Whether you are a buyer or a seller, it takes an entire team of people to sell your home. As a home seller, who is included on that team looks a lot different than when you bought your home.
The members of your home selling team may include;
- Your selling agent (also sometimes called a listing agent)
- Home stager
- Home photographer
- Contractor for repairs
- Real estate attorney
- Home inspector
Deciding to Use a Listing Agent to Sell Your Home
What is a listing agent?
The listing agent is also sometimes referred to as the seller’s agent, someone who will work with the home seller, often exclusively (although there are certain locations that allow a selling agent to work both sides of a real estate transaction.)
Home sellers will research options in a listing agent through personal contacts, local advertising, friend recommendations, social media, home listing portals (like Homes.com), mortgage broker recommendations or other means whereby introductions are made. There may be a period of interviews, meetings, calls or a selection process to decide which listing agent the home seller would like to work with.
The listing agent will then arrange a meeting at the home seller’s property, evaluate the property and then run a comparative market analysis on the home, via commercially available industry software or proprietary location data, and will then provide the seller with a ballpark range of their home’s value. Note: this is a non-binding estimate that the seller should consider. Local market factors can dramatically change the value a house sells as. A great listing agent will factor in these considerations when presenting their estimated home value. The listing agent and the seller will come to an agreement as to how much to list the property for, with an expectation of a time to sell that considers the seller’s need to move, financing and other possible factors influencing the speed with which the seller desires to sell. To become the ‘official’ listing agent who represents the seller in the real estate transaction, the agent will then provide the seller with a contract which the seller must sign.
At this point, the listing agent can begin marketing the property using a variety of techniques and tools such as the Multiple Listing Service toolset, Homes.com (and / or other national portals), local advertising and other promotional platforms to publicize and highlight the home’s features. The listing agent will also organize the listing photos, video or other media and work with the home seller on an attractive and accurate description of the property to accompany the general home’s information. Listing agents will also facilitate open houses and home tours to allow potential buyers to see the house from the inside via appointment or at set times during the week.
What the Listing Agent Will Do For You
Selling a home can be like owning your own small business, and your listing agent is your business partner. In the course of selling your home, your listing agent will be there with you through almost the entire process, from coming up with the sale price to handing over the home’s keys. In a few instances, these jobs are done by multiple people from the agency, each specializing in one particular step of the process. For the most part, though, you will be dealing with one agent that will get to know and trust through the bumps and hiccups of your home selling journey.
Here are just some of the things Listing Agents will do.
Determine Your Home’s Value
Finding the right price to value your home at is an art unto itself. Homeowners often over-price their home, only to find that their home languishes on the market and de-values steeper than what they could have gotten if they had gone with a lower price, to begin with. Your Listing Agent will know your market and know what homes are selling for. They will use Comparables, homes of a similar size and description, to find the right balance on price.
List the Home
One of the tools that a Listing Agent has access to is a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The agent will use this not only to help price your home, but also to attract other agents and brokers. It’s possible to get on an MLS without an agent, but it will require paying fees.
Marketing is an essential aspect of any home sale. An experienced agent will have a list of go-to contractors, home stagers, and photographers in order to make your home shine. When you first meet with your agent, you should ask what kind of marketing plan they employ, and how much they plan to spend. An agent with a marketing plan versus one without is often the difference between a good and bad agent.
Show the Home
An agent’s involvement with the showing of the home can vary depending on the seller, but when it comes to dealing with potential buyers and gauging their worthiness to buy your home, the agent’s experienced selling-eye will be invaluable.
Negotiate With the Buyer
In many home sales, the buyer and the seller never actually meet. While the contract is being worked out, the Listing Agent will meet with the Buyer’s Agent (sometimes called the Selling Agent) to work out the details of the purchase contract. Your Agent will not only have more experience reading these contracts and knowing what is usual or unusual about them, but also will be able to be detached enough to negotiate effectively.
Be There at the Close
An agent, in particular, one with some legal expertise, can be there with you at the close. Along with a Closing Attorney and/or an Escrow Officer, they will help you review the final documents to sign to complete the sale of your home.
Consider More Than the Cost of a Real Estate Agent
If you are thinking of selling your home without an agent just for the savings alone, then you may want to reconsider. In many For-Sale-By-Owner situations, the sellers are greatly disappointed in the amount of money they saved by the end if there were savings at all.
On the other hand, if you are thinking of going the FSBO route because you have a strong personal conviction for doing so, you don’t mind research and legal documents and can keep a cool head during negotiations, then selling your home without an agent might be the right choice for you.
Read: What are the advantages and disadvantages of FSBO vs selling with a real estate agent?
Read: How to find the perfect real estate agent for your home sale
Read: How to understand and negotiate your home listing agreement
How to Find a Home Inspector
In home sales where the buyer is obtaining a mortgage from a loan company, the company will require an appraisal and an inspection, both of which the buyer will pay for. In some instances, the seller might offer to cover these costs. Sometimes a homeowner who truly does not know the condition of their home will hire an inspector before putting it on the market. In many cases, homeowners will wait for the buyer’s inspection, because this inspection will happen whether you hire someone to inspect your home before putting it on the market or not.
Often, the home inspector finds an issue that needs to be addressed about the home’s structure or upkeep, usually minor. It does happen, however, that an inspector will find a big issue with the home – one that can derail an entire sale. To prevent this from happening, some homeowners will pay the cost up front to have the home inspected before it ever goes on the market. If you are thinking of selling your home and are truly in the dark about your home’s condition, then you might consider getting a pre-inspection.
What to Look for in an Inspector
Home Inspectors are state/county licensed contractors whose business success depends upon their reputation for being objective and accurate in their assessments. Failure to do their job in a professional way can mean that they can lose their business, so most Home Inspectors are trustworthy by nature. When hiring a Home Inspector, make sure up front that they are Licensed, Bonded, and Insured. If they are not, then they are not actually a home inspector. In addition, ask about the home inspector’s experience. Most home inspectors come from a lengthy background in construction or have worked before as an electrician, and will have specialties that they bring to your home.
What Home Inspectors Do / Don’t Do
Home inspectors will do a top-to-bottom evaluation of the physical condition of your home, inside and out. They will be looking at insulation, electrical wiring, plumbing, and any other areas of damage. They will be interested is spots where gathering moisture is an issue, mold, or trouble spots in the yard. This will help you price your home accurately and will give any potential home buyers an idea of how much money they might need to invest in the home’s upkeep. Things a general contractor might not cover are problems with sewage or pests; in particular, termites. Depending on your state or country, a separate termite inspection might be required, and otherwise could be a good idea.
Home Inspector Industry Associations / Affiliations
Many agents will have a recommendation for a home inspection company or individual, though there are also industry associations that offer training and membership generally denote higher levels of training and expertise. Look for members of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and INTERNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors).
Using a Home Stager / Home Photographer
Good marketing is key to keeping your home from spending too much time on the market, and hiring professionals to stage and photograph your home can be key to good marketing. Many homeowners try to save money by cutting these professionals from the process, but considering the amount of money in play in the sale of your home, the up-front costs of having the marketing done right are negligible.
How to Find a Contractor
If you already know what needs to be fixed around your home, you can get started with your contractor before your home ever goes up for sale. In some cases, your agent might make some suggestions of what could be worked on to give your home a boost in market value. This could be as simple new window screens or a coat of paint for the exterior. During the negotiation process, the buyer will ask for some repairs, however small. If you do not already have a contractor you work with and trust, your agent can be a valuable resource for choosing one.
There are many national websites for finding reliable contractors and tradesmen, although we don’t recommend anyone over another, some of the more popular sites are; Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Contractor Connection.
How to Find a Real Estate Attorney
An attorney’s role in the home sale can vary. There will be multiple legal contracts for the home seller to go over, not just the final purchase contract. In some cases, your agent will act as an attorney in reviewing the closing paperwork, but other times it is worth it to have an attorney review in addition to the agent. There is also your agent’s contract, which you might consider showing to an attorney. Generally, your agent will recommend an office or personal connection. Do you research, it’s your choice whether to use their preferred attorney or your own.
What to Expect
Now that you’ve made the decision to sell and have met with a real estate to discuss current market conditions, it’s time to prep your home to be on the market. What sort of repairs and renovations should you focus on to get the most for your money? How should you clean and stage your home to get it looking its best? And what type of marketing should you employ to get your home out there? While every home is different, there are a few tried and true tips for prepping a home to be sold.
There a few shortcuts when it comes to cleaning your home before putting it up for sale: walls re-painted, floors waxed, windows wiped. Every inch of your home will have to be attended to, and there are no crawl spaces or closets where you can hide your stuff. A potential buyer will want to see every inch of the home, and storage space can be a real attraction for buyers. In the time that you have to live in your home while it’s on the market, you are going to have to live with a bare minimum of your possessions, and you might want to consider renting a storage space.
It’s important to clean every inch of your home before you put it on the market, but don’t make the mistake of making your home so clean that it’s actually empty. One or two key pieces of furniture will help give potential buyers a frame of reference for a room’s size, and it will help buyers picture themselves in the home. The key to this balance is to de-personalize. Keep the just the essential, universal items on display.
Hiring a professional stager to make your home look its best is a minimal expense, considering how much faster it will help get your home off the market. A professional stager will not only know these basic tips but also how to best implement them in your home. A stager will often have a photographer they work with or can recommend one to use to help with your marketing materials. Your real estate agent most likely has a stager or two that they can connect you with.
If you have been in your home for a long time, haven’t kept up with repairs over the years, or are otherwise in the dark about the condition of your home, it might be a smart idea to get a pre-inspection. While the buyer may inspect again during the negotiation process, at least this way there will be no surprises.
Once you know what needs to be fixed, consider how much of the sale price the work involved actually is. When it comes doing repairs before the home goes on the market, the two types you want to take care of yourself are small ones and really really big ones.
If a repair is less than 5% of the price of the home, it is a good idea to get it done before an inspector catches it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if there is a problem big enough, like a roof or foundation problem, you might have to take care of it before it prohibits the sale of the home at all. There is a sweet spot in there, between 10-20% of the home’s value where the repair might be best left to the next owner.
One of the first questions you should ask your real estate agent is about their marketing plan. All agents should have a solid plan in place, including social media, and a concrete amount of money they are willing to spend on advertising. Part of that marketing budget is for your Stager and Photographer, who will help get your home out there. There are always new ways and methods of photographing homes, so make sure your marketing team is utilizing not just photos, but drone video and 360-degree images.
Preplanning For the Sale
Home Selling: How to Prepare in Advance & Avoid Surprises
In the home-selling journey, small but important parts of the process can end up piling up on the seller. If these things aren’t taken care of along the way, they can surprise the seller, who then has to do it all at once at the end. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, here a few things you can do in advance to make the sale of your home that much smoother.
Work Out the Details of the Move, Including Insurance
In the terminology of real estate, when the previous owners move out of a property and the new owner moves in, this is called possession. When a home sale is closed, the buyers want to take possession as soon as possible. To this end, there are a number of things to work out between the buyer and the seller, including utilities.
Often, sellers vacate the property before the contract is completed. If you are making one of these types of moves, then make sure your insurance company doesn’t have any provisions about leaving a home vacant. Insurance companies don’t like homes to be left vacant, so if you are going to vacate, make sure there aren’t any penalties in store for you.
On the topic of insurance, you should check in with your insurance company about insuring any big-ticket items you own in the course of the move. For these more expensive items, it might be a good idea to have them appraised, in order to make sure the insurance covers them correctly.
Sorting Out Your Own Mortgage
In the course of your home’s sale, the buyer will be furiously getting together their paperwork in order to obtain a loan. Make sure everything is sorted out on your side of things, as well. If you have recently refinanced, then make sure you have all of that paperwork recorded. If you are selling and buying at the same time, then make sure your mortgage company knows about it so they can time it out to work for you. It is possible to borrow against the money you will receive at the close of the sale.
Documents to Have in Hand Before You List
Before you list your home, make sure you have in hand such documents as: the title, deed, and survey of your property. Having this paperwork in hand can save a lot of time later. The title and the deed are the documents that make you the legal owner of the property, while the survey is what legally determines the property’s size.
If you are still paying your mortgage, then the company who owns the lien has these documents. If you paid your mortgage off, they sent them to you. If you have lost them, there are most likely copies at your county records office. If you cannot obtain the documents through any of these ways, you might be in trouble.
Title officers exist for this very reason, and it is their job to make sure no one else has a claim on your title. If you bought your home a number of years ago, and never received a deed or title from the seller, chances are someone else has a claim on your home; instances of this are very rare, though.
Making Sure You Have Some Contingency Plans!
Selling a home is always more complicated than we expect, and it is smart to have a Plan B, Plan C, and a Plan D in place. Sometimes we are faced with an embarrassment of good luck, and a home sells much faster than we expect. In this case, you should have a plan for where to stay if your new home isn’t available yet.
In some cases, a buyer that isn’t ready to move in yet will rent the home to the old owner as part of the purchase agreement. If you haven’t already, you should look into a storage space to hold some of your possessions while in transit. Many home sellers get a unit as soon as they start cleaning house. It can come in handy if plans change, or for just holding onto your personal belongings while you show your home.