A Sales Representative
Often people resort to dealing with a friend or family member and others, list with an agent they met at an open house or during a property showing. This is a risky strategy – just like the doctor and financial planner scenario above. What you need is a sound business strategy for finding a great representative that will do the very best job for you in protecting your assets, dreams and interests.
I think referrals and recommendations are a good first step however, I wouldn’t stop there. I’ve seen lots of posts on social media like Facebook where someone asks for a recommendation of a “good agent” and they’ll get over 100 replies. I look at the names put forward and shake my head – many are dabblers who do one deal a year, some are retired or out of business – you get the idea. People will recommend their family or friends regardless of their skills and qualifications.
Some people call the agent who has the most FOR SALE signs in the area. Hmm. If they are “for sale,” then they are not SOLD. This requires further digging.
How You SHOULD Choose A Sales Representative
Ask for recommendations but go a step further and ask for specific examples or evidence of success that have led to the referral. It’s always a good idea to interview 3 people for the job as you’ll learn something from each one. Notice the word, interview? This is the time to really dig deep and find out about a candidate’s skills, experience, track record and understanding of the market. Knowing what I know now, I put together a list of 21 very powerful interview questions that will get you the answers you need. (Let me know if you’d like a copy.)
When a candidate is being interviewed, is their presentation all about their company and their awards or is it about you and your needs? While there is some merit in the first two, there is far more value in knowing how YOUR needs will be addressed.
Ask specific questions about how the salesperson will market your property and why their strategy is important. You need to ask about their track record – for example, what percentage of their listings have sold over the past 5 years, what percentage of asking price did they sell for and how long were they on the market? An able and competent sales rep will have this information at their fingertips.
Does the person have testimonials and references you can review and do they have past clients who would be willing to offer a reference?
If the person has a “team,” what does that mean? Whom will you be dealing with and what is their personal involvement?
Here’s a big one: Don’t base your decision on the commission rate offered because cheapest doesn’t mean best. You get what you pay for in all things in life. For example, a broker offering a discounted rate may not offer a competitive selling commission to other agents which could affect showing activity. It may mean the Broker is reducing their marketing expenses to make up the difference. A great REALTOR® will be worth every penny of their fee.
Another biggie: Don’t base your decision on which person tells you the highest price for listing your home. The market determines the value of your home and listing too high may mean no sale at all and listing too low may mean leaving money on the table. The determination of what price your home should be listed for sale at depends on a comparative market analysis of what comparable sales have recently sold for. The candidate who provides you with the most information about this as well as general market conditions and a solid interpretation of the data will allow YOU to set the right asking price.
Biggest of All: Do you have rapport and trust with the person you think will do the best job for you? Real estate is personal and fraught with emotional and life impacts. It’s really important that you feel great about the person you choose to represent you and trust 100% that they have your best interests at the forefront at all times.
The bottom line is that business is business and it is really important to interview potential salespeople thoughtfully to make sure you find the best person for the job.
Pricing Your Home To Sell
A house that is priced 10% over its actual market value is many times less likely to sell in the initial 30 days of marketing than one priced within 5% of its true value. Not only will an over-priced home take longer to sell, it is also likely to sell for less than it’s actual value. This is due to the “discount” often associated with properties that have been on the market for a longer than average time.
It should be pointed out that recommended listing prices are based on historical sales and current market conditions. It is always difficult to walk the fine line between getting the most for a property while at the same time ensuring your asking price is competitive enough to attract serious offers.
How you feel about testing the market will determine how much higher than the current selling prices of similar properties you’ll wish to ask for your home. You can always start at a higher price than the market is currently bearing and then, if necessary, reduce your price at a future date. The drawback to this is that it could take longer than normal to sell and you could end up helping to sell other similar homes as they may look comparably less expensive than yours.
This is where the experience and knowledge of a good REALTOR® is invaluable. REALTORS® spend a lot of time and energy making sure they know their local market inside and out. They keep their finger on the pulse of the market and have the resources, connections and ability to keep you up-to-date with its constant changes. They know all of the properties currently for sale in your area and are literally your best resource for determining and getting the highest price possible. Marg is one of the very few people in the area who has her certification as a Market Value Appraiser – Residential, or MVA for short.
- Availability of community amenities, such as public transportation, parks, stores, churches and schools
- Quality and consistency of neighbourhood planning
- Future development plans and local zoning
- Style, layout, size, age and quality of construction of the building
- Size, shape, privacy and landscaping of the yard
- First appearances
- Floor layout
- Quality and appearance of fixtures
- General overall condition of main systems (such as roof, furnace, electrical system, central air, etc.)
- The asking and selling prices of comparable neighbouring homes
- number of homes currently on the market
- number of people looking to buy
- the state of the local and national economy
- current mortgage rates
No matter the condition or desirability of your home, its value will be affected by current market conditions. Here are the various conditions you may encounter and how they will affect you:
Balanced Market:The number of homes on the market is equal to the number of Buyers (supply equals demand). In this market, prices are stable and homes sell within a reasonable period of time. It is a calm atmosphere with Buyers having a satisfactory number of homes from which to choose.
Sellers Market:The number of Buyers exceeds the number of homes on the market (demand greater than supply). In this market prices are increasing and homes sell quickly. As a Seller you will probably have more negotiating power and obtain a higher selling price for your property. Unfortunately, you will be on the other side of the fence when purchasing your next home.
Buyers Market:The supply of homes exceeds the number of Buyers (supply greater than demand). In this market, prices tend to drop and the homes stay on the market longer, thus your home may take longer to sell and you will have less negotiating power in terms of the selling price. Fortunately you will be in the driver’s seat when making an offer on your next home.
Preparing And Staging Your Home For Sale
Research has shown that most Buyers make a real decision about a house purchase in the first eleven to fifteen seconds of seeing a property. By then they will already have developed a perception of your property that will colour their feelings for the rest of the showing and perhaps dramatically affect their perceived value of the property.
The decision to buy a house is not solely based on rational factors such as price, location and accessibility to services. It is also an emotional choice. It is a search for a home, a place in which one will find comfort, security and happiness, a place one would want to settle down and live in.
Now is the time to think of your home as a theatre. You are putting on a performance, much like staging a play. The scenery must be right, the lighting perfect, the audience comfortable. Marg has expertise in helping you set the stage and in making it easy for prospective Buyers to imagine themselves happily living in your home.
- Plant flowers, weed and edge gardens. Mulch can look great too
- Mow lawn and trim hedges and shrubs
- Clean driveway and sidewalks of dirt, leaves or snow
- Water the lawn extensively, well in advance of selling
- Remove old lawn ornaments, toys and playsets
- Clean and repair rain gutters, missing shingles, shutters and siding
- Touch up exterior paint or pressure wash if needed
- Clean out garage
- Pick up any litter
- Clean the front door and add a coat of paint if necessary
- Shine up the mailbox and house number
- Repair any broken fence boards
- Make mirrors glitter, light fixtures shine and appliances sparkle
- Remove fridge magnets, put away small appliances and move litter boxes out of the kitchen
- Vacuum, wash and/or polish all floors
- Clean and freshen bathrooms
- Clean/shampoo all carpets
- Clean all windows, walls, doors and trim
- Clean out the fireplace
- Think about what a model home looks like – clean, uncluttered, new home aroma, neutral décor
- Have a clean floor mat at the entry
- Pay extra special attention to the kitchen, bathrooms and master bedroom
- Clear all countertops
- De-clutter all heavy traffic areas
- Store surplus furniture to reduce feeling crowded
- Put seasonal clothing into storage
- Clear halls and stairs of clutter
- Make all closets neat & tidy (and only half-full, even if this means moving items to another storage area)
- Eliminate strong personal statements such as personal collections, political, religious, sports or business mementoes
- Touch up interior paint and paper
- Repair cracked plaster
- Tighten door knobs and cupboard latches
- Oil any squeaky doors
- Repair leaky plumbing (taps, shower heads and toilets)
- Repair or replace tiles/seals/caulking/grout around bathtubs and sinks
- Replace burnt-out light bulbs/install brighter bulbs
- Clean furnace and humidifier
- Repair any other minor flaws
- Turn on all lights
- Open all drapes in daytime
- Take out the garbage daily, make all the beds, clear dishes away and ensure bathrooms are spotless
- Play quiet background music or nothing at all. Quiet suggests peace and serenity.
- Turn on air-conditioning or light fireplace
- Foster a welcoming aroma and eliminate offensive odours from pets, smoke or cooking.
- Establish a focal point in each room such as fresh flowers on a dining table, a charming area rug, red geraniums on the kitchen window sill.
- Keep pets outside during showings (or, better yet, at a friend’s)
- Have as few people in the house as possible. If you can, be absent during any showings as potential Buyers often feel awkward and rush through if they think they are inconveniencing the owner.
11 Pitfalls To Avoid When Selling Your Own Home
Should We Buy First Or Sell First?
This is a common dilemma and one of the most common questions I’m asked by existing homeowners. There are no simple answers to this question as it depends on your own personal circumstances and comfort levels. The best way to consider your options is to weigh out the pros and cons of each possible approach.
- You know exactly how much money you have from the sale of your existing home and can comfortably choose your next home’s price range and negotiate accordingly.
- You are in a position to make offers that are not subject to the sale of another property and this tends to be attractive to Sellers. If a property pops up that is perfect or extremely well priced, you can potentially be the first in the door with a strong offer.
- You have more negotiating power. When Sellers turn down or counter an offer that is conditional upon the sale of a home, they usually believe that the Buyer will come back with a more serious offer if and when the Buyers’ home has sold. Sellers give much more consideration to unconditional offers since they usually realize the Buyer does have other options and may move on and pursue a different property if their final offer is rejected.
- If the right home is not on the market when you sell, and if nothing comes up before your closing date, you may have to find alternative accommodation until something appropriate comes along.
- If you are only interested in moving to a very specific property, buying first ensures you do not miss out on that one opportunity.
- If a unique or under-priced property comes on the market and you do not think it will last long, snapping up the deal ensures someone else does not buy it out from under you.
- If your current home does not sell quickly enough, you may end up having to finance both homes and carry the extra debt until you do sell. Don’t forget that also means insurance, taxes, utilities, maintenance and other household expenses.
- You do not know what the final selling price of your current home will be. If your budget is tight, this could affect your financial decisions. While you can get appraisals and market evaluations of your current home’s value, nothing is for sure until you actually get an offer.
- This is an extremely risky option for anyone on a tight budget!
Using The MLS® To Sell Your Home
REALTORS® are expertly trained and licensed in the field of real estate, who service the needs of the public in the buying and selling of homes. All are members of local real estate boards and have access to the MLS® — an extensive network of listings across the country.
What is MLS®?
The MLS® is a central registry of properties used by REALTORS® to match Buyers with homes on the market. MLS® is described as a “cooperative marketing system” to ensure maximum exposure of properties for sale.
MLS® is a sophisticated computer database of properties indexed by price, location, type of home, number of bedrooms, amenities and so forth. Photos of homes are available online and, most real estate boards have added their MLS® listings to the Internet through www.realtor.ca.
The Advantages For The Consumer
The major benefit of MLS® to consumers is that it allows the REALTOR® to use his or her skills to full advantage. REALTORS® are adept at determining what it is a potential Buyer wants in a home–and a large part of the REALTOR’S® job lies in finding properties that suit these criteria.
With MLS®, a REALTOR® can search the database for homes that suit budgets, location preferences and family requirements, and quickly put together a short list of suitable homes.
Many consumers will find themselves first viewing MLS® material at their REALTOR’S® office to preview potential properties and narrow the list further. When it comes time to view in earnest, they know exactly what homes they want to see, what their options are and what types of properties the market has to offer. Through the MLS®, REALTORS® can literally view details of thousands of homes.
This gives the home Buyer an extraordinary amount of choice and flexibility. The search for homes doesn’t have to involve driving around neighbourhoods looking for “for sale” signs. Nor will it mean relying on homes listed only in newspapers or real estate magazines. With the MLS®, an entire spectrum of available properties is at your REALTOR’S® fingertips.
Even if you’re moving across the country or to a distant part of the province, the MLS® can be used to scout homes in advance, greatly reducing the worry that often comes with relocation.
The bottom line is that what’s good for the Buyer is good for the Seller. This is because the main obstacle for any Seller is to find qualified, motivated Buyers. The only way to overcome this is to match your home to the requirements of as many potential Buyers as possible. Using the MLS® cuts through the complexities, exposes your property to those most likely to purchase it, and makes sure you won’t waste time showing your home to those who aren’t truly interested.
So, when you’ve made the decision to sell, make sure you ask your REALTOR® about an MLS® listing. It could be that your REALTOR® will already know of a number of potential Buyers, but in most cases, an MLS® listing will open up a broader range of interested parties.
Selling Your Own Home
I’ve met many people over my career who thought it would be easy to sell their own home privately. Some have been successful but, according to industry surveys, about 70% end up listing it for sale with a REALTOR® in the end. Of those who have had success, did they really save any money?
If you think about it, most Buyers will expect the price of a home that is being sold privately, to be discounted by the value of the commission. In that case, the Seller may not have saved any money at all. Secondly, the Seller will incur expenses in marketing their home and in completing the transaction. The biggest concern though is the risk of making costly mistakes.
Selling your home is a complex procedure, involving potentially large sums of money and stringent legal requirements. It requires a tremendous depth of knowledge and experience, as well as a substantial amount of time to follow up on every detail promptly and properly. A professional REALTOR® has these qualifications and experience and is committed to spending the time and money it takes to help you sell your home successfully so you can focus on the things you do best and enjoy the most.
If you are thinking about selling your home alone, ask yourself these questions:
Most of those who sell their home in Canada do so with the assistance of REALTORS®. Of the few who do try it themselves, most change their minds and end up going with a REALTOR® because the process is too complex, too time-consuming, and too dangerous without the help of a professional.
An old cautionary adage expresses it best for those who feel they can sell their homes without the help of a REALTOR ®: “You can get rid of the broker, but you can’t get rid of the broker’s work.”
- Appeal. Home Sellers don’t fully realize that clearly seeing a home through the eyes of a Buyer dramatically increases the chances of the home selling quickly and at a higher price. Only a REALTOR®’s experience can guide a Seller to properly show a home to its best advantage.
- The Internet. Canada ’s public MLS® based website is the most visited real estate website in the country logging millions of hits annually. Properties listed for sale by a REALTOR® appear on this essential site.
- Promotion to other REALTORS®. Although often overlooked, this is one of the most important roles a REALTOR® plays. Most Buyers are working with a REALTOR® and it is often the REALTOR® who draws a property to a Buyer’s attention.
- A professional yard sign. A sign can funnel Buyers’ calls right to the qualified real estate professional with the answers they need.
- A flexible flyer. A flyer about your home can be distributed many different ways, to potential Buyers as well as other brokers.
- Tours. Your broker can arrange tours of your home for top-producing sales REALTORS® who would benefit from seeing your home first-hand.
- Open Houses are arranged by your broker for real estate professionals, both in our RE/MAX brokerage and other brokerages as well.
- A direct mailer. This can be launched with “Just Listed” cards to your neighbours and nearby move-up and rental neighbourhoods.
- Classified Ads. Ads might also be taken out featuring your home. Writing and placing these is an art in itself.
- Ongoing Information. Your broker will tell you about marketing conditions and the competition on a regular basis. This can keep you up-to-date with the market so you are prepared to make decisions.
- Multiple offer expertise. If more than one Buyer makes an offer on your home, it takes an immense amount of know-how and integrity to handle the transaction properly.
- Organization of closing details. Following through on the closing arrangements and handling any unexpected issues that crop up are all part of the REALTORS® expertise.
- Relationship. Your REALTOR® will be there for you to help in finding another property or in locating a top notch out-of-town REALTOR ®. You build a relationship for down the road if you need advice on financing, property value, benefits of improvements and so on. The sale is often just the beginning.
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