Sellers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Question: I've decided to sell my home - how do I find the right agent?
Answer: Great question. Of course if you are in the area I service I believe calling me would be the right thing to do But in all seriousness, this is a huge transaction and you are going to work closely with the person you select on some serious issues, prior to the listing and through the negotiation and closing of the transaction, so chose wisely. I think first and foremost it should be someone you like, respect, and believe is knowledgeable. I tell everybody if you ask around, people who have bought and sold recently won't hesitate to tell you what they thought of their agent and the other agent in the transaction. A referral is always a good way to start. If you can't get a referral, then I think it's important that you interview agents. Make a list of questions so you ask each agent the same questions. I think it's important that the agent you choose has up to date credentials and a plan for continuing education. You don't want to work with somebody that hasn't taken a class in years - how are they keeping up on the new laws and marketing ideas? When you interview agents be sure you ask each of them the same questions. They will all have listing presentations and that's a good source of information, but don't hesitate to say I want to go through my list of questions. In the end you'll have each person's answers to the same question, it will make it easier to decide who is right for you. Whatever you do, don't make the decision based on getting a discount on the commission - or all the free stuff that comes with a listing. Agents pay their own expenses for signs, flyers and advertising, even their web sites. If you take the discount on the commission they will compromise in the marketing of your home. As my husband the CPA reminds me, free isn't! There is a price to pay for that discount and it may come in the type of marketing that is done on your home.
Q. I think I've decided who I want to represent me - now what?
A. Well before you sign the contract, do yourself a favor and check their references. And don't just check the names they gave you - do you think I would give you the name of a person who wasn't happy? Of course they are going to give you names of people they feel had a good experience with them. But don't just ask for clients of houses they represented in the buying or selling, ask for lenders, escrow officers, other connections. Ask anybody that knows anything about Real Estate - what they think of the agent you've chosen. Even ask the other agents you interviewed. Hopefully they will never say anything bad about another agent - but if they don't say something good - I'd be careful. Even go to the Department of Real Estate and check their license. Call their Broker - ask if this agent is the best one for you? When you think you've done your homework, call the agent and get ready to begin a new adventure.
Q. How do I know how much to list my house for? I think I know what it's worth but how do I make my final decision on the price?
A. The agent you chose will provide you some "comps". These are comparable sales in your area for properties that are like yours. They should within a mile or 2 of your home, and approximately the same size and age. These comps will show what other properties have been listed and sold for. This is not a science it is an educated guess. As a result you need to spend some time thinking about this information and trusting that if you have picked the right agent, you should be willing to listen to their advice about pricing your home. An agent that just agrees with you about the price is probably going along with you to get the listing. The next step for them will be to convince you to reduce the price. It's always better to try and get the price right from the beginning. It will bring you a quicker sale. And remember it's not the Agent's job to pick the price, it's yours.
Q. How soon after I make my decision can my house be listed for sale?
A. Well that depends on you and the condition of your house. A good agent will spend time with you when they sign the listing, walking your home and really getting to know it. Remember they are going to have to answer questions from other agents and from buyers and they need as much information as they can about your home to present it in the right light. The agent will also walk through your house and make recommendations about things that should be repaired, inspected, or changed prior to the house being ready to be shown. Many agents actually recommend that you get a home inspection before the house is listed to ensure that you know what items should be repaired before sale and in some cases they will recommend you make those repairs. They may also suggest you remove some of your personal items. This could be valuables and it may just be family photos. It's the agents goal to always show your home in it's best light.
Q. I love my house and I think it looks great - why would I change anything to sell it?
A. In today's market people know exactly what they want. Anything in your house that is not to their taste (and not much will be) they will assume they have to change and that should be worth a reduction in the price. The listing agents job is to be able to educate you about what things you can do to your property to ensure it's always being shown in the best light. The agent may even recommend using an Interior Designer or space planner to be sure that rooms are shown off to their best advantage. This doesn't mean moving all your things out and replacing them with neutral items, but it may mean you have to start some of your packing early. The listing agent will want to ensure that you get the highest possible price for your home. We call this process 'neutralizing' your home. Although it may be fabulous for you and the way you and your family live, we are trying to get to appeal to the broadest audience. Once again, you have engaged an agent to be your partner in this transaction, please listen to their advice. Sometimes hard to swallow but always with the best intentions.
Q. My house is ready for viewing, what should I expect from the agent for marketing materials?
A. You should expect the agent to produce marketing materials that make your house look great! After the work you just did I am sure it does. Be sure to review with your Agent before your sign the listing exactly what they will be doing for marketing and when. Get the agent to provide you with samples of flyers they will be providing and ask for approval of the flyer before it is printed and placed on the sign post in front of you house. Review the pictures that have been taken and be sure you like the way the house looks. Ask the agent if you can see the MLS information. Review it and be sure it is accurate. There may be something important in your house that the agent completely forgot or you forgot to mention, you'll that information to be accurate. Ask where the house will be advertised, when will open houses occur and how will you know how many people are looking at your house and what are they saying? You need be involved in the process. Ask the agent what reports you will get and how often you can expect to speak to them about your listing. Remember you two are involved and you need to be kept up to date on your listing activity.
Q. Okay what about the Lockbox - I'm not sure I like that idea.
A. Not everybody does. I will tell you that agents love being able to access your home with short notice. Sometimes they are showing another property and see the sign. When they have the buyer with them they want to show them all the houses they can. But when they call to show it, they understand that it may take an hour to get it ready. By appointment only with no lockbox is another way to go, but honestly these homes do not get their fair share of showings. Most agents just don't plan their showing activity that way so unless the house is priced below market or is extra special according the MLS or marketing materials, you may miss a buyer. There are other compromises your agent can help you make. How about the lockbox is only available between certain hours of the day, that way you don't have to worry about people coming by when you are getting the children ready for bed. Or the the option the owner put the lockbox in a secure place when they leave the house. Work with your agent to try and find a solution you are both happy with. We don't ever want you to miss an opportunity to show the house.
Q. I don't want an Open House- I don't like the idea of a lot of strangers going through my home.
A. I can understand that. That's one of the reasons we want you to pack up and store your valuables. Remember there will always be at least one agent at the open house, possibly two so they do try to keep track of visitors but you are definitely letting strangers wander through your home. There are allot of Buyers who like the freedom of driving a neighborhood and dropping by when they see a sign. The one thing your agent will want is to ensure that you get as much exposure as possible and open house will provide that. Maybe you can compromise on how often the house should be open. There is also another type of Open House called a Broker Tour or Caravan. This takes place during the week and the house is open for local agents to preview. You'd be amazed how many agents will get a good lead doing open house for the other agents. The goal is to expose your home to as many people as possible. Sometimes the things we don't like about these ideas are the ones we need to be creative about solving. Especially if you are anxious to sell.
Q. My house hasn't sold - what's the problem?
A. Well it could be the market. With so many Foreclosures and short sales on the market today people are looking for bargains. Your house may take longer to sell than it would have a couple of years ago, but if the marketing is good, the price is good, there may not be a problem. Talk to your agent about this in your scheduled weekly calls and let them know you are anxious. Together you'll be able to come to a conclusion about the next steps.
Q. It's been 90 days and my house hasn't sold - should I change agents?
A. Probably not! There are times when people select the wrong agent. But if you have been talking regularly, the marketing materials are good, there is exposure to your house in advertising and on the Internet then why would you change agents. A new agent is most likely going to tell you to reduce the price. If that's all they are going to do, then why not have the conversation with your current agent about reducing the price. If you believe you selected the right agent and have been happy with the follow up, don't start all over again.
Q. We got an offer - now what?
A. I hope it's a price you are happy with, if not, you have the right to counter that offer. Remember the offer is the first step in the negotiation not the final step. The Buyer is trying to get the most they can for the least amount of money and you are trying to get the most money while giving up the least. I say have a conversation with your agent about the offer in terms of what is realistic and what isn't. If the time to closing comfortable for you. Are the contingencies a worry. Do they have to sell another house? If not you are half way there. Are they already pre approved to purchase a home? All these issues will be discussed with your agent. You have the right to make a counter offer and most likely the Buyer will be expecting that. If the agents representing both parties are professional it's their job not to get emotional about the offer. If they both keep their heads it will be easier for the Buyer and Seller to come to agreement.
Q. The offer was accepted - when they do their home inspection do we have to make the repairs?
A. The short answer is no - but you want to make repairs that are related to the Buyers health or safety. For instance if the inspector says there is something in your house that is not up to code, well that may be too bad, if the Buyer wants it up to code they can do that after they move in. But if the Inspector says that there is a pipe leaking under a sink and they are worried about it causing wood rot, you may want to do that repair. Your agent will go through each of the buyers requests with you and you can decide what items you will and won't repair. This is why having an inspection on your own first is a good idea. Small repairs will be made and the Buyer may not ask you to do anything.
Q. How do I know what the costs of selling my home are?
A. Your agent can provide you with an estimated Seller Proceeds sheet when they take the listing. This form will give some estimates as to the costs you are going to incur closing the property. Now that you are in escrow you will receive a sheet from the Escrow company outlining the estimated proceeds from the sale. It will account for the money from the deposit, the down payment, and the money from their lender and it will also note the payoff of your loan and all other costs. You should know within a few hundred dollars what your proceeds will be when the transaction is closed.
Q. When do we have to vacate our home?
A. In most listings agents will provide the seller with 2 or 3 days after the close of escrow to leave the property. That way you have time to move after the transaction has closed. We are sure the house is title is transferred to the new owner and you have time to finish the packing, load the boxes and do a final cleaning of the house. How sad - but how exciting. Whether you are moving on to a new home, larger or smaller in the same neighborhood - or moving out of state. It will be a time of mixed emotions. Don't let the stress get to you. One thing I can tell you for sure, along the way something will go wrong - it always does. But let the Agents stress about it, don't you. Your agent will tell you when it's time to worry. When there are 2 professionals in the transaction these things get worked out smoothly and to everybody's satisfaction. And the end result is what matters.
By the way, if your agent did a good job and you are happy - write them a note and say so. Most agents collect these cards and letters and will use them as references. And if you get a call for a reference on your agent - remember why you selected them and be honest with the person calling you. References are our life blood.
My personal goal is to make every transaction reference able, to date I have. I'm very proud of that. If you have any questions about the process of selling your home I hope you'll call or write. Even if you are out of my area I'm always happy to provide assistance. Hey I might even know an agent in your area I can refer you to.
Good Luck with that move!