You’ve decided it’s time to sell your home, but you don’t want to deal with it yourself. So, choosing a real estate agent to do a lot of the legwork and paperwork seems like a perfect decision.
But what does a real estate agent actually do for a home seller?
Peg Hopkins, an agent at Ruhl&Ruhl Realtors in Bettendorf, Iowa, says it really is all about the seller and what their needs are.
Do you want someone who’s very aggressive and does an open house every weekend? Or do you just want private showings during weekdays when they are at work? Everyone is different.
Individual wants and needs should be taken into consideration by the agent. But the same goes for the agent, and there are many things that differentiate decent agents with excellent agents.
“An agent’s job is to educate the sellers on the market, so they can see for themselves the value of their home,” Hopkins says. “With some people, though, you just won’t be able to do that, and they want the price that they want. That’s when an agent has to make the decision whether to take on the listing.”
Here are some of the responsibilities and the “extras” a listing agent should be doing for you, the home seller.
Getting Information About Value
To begin the process, Hopkins pulls the accessor’s information about how the house might have been listed in the past, and what were the details when the seller’s bought it, what taxes are being based on at the accessor’s office and other information available.
The agent also pulls comparable homes that have been sold recently in the neighborhood or in the area. Agents drive around to see what neighbors’ homes look like and consider other factors that can change the value of the home. “You can’t control if neighbors put their junk out on the side of their house,” she says.
Meet With The Sellers
Taking a walk through the seller’s home and property early on lets an agent get a feel for what it buyers might like.
The agent will ask a lot of questions to understand when the seller wants to put the home on the market. The first meeting is also when an agent will ask sellers if they’re willing to make improvements or want to sell the home as is.
“You need to find out their motivations. How much work are they ready to put into it? The goal for a seller is to make the buyer’s to-do-list short as possible,” Hopkins says.
Hopkins doesn’t give a selling price on the first visit.Instead, she goes back a second time to look around again. She says that an agent allows the sellers to be in control of the price. If it is unrealistic, the agent can talk about why it’s too high, or they can suggest another agent to handle it.
Staging And Photos
“Before I list a home, I have professional photos taken of the house. Some agents take their own photos,” she says. “If the house is vacant, I hook up the sellers with a home stager. I set it all up for them. You can also do a partial stage.”
Empty houses are hard for people to get a feel for furniture, and how much furniture they can get into it.“If an agent puts the house on the market without photos, you can lose people,” she says.
Her process is she pays for the photos, and the sellers pay for the staging. Other agents may do it differently.
Marketing Plan Discussion
Once the price is determined, the listing agent should be able to tell the seller their marketing plan to get the home sold.
This can include anything from advertising, videos, holding open houses, brokers’ open house, website entries, mailers for the neighborhood, other social media platforms, and of course, putting the listing on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).
“I usually do a realtor tour and invite all the agents and brokers. I add in a cash drawing or a lunch to get them there. Agents are more likely to suggest a home to someone if they have been through it,” Hopkins says.
Keep A Binder
When Hopkins has a home listed, she always keeps a binder of information at the house.
When another agent shows it to their clients, the binder just gives them additional information, such as the seller’s disclosures and other pieces of information a buyer might want.
The Extras You Don’t See
A good agent also typically goes over to the house before a showing to make sure things look good, and they double check to make sure all the doors are locked and lights are off.
When Hopkins has a vacant house and the owners are not in the area, she usually checks the house in the winter to make sure pipes haven’t burst, the basement hasn’t flooded, the heat is on and the driveway shoveled.
“We are the eyes and ears for the seller. We meet contractors at the house to open up the doors. Those are the things that someone can entrust their agent to do when they are no longer here,” she adds.
Negotiate For The Seller
When an offer does come through, the agent works hard to get their client’s best terms and conditions. Everything is negotiable, but the agent also has to get along with the other agent or buyers and not put them off.
Attend The Home Inspection
Many listing agents attend home inspections with the buyers. The agent can keep track of everything the inspector points out – good and bad – and learn any facts about the home. Sometimes, that information can be used in the negotiations.
Attend The Home Appraisal
A real estate agent who attends the home appraisal can answer questions the appraiser might have to make sure they truly understand the house. The agent can talk about any new updates, and that can have a big effect on the appraisal value.
Keep Everything On Schedule For The Home Closing
If there are repairs to be made from the home inspection, then the agent can help the sellers find the right contractors.
“It’s so important that the seller’s agent have good communication with the other agent, the lawyers and title company,” Hopkins says. “It’s about keeping everything friendly, so that we get to the closing on time with everything done.”
An agent’s goal should be to sell their client’s house for the largest amount of money in the shortest amount of time, Hopkins explains.