If you are thinking of taking advantage of the current excellent home sales market in most communities, the fall home-selling season is the second-best time of the year to sell (spring is always the best time to sell your house or condo because the most prospective buyers are in the market at that time in most areas).

Of course, the first step to a successful house or condo sale is to get the property into its best physical condition. Painting, cleaning, and repairing will usually pay off with thousands of extra profit dollars.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Look at your home with very critical eyes. If you were a buyer, what do you notice which would discourage you from making a purchase offer?

Then either solve that problem, or if you can’t afford to do so, be prepared to discount the sales price to compensate.

For example, suppose your home’s wall-to-wall carpets are worn and need replacement. But you just can’t afford new carpets now. Then do then next best thing by getting them cleaned and realize those shabby carpets will discourage some prospective buyers.

However, avoid major home renovation just before selling. It could be a waste of money, especially if a prospective buyer doesn’t like your taste.

Just get your house into its best physical condition, especially the kitchen and bathrooms (the most important rooms) without incurring major expenses.

The second step to a successful home sale is to select your area’s most successful realty agent to professionally market your home. Unfortunately, this task is not easy. Even if you think you can sell your home alone without a professional agent, please interview at least three agents who sell homes in your vicinity.

They won’t mind giving you their listing presentations and answering your questions. The reason is most do-it-yourself home sellers eventually hire a professional agent within 30 to 60 days. The agents you interview know you are likely to call one of those professionals when you need expert help.

Here are the key questions to ask each realty agent interviewed. Of course, the best agents will anticipate your question during their listing presentation (which shouldn’t take more than an hour):

1–HOW MUCH CAN YOU GET FOR MY HOME? The best agents will prepare a written CMA (comparative market analysis) form to anticipate your question. This written form shows (a) recent sales prices of comparable nearby homes; (b) asking prices of similar neighborhood homes now for sale (your competition); and (c) the recently expired listing prices of similar homes that didn’t sell.

Thanks to computers, competent realty agents can often prepare your CMA within an hour, including photos of each home. If an agent refuses to leave their CMA with you to study, that agent doesn’t trust you. You need each agent’s CMA to compare with the others to be certain you aren’t being misled into under-pricing or over-pricing your home.

2–WHAT ARE THE NAMES, ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS OF YOUR FIVE MOST RECENT HOME SELLERS? The best agents will include this information in their listing presentations. Before signing a listing with any agent, contact their recent sellers to ask, “Were you in any way unhappy with your agent and would you list your home for sale again with the same agent?” Listen to the answers closely, especially if a recent seller hesitates or gives a vague answer.

3–HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SELLING HOMES IN THIS AREA? ARE YOU A FULL-TIME AGENT? WHAT PROFESSIONAL COURSES AND DESIGNATIONS HAVE YOU COMPLETED? Just because an agent is a beginner, that’s not necessarily bad. He or she will probably have more time to devote to selling your home than will an “old pro” agent who carries many listings. However, be sure a new agent has adequate supervision from an experienced brokerage office manager.

4–WHAT IS YOUR MINIMUM LISTING TERM? The correct answer is 90 days. Be wary if an agent insists on a six-month listing unless that listing includes an unconditional cancellation clause after 90 days.

A favorite argument of agents demanding long listings is to show you the average number of days the local multiple listing service (MLS) says it takes to sell homes in your area. But your reply should be, “I don’t want just an average agent. Aren’t you above average?”

5–HOW MANY LISTINGS DO YOU HAVE NOW? DO YOU HAVE AN OFFICE ASSISTANT? WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR LISTINGS SOLD IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS? Watch out for a “numbers agent.” These are agents who have dozens of listings and one or two office assistants. They work on percentages, knowing a certain percent of their listings will sell so they want as many listings as possible.

If you list your home for sale with a “numbers agent,” be sure it won’t get neglected. For example, the most successful listing agent in my town has 10 assistants. Maybe that is why he is the top sales agent in the entire county.

6–WHAT SALES COMMISSION RATE DO YOU CHARGE? Most realty agents will tell you the “standard commission” is 6 percent (or 7 percent).

But the National Association of Realtors, in a recent study, reports the average nationwide sales commission is 5.1 percent. However, that includes sales commissions paid to so-called cut-rate or discount brokerages, which often provide less than full service.

The higher the market value of your home the greater the probability the listing agent will negotiate your sales commission rate downward. That’s why you want to interview at least three successful local agents to compare their commissions and services included.

Also, you might be able to negotiate a lower sales commission rate if the listing agent locates the buyer for your home without having to split the commission with another agent. In real estate talk, it’s called having both ends of the sale.

Many realty agents have flexible commission rates. To illustrate, one agent in my community lists homes at a 6 percent commission rate. But if he locates the buyer without another agent’s participation, then he reduces his commission to 4 percent. That’s 1 percent higher than he would usually earn if another agent obtains the buyer.

7–WHAT IS YOUR MARKETING PLAN AND WHAT SERVICES WILL YOU PROVIDE? This question is closely related to the sales commission rate. The best full service agents will prepare a written list of all their marketing services.

Some agents will just provide minimum service, such as placing your listing into the local MLS. Please be aware the MLS is the most powerful sales tool realty agents have. In addition, most MLS listings now automatically go on the Realtor.com Web site.

According to the National Association of Realtors, more than 70 percent of today’s home buyers begin their quest on the Internet, usually at www.realtor.com. For this reason, it is essential to have your home listing in the local MLS and on this Web site.

In addition, the best agents also have their individual Web sites, will agree in writing to a minimum newspaper and home sales magazine advertising schedule for your residence, will hold tours for their office colleagues and realty agents with other local firms (a listing agent who provides light snacks to agents usually assures a good turnout), hold at least one hosted weekend open house every month, and print color brochures for agents and prospective buyers (ask for samples).

If a listing agent won’t commit in writing to spending at least a few hundred dollars to properly market your home, to earn several thousand dollars in sales commission, that agent hasn’t earned your listing.

8–OTHER THAN YOURSELF, WHO IS THE BEST REAL ESTATE AGENT IN THIS AREA? Don’t hesitate to ask what the agent you’re interviewing thinks of the other agents on your interview list. Some agents will evasively say, “I really don’t have any competition.” But the best agents will honestly answer your question.

9–IS MY HOME READY TO SELL OR DO YOU HAVE SUGGESTIONS TO BETTER PREPARE IT TO EARN TOP DOLLAR? Some agents will want to avoid answering this key question until after you sign their listing. But you need to know the answer before signing a listing with an agent who might prove to be “difficult” if you won’t make certain changes.

A current trend is for listing agents to “stage” homes for sale. In extreme cases, they will recommend the seller remove their furnishings and rent more appropriate furniture (at the seller’s expense).

The goal is to turn your residence into a “model home” so buyers can visualize how nice it can be. Staging costs usually pay off in a higher sales price so don’t resent this suggestion.

10–SHOULD MY HOME BE SOLD “AS IS?” Most states now require home sellers to fill out a disclosure statement listing any known residence defects that materially affect the market value. This procedure avoids after-sale lawsuits if the buyer was informed of all defects.

In addition, some realty agents and real estate attorneys advise selling “as is.” The home seller must still disclose known defects but will not pay for any repairs.

Older homes are often sold “as is,” especially when the residence needs repairs or updating which the seller prefers not to make.

For example, a house two blocks from mine recently sold “as is.” Before moving in, the buyer is having a new roof installed, is re-landscaping, and will probably remodel the interior. The result is the seller was satisfied with a fair price and the buyer can fix up the house the way he wants it.

Each agent should be asked his/her opinion on whether the home should be sold “as is.” Some agents feel “as is” sales greatly hurt marketability whereas other agents encourage “as is” sales to discourage after-sale litigation.

CONCLUSION: Selecting the best agent to list your home for sale and asking the right questions are key components to a successful sale for top dollar during the fall “second best” home sales season of the year. By asking the right questions explained above, plus any others you want answered, you will maximize the probability of a successful home sale.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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