Confessions of a Real Estate Agent: She Spills her Guts to Sellers

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Pay for Expertise, but not for Basics
Sara says there is no standard real estate commission, and they’re all negotiable. “I charge six percent. There are a ton of brokerages that advertise lower rates.” She says that if a seller only wants the basics: a sign in the yard, a lockbox, a listing in the MLS and a brochure, then that seller might not need a full-service realtor, since a seller could pay

Pay for Expertise, but not for Basics

Sara says there is no standard real estate commission, and they’re all negotiable. “I charge six percent. There are a ton of brokerages that advertise lower rates.” She says that if a seller only wants the basics: a sign in the yard, a lockbox, a listing in the MLS and a brochure, then that seller might not need a full-service realtor, since a seller could pay a discount brokerage a smaller fee for those fundamentals.

“If you’re looking for someone to help price your home and negotiate for you and to guide you on common market practices, then you want a full-service brokerage. The commission you pay is for their expertise and negotiation skills, and for guiding you through the biggest transaction of your life. You only sell a home every seven years and you can’t possibly know everything you need to know to get yourself the best deal. So you bring in a realtor in because it’s something she does every day of her life, and she can help you squeeze the most dollar value for your home. That’s why you hire a realtor.” Sara laughs and adds, “You should listen to her, too, and not argue with everything she says.”

Know When It’s Time to Dump Your Realtor

Sara says you should dump your realtor if they go out of town for longer than three days and they don’t leave anyone in charge of their business. “If your realtor drops off and doesn’t have an out of office email or contact information on her voicemail, then she isn’t representing your best interests.” The bottom line: Your realtor shouldn’t expect you to put your home sale on hold just because they went out of town.

When Your Hard Work Pays Off…

“You should almost always counteroffer. If you get an offer you like, but it’s still below your list price, make a counteroffer. The exception to that rule would be if the bid is so close to list price, a counteroffer would appear nuts and penny pinching.”

She explains why. “If you immediately accept the first offer, the buyer will automatically think, ‘I should have bid lower.’ Or they might wonder what’s wrong with the place that you’re trying to unload it so quickly. If they really like the place, they will feel much better about their offer if you counter it a little bit, but not enough to run them off.”

She continues, “Also, take a little time to counter, because they might think you’re just throwing numbers out there if you counter instantly. If you take a day or two to think about it, it gives you more credibility about the value of your home. Then they are more likely to believe you on later issues that come up on a home inspection.”

“Sometimes sellers will get an offer and they want to flat out reject the offer instead of countering. It’s not smart. If avoidable, never put yourself in the position where you have to sell in a certain amount of time. When you negotiate a contract, you don’t want to feel that your negotiating power is stunted because of time constraints.”

You Have Everything to Lose by Aiming High

“Don’t dare overprice in this market,” Sara warns. “Sellers often think they need to price their home high so they have wiggle room in a negotiation. There’s no law that says you need to negotiate. You can set a price and stay firm.”

When pricing your home, use round numbers to reach the broadest audience. Sara explains that if you list your house at $499,999, you will miss buyers who are searching in the $500,000 to $600,000 range. It sounds obvious, but Sara says it’s a common mistake.

She says, “The first 14 days on the market are crucial because people want to look at new listings first, and that’s when your listing gets the most attention. People think they have nothing to lose by aiming high at the beginning; they think they can drop the price if they don’t get a lot of showings initially. But they’ve wasted the peak marketing period by listing at the wrong price. The longer you’re on the market, the less likely you are to sell.”

Don’t Just Sit There

Sara says that one of the biggest mistakes sellers make is to list their house without a marketing plan. “Don’t just price it, then sit back and watch. Gauge how many showings you’re getting per week. You need to get feedback from agents that came through the property to find out if you’re overpriced and what people liked or didn’t like.”

It all sounds really simple. Clean up your house, don’t price it too high and make it available for showings. But these are ways to give your home the edge in this increasingly competitive landscape for sellers as more inventory hits the market. Sara says, “Real estate is a numbers game, and you need to get those buyers in the door.”

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