I recently started receiving the Reader’s Digest. One of my favorite sections of the magazine is called “Home Digest” and each month there is a different topic. The headings start off as “13 things your (fill in the blank) won’t tell you”. This month the topic was “13 things your Real Estate Agent won’t tell you”. I started reading this skeptically as the topic hit so close to home and I was worried it would focus on all the ways in which people have a tendancy to see Realtors as slick salesmen. However, it was very informative and pretty much gave helpful hints, especially to those who are actively trying to sell a home. I thought I would share this information with you. Underneath each point, in italics, will be my personal feedback from experience. So, here goes…
13 Things Your Real Estate Agent Won’t Tell You:
- Your open house helps the Realtor more than it helps you. The majority of visitor’s aren’t buyers-they’re nosey neighbors-and that gives the Realtor an opportunity to hand out their card and possibly gain new clients. (Only once have I heard of someone’s house being sold from an open house. This is not to say it does not happen but open houses honestly are for looky-lous and your agent is hoping to get more listings, or a buyer or two, rather than getting your house sold. Most realtors I know hate doing open houses as they are viewed as a waste of time and energy).
- Plug-in air fresheners are a turnoff to a lot of people. If you want your house to smell good, bake cookies right before a showing. (I, for one, am allergic to perfumes and find plug in air fresheners offensive. If you choose a scent someone doesn’t like it would be silly to loose a sale over something as unnecessary as that. I have yet to find anyone who is allergic to the smell of a clean house or freshly baked cookies. Smell is a strong, strong, strong tool to be used in selling a home so use it wisely. If you don’t want to bake cookies put a small amount of cinnamon and water in a pan and put it in the oven at a low setting).
- If you get a call saying that some buyers want to see your house in 15 minutes, let them in even if it’s a bit messy. Those last minute types typically make impulsive decisions, and they just might decide to buy a house that day. (However, if you have a house on the market that you are trying to sell you should always try to keep it clutter free and clean at all times. It really, really helps in getting your home sold.)
- In this kind of market, don’t be offended by a low-ball offer. You have a better chance of getting that person to pay than finding someone new.(This is the name of the game with the real estate market now. It is a buyers market. It is slowly starting to change but buyers are fully aware that there are some amazing deals out there right now -I just helped someone buy a large 3/2 with huge lot and fully remodeled kitchen for $83,000-and most are looking for a real deal. If they are making an offer they are really interested so don’t get upset with them and blow them out of the water. Counter offer and get into a conversation with them and see what you can do).
- If your Realtor is hugely successful you may not benefit from their experience. A well known agent may pass you off to a junior agent after you sign the contract. Ask yor realtor exactly who will be handling your phone calls, marketing your house, and taking you to look at homes before you sign to ensure you get exactly what you’re paying for. (Honestly, when you are trying to sell a home you do not need a big named Realtor or a well known Real Estate Brokerage. The agent from a lesser known brokerage will do the same work by taking the listing and putting it on MLS. The buyers agent, when doing a search for homes for their clients, will not care about who you have your home listed with. They will care about the pictures and how much commission they will be making. Also, an agent from a smaller brokerage would be more willing to work with the commission and give you a deal-however, don’t forget. Your realtor is a professional and if you want professional service you need to pay for that!)
- Make sure you read the listing or buyers contract carefully before signing it. There may be an extra “administrative fee” ranging from $250-$1500 on top of the standard commission, intended to cover the brokerage’s administrative costs. Similar to your realtor’s commision, this fee is negotiable.(This is pretty self explanatory. There are some slim shadey realtors out there and you want to make sure of what you are signing, and what you will be needing to pay for, before you put pen to paper).
- Don’t skip the final walk through. It’s your last chance to make sure that the repairs were done properly, that the owner’s personal items have been removed and that the items you agreed should stay are still there. Sellers can decide last minute to take any of the appliances, remove chandeliers, take out the shutters and window treatments, etc…(I have heard of some horror stories from people who have not done the final walk through. It is such a small thing for you to do and it can have big results in the end)
- Beware of seller’s agents who overestimate your house’s selling price. They’re hoping you’ll choose them over the other agents who will price it more realistically. In the field this is called “buying your listing” and it can almost gaurantee your house will sit on the market a very long time. (Again, this is pretty self explanatory. If you have talked to three different agents and one feels he can get way more than the other two you are more than likely being sold a bill of goods. The longer a home sits on the market the more mortgage payments you need to make, the more taxes you pay and the more suspicious buyers agents become when they see that the house has been on the market for a long time).
- Houses without furniture don’t look larger. Empty rooms may actually appear smaller because the buyers can’t get a sense of how much furniture will fit. (However, if your furniture is really old, smelly or just plain ugly this can effect the sale of your home as well. This transfers to the rental market too. I have seen too many times when someone has said “Oh my, I cannot rent this place….look at how ugly that couch is!” I remind them that the couch will be leaving but people get hung up on things like that. The nicer and cleaner a home is, the easier it will sell).
- Clear off countertops in the bathrooms and kitchens!!!! American’s love wide open counter space. (Yes we do! NO ONE wants to see your personal items. As many bare clean surfaces as you can makes for better pictures and better showings!)
- For an estimate of property values in certain states check out zillow.com, but don’t lock down on the number you see there. Desktop appraisal systems assess how nearby homes with similar square footage have sold; they don’t consider home interior. (Trust your realtor…..and find a realtor you can trust!)
- If your realtor is new to the business their references are likely to be relatives or close friends. So, when you call, always ask for references and how they are connected with the realtor.
- It is absolutely illegal for your realtor to share with you the economic or predominant ethnic make up of a neighborhood or area you are interested in or the local crime rate. If your realtor says anything to that effect they are violating Fair Housing laws and could loose their license and be fined. (It never ceases to amaze me the things people say to me while I am showing them houses. It makes me realize I truly live in the south!)
Here are a few of my own tips:
- The buyers agent, when finding your home on MLS, will almost always look at the commission offered to them. If the commission offered is higher than others your house will be looked at more, if it isn’t there is a strong chance it will be passed by. It really is the buyers agent, and not your listing agent, who gets the home sold. A listing agent truly wants listings to have their names on the signs in your front yard as a source of promo to get more listings.
- Pictures are worth a thousand words. Make sure you clean your house and take things off of the counters when you know your agent is coming by to take pictures and make sure that the agent takes lots of good pictures. Often, when I am doing a search on the computer, the homes that get pulled up initially meet the criteria that I typed in (3 bedrooms, 3 baths, certain city, certain price range). Now, I am going to go almost exclusively by pictures. If I SEE a PICTURE of a home I like, or that I think my client will like, I will then see it’s location and if it’s in the area we want I will then present it to the buyer. If there is only one picture of the home (by law that one picture has to be the front of the house) I will pass it by. Your realtor can put as many as 12 pictures up on a listing. Go onto the internet and find your house and see what the pictures are saying about it!
- Trust the information your Realtor finds for you on the MLS over what you yourself find on Realtor.com (or any other realtor based web site). The information your agent finds on their websites are absolutely up to date. Realtor.com has stale dated info and can really slug up the process.
Jennifer Fehr is the co-owner of Suncoast4Rent with her husband Tom Fehr. Jennifer is a Florida State Realtor and works through Stonebridge Real Estate Co Inc in Clearwater, Fl (Pinellas County) to bring the personal touch to all your Real Estate needs, be it professional residential property management, consultation and sales.
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