By Cara Ameer
1. Knowledge is not power
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing when it comes to real estate. At the click of a mouse or a tap on your phone, you can get an instant valuation of your property.
Is that value realistic? On which properties is it based? What did those properties have that yours does or does not? What were the dates and details of those sales?
That valuation could be significantly more or less than what your property is actually worth. Just like using the internet to self-diagnose a medical issue is not the best idea, the same applies to real estate.
2. What do you know about the market?
To the above point, as a seller, do you know what other options buyers are likely to consider when they are looking at your home? Do you know who the typical buyer audience is, where they are coming from and how to find them?
Do you know what agents likely work with this group? What is the average number of days on market for homes in your area, and what percentage of the asking price are they getting? Are there any particular terms of sale that are a trend in your area, such as sellers paying closing costs for buyers or other concessions?
As a buyer, what types of properties are most realistic for your price range and the kind of financing you will be doing?
A good agent educates you about “real estate reality” as far as what you can get for your money in your desired areas and criteria that are important to you.
Lastly, whether a buyer or seller, do you know why properties in one particular location sell faster than another? Are there challenges, perceived or real that could affect values?
A stellar agent can prevent you from making an expensive mistake when it comes to buying (such as a home near a soon-to-be-constructed highway or busy railroad tracks — no wonder it was priced so cheap). And alternatively, that same agent can help sellers position their property in the best way when taking into account external factors around it that can affect value.
3. Agents are expert problem-solvers
So what happens when the inspection reveals termites, a roof leak, a house that needs to be replumbed — or worse yet when an inspector paints a picture of a fairly minor repair issue in a far worse light than it is? What happens when an appraisal comes in at less than contract sales price?
These are run-of-the-mill issues that agents face every day. They don’t make our palms sweat and cause us to faint, but instead we stand tall in the face of the myriad challenges this business presents.
My first broker told me, “If you aren’t solving problems, you aren’t selling real estate.” How true this is.
If you are selling your home on your own and encounter these situations, can you prevent the buyer from running for the hills? Do you have a plethora of experts you can call upon, often at a moment’s notice, who can help?
As a buyer, do you really want to be addressing repair items with a seller directly? Sellers are so often in “repair denial,” particularly when they are trying to sell their home on their own — there are never any issues as far as they are concerned.
4. Overcoming objections is what agents excel at
You are selling your home on your own. Do you have a record of who has come through and when? If they had an agent, who it was and what the buyer thought of it? If they didn’t buy your home, what did they buy instead and why?
That’s what agents working with sellers manage. Are there any themes emerging? If there are concerns that are presenting as a challenge for buyers, do you know how to address them?
Are there ways to combat these objections by providing additional information or consulting with needed designers, contractors, landscapers, the homeowners’ association and so on?
Superstar agents can effectively address objections such as “didn’t like layout” or “needs too much work” and know how to position a property effectively, so buyers go from “just looking” to locking an offer up.
5. Effective negotiation skills are key
As a seller, you received a low offer on the property. Do you make a counteroffer, outright reject it or not respond?
As a buyer, you want to make an offer that asks the seller for everything and the kitchen sink (well, because it’s attached, it conveys as part of the house anyway).
How do you formulate a strategy? Do you know your opponent and have you gathered much intelligence about them? How much should you offer or counteroffer?
Does your response risk alienating the other side? What about more than one offer? How do you facilitate, manage and negotiate effectively to keep all interested buyers in play?
The negotiation landscape can get complex, which is why a third party is always beneficial in acting as a buffer zone to separate emotion from facts and work to reach an objective outcome.
6. Preventive medicine equals more money in your pockets
The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies when it comes to real estate because surprise is never a good thing when it comes to buying or selling.
A good agent walks you through the necessary steps before you start your property search or put your property on the market.
As a buyer, there are certain things you must do before starting your property search, such as getting prequalified — preferably preapproved — so you don’t waste time looking at properties that aren’t a match, and so that you don’t waste a seller’s time coming through a home that you cannot afford.
As a seller, are there items that should be addressed before putting your property on the market? Should you get a pre-listing inspection, and are there any repair items that need to be taken care of?
What about staging or editing your furnishings and decor? What items make the most sense for you to address to position your home for maximum exposure?
Do you need a floor plan created for your home? Is there any pertinent information you need to pull together that is critical for the sale?
In short, a top-notch agent guides you on critical steps you need to take before stepping into the market that will save you time, headaches and hassle when an offer comes through.
7. Marketing expertise is needed to sell your home
Image is everything when it comes to real estate, and a poorly presented property is like showing up at the Oscars without using a stylist.
Do you have access to the right photographers, video producers, stagers and interior designers to make your property shine?
Although you might think marketing your property on your own is easy, there is a difference between playing photographer and hiring someone with an objective, critical eye for what kind of marketing will attract the right buyers.
Are you able to find the money shot? What photos are going to best present the property? Should a drone be used, and for which shots?
Are you able to create a video to effectively tell your property’s story and how to best find that story and articulate it? What kind of marketing collateral can you prepare that’s going to communicate the features, benefits and advantages of your property over another effectively, and how is that collateral going to be distributed?
Do you have access to vendors that might be able to offer incentives or discounts for buyers who could benefit from their services with the new home?
8. Social network exposure is unmatched
Can you broadcast your property across numerous websites and various social media networks to pique buyer and agent interest — locally, nationally and possibly internationally?
Are you able to reach hundreds, thousands or even more with the click of a mouse? Are you able to use predictive analytics and targeted digital marketing to put your property in front of the right prospects? A top agent is skilled in making your property go viral in just seconds.
9. Agents have mad connections
Real estate agents are connected to just about everyone and everything. The three degrees of separation rule applies here.
Agents are constantly in the know — it’s their job to be. They leverage their relationships with real estate related service providers, lenders — and, most importantly, other agents — to help bring the sale together.
Agents exchange and share advice and ideas that can help one another, and by networking and information-sharing, they help bridge the gap between for sale and sold.
They also have access to properties that are not officially on the market and often know deals not advertised that builders might be offering in terms of discounts or specials that can help save you money.
Need a handyman or a really good painter? Ask your agent about the contacts he or she has, and get hooked up with great providers.
10. Trusted advice and an available point person are a seller’s best friend
Who else can you go to with a question or concern almost any time of the day or night? Yes, as much as we don’t like to admit it, there is no such thing as office hours for real estate.
A good real estate agent is your trusted adviser every step of the way, and unlike your attorney or accountant, you won’t get charged for every phone call or email.
Who else can you unload your qualms, fears and worries upon regarding the buying and selling process? When your peanut gallery of friends, family and co-workers are giving you confusing advice, who can you trust for objective information to make the best possible decision?
Don’t go into the buying and selling process blind. Let a real estate professional be your guide so that you can celebrate this incredible milestone without worry, knowing that the heavy lifting and problem-solving was done for you.