Finding a Real Estate Agent.
If you're selling a home, you
don't necessarily need the largest real estate
agency in town, the busiest agent, or the agent
with the most experience. You need an individual
who will market your home aggressively to buyers
and to other agents. Here are some tips to help
you find that person.
Steps You Should Take Before
You Sell Your House. Are you planning to sell
your house? Be sure to take these important steps
before you list the home with an agent or market
it yourself. You can make your real estate
transaction go more smoothly if you pay attention
to these home selling essentials.
The home selling process differs
from state to state, but there are some important
steps that you should take before you put your
house on the market--all steps that protect your
interests and help you get the most return from
1. Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan
I've known sellers who signed a
contract to sell their house before they knew if
they were qualified to buy another. Either their
financial circumstances had changed since their
last purchase, and they could no longer qualify
for a loan, or they weren't able to sell at a
price that allowed them to buy the type of
replacement house they wanted. They ended up
renting or buying something that was far from
Before you decide to sell the house, get
pre-approved by a lender you trust and research
the housing market in the area where you wish to
live so that you have a good idea how much it will
take to buy a replacement
How To Start Researching
Start looking for two types of real estate: houses
that seem to match the one you'd like to buy and
houses that are similar to your current home.
How do the two categories compare in price?
Can you handle the difference if you're planning a
Find homes in free For Sale publications, often
available outside grocery and convenience stores.
Search the Internet for homes for sale in your
area and read real estate ads in your local
newspapers. You won't find house locations without
making phone calls, but browsing the general
market will get you off to a good start.
2. Check Your Mortgage Payoff
Call your lender to check the payoff for your
current home mortgage. You'll need the figure to
complete Step 6.
3. Determine How Much the House Is Worth
Determine your home's fair market value. Real
estate agents will usually help you determine
value as a courtesy, but you might take it a step
further and order an appraisal.
4. Estimate Your Costs to Sell
Real estate commission if you use an agency to
Advertising costs, signs, other fees if you plan
to sell by owner.
Attorney, closing agent and other professional
Excise tax for the sale.
Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses,
such as property taxes, home owner association
fees, and fuel tank rentals.
Any other fees typically paid by the seller in
your area (surveys, inspections, etc.).
Real estate agents deal with transactions every
day and can give you a very close estimate of
seller closing costs.
5. Determine Your Costs to Acquire a New Home
Total your costs to acquire a new home: moving
expenses, loan costs, down payment, home
inspections, title work and policy, paying for a
new hazard insurance policy--all expenses related
to buying a home. Your lender should give you a
disclosure of estimated costs when you apply for
6. Calculate Your Estimated Proceeds
Deduct your mortgage payoff from your home's fair
Deduct your costs to sell from the remainder to
get an estimate of the proceeds you will be paid
Will your closing proceeds cover your costs to
acquire a new home? If not, do you have cash or
other funding to make up the difference?
7. Make Necessary Repairs
Make all needed repairs unless you want the house
to be regarded as a fixer-upper. I'm not referring
to cosmetic updates, but to items in need of
repair. Anything that's obviously broken gives
potential buyers a reason to submit a lower offer.
8. Get the House Ready to Show
Most houses need at least a little spiffing up
before they are shown to potential buyers. Great
curb appeal, fresh paint indoors (and sometimes
out), organized closets and cabinets, sparkling
clean windows and appliances, and a clutter-free
atmosphere are essential if you want the house to
appeal to buyers.
9. Get Psyched Up to Let People In
If you're listing with a real estate agent, she'll
no doubt ask you to leave when the house is shown.
Why? Because lurking sellers make buyers
nervous--they don't feel comfortable inspecting
the house when they feel they are intruding.
Unless there's a real reason for it, don't ask
your agent to be present for all showings. That's
the kiss of death for showing activity. Other
agents want privacy with their buyers and they
don't usually have time to work around your
Make the house accessible. That means it's always
ready to show. Many agents won't bother showing a
house that takes 24 hours to get into.
Research Real Estate Firms
Which agency's ads or Web sites are the most
Which agencies consistently feature virtual tours
on their Web sites?
Do property descriptions make you want to schedule
an appointment to see the listings?
Does the agency provide multiple photos of homes
in their ads or on the Web? Are they of good
Which agencies advertise in multiple publications?
On radio or TV?
Was their Web site easy to find when you searched
for homes for sale in your town?
Ask your friends for agent referrals. Have they
worked with an agent who did a great job?
Once you have a list of
agents, make an appointment with each one to learn
more about their services.
Find out if agents are willing
to compile a free comparative market analysis
(CMA), a document that compares your home to
similar homes that have sold recently. Agents use
this tool to help sellers set listing prices.
Ask agents to explain the marketing tactics that
will be used to sell your house, including print,
Web and other types of advertising (you'll already
know much of this if you've done your research).
Will the agency place your house in the Multiple
Listing Service (MLS) immediately? Making your
home available to every affiliated agent greatly
increases the buyer pool.
Find out if the agency belongs to more than one
MLS. In some areas there's an overlap of popular
neighborhoods, making multiple memberships
What's the agency's commission rate? How does it
compare to that of other agencies that offer the
Find out how long they want you to list with them,
keeping in mind that the time is usually
What's the average length of time it takes to sell
a house in your area? What is the company's
How long has the agent been licensed to sell real
What percentage of the agency's listings sell
during the initial listing contract period?
How often can you expect to receive buyer
feedback? Weekly, twice a month, after every
showing? Will the feedback be written? (Buyer
feedback is an important tool. If everyone makes
the same negative comment about your property, you
should consider working on the problem. )
Will the agent hold an open house for other real
estate agents? For buyers?
How are showings handled? Will you receive advance
notification that someone is coming? How much
notice is typical? (You can put restrictions on
showings--certain days or times are
off-limits--but that may drastically cut down on
the number of times your home is shown.)
If you have pets, make sure the agent is committed
to a plan that ensures their safety. If it's a dog
that bites, you will need a plan for buyer safety,
Does the agency use lockboxes? Many agencies place
a key inside a box that is secured to your home.
Ask the agents to explain how it works.
If your new home will be in the same area, ask the
agent any questions you might have as a buyer. You
may choose to use the same agent to buy and sell.
Estimating Home Selling Costs
Ask agents to give you an estimate of typical
seller closing costs.
Attorney or other professional fees.
How your share of property taxes for the year is
Your share of property owner association fees,
The real estate commission.
Any other expenses that sellers are typically
expected to pay for. (Surveys, inspections,
certifications, etc. Customs differ around the
Ask any other questions you think are important,
but your decision to hire an agent should be based
in part on a gut feeling that the two of you can
You don't need the largest agency in town, the
busiest agent, or the agent with the most
experience. You need an agent who will market your
home aggressively to buyers and to other agents.
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