• Even if conventional wisdom says it's a bad time to sell, a good agent can tell when market and personal factors indicate otherwise.
  • Think beyond the transaction to find ways to deliver above-and-beyond service that will turn your clients into raving fans.
  • Knowing what battles to fight is tricky, but it leads to better outcomes for everyone.

Let me tell you the story of my first sale — from a seller’s perspective — and the agent who made it all happen.

I have a confession to make: I’m an MLS lurker. It’s not that I don’t love my current home — it’s just that you never know what opportunity might present itself. And in fact, that’s how my husband and I ended up selling our first home. I was lurking on the MLS one evening and came across an incredibly cheap fixer-upper just a few streets over.

At the time, we lived in a 1,300-square-foot Cape Cod. Between our high-energy 3-year-old and the fact that we worked a combined 40-50 hours a week from home, it was feeling a bit cramped.

The fixer-upper seemed to have just the right amount of additional space and in the right places. So we went to look at it.

It turned out not to be a good fit, but our wheels started turning. Suddenly, we had a burning desire to sell our home and find something new.

It could have been a recipe for disaster. It was pretty much a snap decision, and it was 2009 — the height of the housing crisis. Everyone told us we were crazy and would never sell. Everyone except our agent, that is. And thanks to him, the sale was a resounding success.

Our agent did many things right in that process, but here are the standouts:

1. He had the true pulse of the market

On the surface, 2009 was a rotten time to sell a house. But our agent looked below the surface at the specific circumstances of our situation; 2009 was also the year of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, and our house was perfect for first-time homebuyers.

Also, second-tier houses (the kind we wanted to buy) were available at historically low prices, which meant that the price break on our new home would far outweigh any hit we might take on the sale of our existing home.

Our agent went over these and other factors with us and encouraged us to sell. When we agreed, he went over all the comps with us in detail and priced the house carefully. We ended up with a contract in just six days, after choosing from several full-price offers.

2. He went more than the extra mile

We went through a whirlwind three weeks to get our home ready for sale. I think we crammed seven years of unfinished home improvement projects into about 10 days. All the while, our daughter was chronically ill with severe asthma. And my husband, who worked a high-travel job, was out of town for all but five days of the process.

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed, but our amazing agent rolled up his sleeves to help. He lived in the neighborhood and stopped by to check on me several times a week. If a piece of furniture needed moving, a couple of cabinet knobs needed attaching or a contractor needed supervision while I administered my daughter’s breathing treatment, he took care of it.

And when my husband had to miss closing, he sat with me for four grueling hours while I signed every paper three times: once as myself, once in POA form and once as my husband.

3. He knew how to market

Our home was in one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, but not on the most desirable street. And there were plenty of others like it regarding size and layout. But we had made a significant investment in eco-friendly improvements, and our agent played those up in the listing, at the open house and at showings.

He also insisted that we pack up about half our possessions to stage the home, and he used professional photography. The couple who bought our house told us those that those three elements tipped the balance in favor of our property.

4. He knew what battles to fight

One of our buyers also had heavy travel demands, and we simply could not find a closing date when everyone was in town. Because it was not our first rodeo, our agent encouraged us to build goodwill by following the buyers’ calendar.

After the sale was final, the buyers told us that our willingness to accommodate them affected the way they approached contract negotiations — because we’d been so nice, they didn’t want to be jerks about repairs or closing costs.

On the other side of the experience, the sellers of our new home refused to negotiate on price. It was an estate sale, and our agent sensed that emotions were getting in the way.

He encouraged us to walk away, and it worked. After a dressing-down from the executor, who did not appreciate being saddled with the upkeep of a house that none of the heirs wanted anyway, the sellers came back. And they even took $1,000 off the price to apologize and show good faith.

All this went back to our agent’s true value proposition. Compared to a website or other tech tool, he made himself indispensable. After all that he did for us, we’ve referred him many times to other people, and we couldn’t imagine buying or selling a home without him.

Kathryn Royster is the marketing director for HouseLens, Inc. You can follow Kathryn on Twitter @kathrynroyster. HouseLens is on Facebook.

Email Kathryn Royster.

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