Why Work with a Real Estate Agent
Sure, you can try to sell your home by yourself. But why? With a dedicated, licensed Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties real estate agent at your side, selling a home is easier, faster, and a lot less stressful.
A licensed agent can bring you more qualified potential buyers, offer valuable advice, and coach you through the entire home-selling process – and save you from the often-frustrating complexities of deciding how to best market your home.
Like most relationships, the buyer-agent relationship thrives on communication, loyalty and trust. By working exclusively with your agent, you'll improve both the process and the results.
FINDING THE RIGHT REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL FOR YOU
Chemistry is important. So are credentials. Above all, you'll want an agent who has the resources of a leading real estate company behind him or her – a company like Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.
Real estate agents can specialize and receive certifications in a number of areas. If the agent you chose has credentials, you can find out what those mean by visiting the National Association of REALTORS® designations page.
ADVICE ON FINDING AND WORKING WITH AN AGENT
- Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for local referrals.
- Talk to your family members and trust those that have your best interest in mind.
- Share with your potential agent as much as possible about your expectations such as pricing, flexibility, and time frame.
- Trust your intuition.
- Interview more than one agent if you are unsure.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Before you commit to working with one agent, be sure to ask plenty of questions. A good agent will understand your goals to help strategically plan the best sales process for your needs. Some typical questions to ask a potential agent:
“How will you market my home?”
Selling a home takes more than holding an open house, placing a few ads in local newspapers, or posting listings on online real estate sites. Your agent should not only be up to date on the latest social media and marketing practices, but also belong to a strong network of fellow professionals, local organizations, and civic groups. Memberships in Rotary, Toastmasters, and similar associations can lead to exposure for your home. Ask for a detailed marketing plan, and even case studies of how the agent marketed other homes.
“How do I know you will provide me with personalized attention?”
Even the busiest agents can provide great service because they know how to keep the process moving for their clients. They have put in place procedures and partnered with other professionals to keep you informed every step of the way.
“Will you handle all aspects of my transaction or delegate some tasks to an administrative assistant?”
If you choose to work with a busy agent, a knowledgeable assistant can be very helpful when you have questions or need immediate attention.
“Will you provide a list of homes you sold in the past 12 months?”
Contact some clients who have worked with the agent and ask them about their experiences. The list should contain addresses, property types, names of sellers or buyers, sale dates, and prices. Ask the agent for testimonials from satisfied customers.
Getting Your Home Ready for Sale
You’ve heard repeatedly that upgrading your home with new cabinetry, flooring, doors, counters, and other amenities will almost always assure a maximum asking price when it's time to sell. But sometimes, finances, time frames, and other circumstances prevent making these upgrades.
If you’re in that situation, consider taking some smaller steps to boost your home’s “curb appeal.” According to industry experts, doing so can mean selling it 10 to 15 times faster. Tackle the easier tasks if you’re up to it, and think about hiring professionals for larger jobs such as painting and landscaping.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Find more on our blog.
- Keep lawn edged, cut, and watered regularly
- Trim hedges and prune trees
- Place potted seasonal flowers near front entrance
- Sweep and wash sidewalks (if local water-use rules permit)
- Check foundation, steps, and walkways for cracks and crumbling
- Inspect doors and windows for peeling paint
- Clean and straighten gutters
- Replace damaged or loose roof shingles
- Apply a fresh coat of paint to front door
- Install clearly readable, elegant house numbers
- Replace cracked floor and/or counter tiles
- Patch holes in walls
- Replace burned-out bulbs
- Fix doors that don’t close cleanly and quietly (same for drawers/cabinets)
- Fix or replace leaky faucets
- Replaced damaged windows, including those that are scratched
- Patch visible cracks in concrete or brickwork
- Replace carpeting or have it professionally cleaned
- Replace old or flaking wallpaper
- Switch out dated appliances and decor
- Clean walls thoroughly
- Wash windows inside and out
- Dust carefully, clean out cobwebs
- Re-caulk showers, tubs, and sinks
- Polish faucets and mirrors
- Clean out refrigerator
- Wax the floors
- Replace worn-out rugs
- Hang up fresh towels
- Air the home out
Learn about how to stage your home so it appeals to more potential buyers.
Pricing Your Home to Sell
Deciding how much to ask for your home isn’t as easy as checking its approximate value on some of the popular real estate websites. Every seller wants to attain the best possible price and terms. But it’s not just location, location, location that determines the maximum amount for any home on the market.
Experienced real estate agents know that pricing a home appropriately from the start is critical to getting it sold quickly, and at the best price. Research from the National Association of REALTORS® shows that overpricing your home and then dropping the price several times while it sits on the market usually leads to selling it at a much lower price than what you originally should have asked for it. The longer a home is on the market, the deeper the discount is likely to be off the original price.
A REAL ESTATE AGENT CAN HELP SET THE BEST PRICE
A good real estate agent will know a neighborhood’s market conditions, the average days its homes are on the market, comparable sales prices, and other vital factors, which is why hiring a licensed real estate agent is usually your best choice for helping to set your home’s listing price.
Don’t be tempted to select a sales professional who suggests the highest price for your property. Instead, consider the agent who provides the best comparative market analysis and an explanation of how your home should be priced. That agent is more likely to sell your home quicker and for a higher price than one who tells you only what you want to hear.
Here are a few things a comparative market analysis should include:
- The sales prices for similar nearby homes sold in the past few months
- Listing prices for competing homes currently on the market
- Asking prices for homes taken off the market because they didn’t sell and, if available, why not
- How many days homes were on the market at various price points
- The average difference between the list prices and sale prices on homes that have sold
An experienced real estate agent will factor in all of these issues in the context of your local market conditions, including whether home prices are rising or falling, and whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market.
When you choose the right professional to help you with your home sale, and then listen to his or her advice, your transaction is more likely to come together quickly and smoothly from the very start.
Once your home is priced to sell, don't waste any time getting it ready for buyers.
Read more on how to prepare your home for sale.
Negotiating the Sale
As home sellers, we all want the first offer to be one we can't refuse. However, this is rarely the case. Most home sales require negotiating before an acceptable agreement is reached. This process can be difficult to navigate on your own, but with the help of your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties real estate agent, you'll be able to negotiate an offer with ease and confidence.
CHOOSING THE BEST OFFER
Once an offer is received, you are not required to reply immediately. If you're not certain the price and terms meet your needs, it's OK to take extra time to think about the offer, but make sure you consult with your agent about how much time you have to respond to the offer.
To help determine which offers you should consider, look at the current real estate market: Are homes in your neighborhood selling quickly, slowly, or not at all? Don't assume that one offer will lead quickly to others. One predictable factor in the real estate market is that it's totally unpredictable.
Make a list of your priorities and outline which is most important to you. For example, if you have a minimum price, be clear on what it is. Sit down with your agent when you're ready to review your offer or offers. Bring your list of priorities with you and remember that there's more to an offer than price. For example, has the buyer asked for anything to be thrown in, such as appliances or furniture?
When reviewing offers, look at the buyer's funding. Does the buyer have all funds in place and ready to be transferred to you? Pre-approval is not a guarantee; review the pre-approval letter and compare it to the offer letter. Also ensure that the time frame works for you. Your closing date should meet the needs of both parties.
MOVING FORWARD WITH AN OFFER
Once an offer is received, you can either accept, reject, or make a counteroffer. A counteroffer is the response you give to an offer asking for modifications; it also is when negotiating begins.
The offer should include:
- The total price
- The amount of the down payment
- The date the closing will take place
Check to see if the buyer has included items of personal property, such as a washer and dryer, in the offer. Make sure if you don't want those items to be included that you exclude them in a counteroffer.
Most buyers will submit offers on a California form residential purchase agreement. This agreement includes, among other things, contingencies which will permit the buyer to cancel without penalty if the inspection of the property uncovers major problems or if they fail to obtain financing.
There may be several counteroffers, so be prepared to continue negotiating.
Congratulations! At this point, you've officially accepted an offer on your home. Although you're in the final stretch, there are a few more things to mark off your to-do list before your home is officially sold.
The first thing to do once an offer is accepted is open escrow. Escrow is an arrangement with a neutral third party who holds the legal documentation and funds on behalf of both the buyer and the seller. The escrow agent and real estate agent work closely together to ensure all sales conditions are in compliance. This is a period of time where the buyer is given the opportunity to complete their due diligence.
Next, the purchaser will hire a licensed home inspector to review the physical condition of the home. Based on the inspection, the buyer may ask you to make repairs on the property which you can agree or disagree to complete. Once all inspections and investigations are completed, the seller can request that the buyer remove the inspection contingencies.
If the buyer is obtaining financing, the final contingencies that may remain are loan and appraisal. Once the appraisal is complete and the buyer receives the loan, the parties should be prepared to close escrow.
Several days before escrow is to close, the buyer will conduct a final walk through to ensure the property is in the same condition as it was when the offer was accepted. This is not an inspection, but merely a review of the property.
Finally, the escrow process is funded, closed, and the keys to the property are turned over to the buyer.
Whether you're buying or selling, you're bound to be moving. Many people dread moving, but don't let it get the best of you. Instead, follow these simple steps to have a seamless, stress-free move.
Preparing is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for moving success. Prior to your move, set up your postal mail forwarding, start utility service at your new location, and stop service at your current location. Head to the store and gather all your moving supplies. This should include boxes, markers, tape, labels, sandwich bags, plastic wrap, and any other packing equipment you might need. Well in advance of relocating, consider how you will conduct the move. Will you be doing it all yourself or hiring a moving company? Don't forget to reserve a truck if needed.
When you're ready to start packing, be sure to pack smart. Start by filling up an overnight bag that includes all the essentials you'll want as soon as you arrive at your new place. This might include your laptop and toiletries. Place all items you'll need first in a box or container you can easily identify from the rest. A clear or colored plastic bin works well. Next, move on to packing up the rest of your goods. Check out our packing overview to learn how to pack for your move like a pro.
As you're packing, don't forget to label. Knowing what is in each box can save you lots of time in your new space. You can label using tape and a marker, or a label maker. On each label, include a description of the contents, which room of the house it's all for, whether the box contains anything breakable, and an estimate of the weight (light, medium, heavy).
While actually moving into your new space, put each clearly labeled box in its corresponding room. Once you've unloaded, start by cleaning. Dust, vacuum, sweep, and wipe down surfaces before you begin unpacking. As you unload, start with the most critical rooms first and take time to organize your belongings.
Now that you're in your new home, relax and enjoy! Visit the Homeowner Resources section of our blog for inspiration on DIY projects you can begin in your new space.