Cara Ameer, a top-producing broker associate from Northeast Florida, writes about working with buyers and sellers, sticky situations and real estate marketing in her regular Inman column that publishes every other Wednesday.
Between using the newest real estate tech and implementing the latest social media strategies, it seems every seller’s agent is on a constant mission to prove their worth, show off their skills and impress their clients — as they should be. But it’s time to get down to brass tacks and focus on what your sellers really need.
Behind the glitz and glam of new tech and innovative marketing techniques, there are 10 essentials every agent should cover if they want to stand out from the competition and provide a truly advantageous experience for their sellers.
1. Prepare, plan, and be proactive
Your sellers aren’t real estate pros like you, so they might not be comfortable with being thrown into the lion’s den without an orientation. Explain to them how the process works in their specific market.
Discuss and break down the recommended steps to best prepare their home for sale. Don’t just create a list of action items for the seller, but also provide suggested people and resources to help address the items needed.
For example, provide a list of trusted vendors, suggested cleaning products or methods for tackling certain projects. Help coordinate the work if needed, and create a timeline to give the seller an idea of when the property should be ready.
2. Give a comparable sales reality check
This is the most crucial part of seller preparation. You can have a picture-perfect, beautifully staged and prepared home for sale, but if that home is overpriced, not even the best marketing in the world will get it sold.
Educating the seller on the true and most relevant comparable sales that buyers, their agents and appraisers are going to be reviewing is a must. Separating truth from fiction is key. Clear unfounded rumors like those swirling around about what the neighbor’s house down the street allegedly sold for — especially if it was a private sale and no one really knows.
Managing expectations regarding what the market might bring for the home is the heart of the listing process, so there is no anger, frustration or disappointment when the market does not deliver what the seller thought it should. Although it is hard to step outside of one’s own tree to see the forest around it, an agent’s job is to help guide the seller outside the looking glass for an honest and realistic assessment of their home’s value.
Sellers never get upset over multiple offer situations, but they will get upset if they’re led to believe their home will generate multiple offers — but it doesn’t. Making practical sense of statistics, facts, figures and details about all relevant active, under contract and sold competing inventory is key.
3. Explain selling expenses
Prepare a cost sheet for several different selling scenarios to give the seller an idea of what their closing costs will look like. Review what closing costs are customarily paid by sellers in their area and what is paid for by the buyer.
If buyers asking for closing costs are a common request in their area, price range, etc., be sure to discuss this with the seller, and explain how it could impact their net proceeds. Also suggest ways to navigate through that request as part of a negotiation.
4. Detail the listing documents
Review the listing documents that will be needed to get the property on the market. Explain the listing agreement, and review the obligations and responsibilities of both the brokerage and the seller.
Provide the seller’s disclosure and explain the importance of completing that document with honesty, transparency and accuracy to the best of the seller’s knowledge.
5. Gather other important documents
Things like a floor plan, survey, list of upgrades and improvements (and when those items were done) along with any warranties or service agreements are extremely helpful to presenting the property and educate and inform buyers as well as other agents. Community covenants and restrictions along with rules and regulations, if applicable, are also helpful.
Compile information on average utility costs, association information and dues along with a list of vendors that the seller uses, such as lawn, pool, HVAC service company, etc.
6. Go over the offer process
Explain what happens when an offer is made. Provide copies of the purchase documents that will be used in their marketplace so they can become familiar with them ahead of time.
Explain key points on the purchase agreement along with related addenda that are likely to be included with an offer. Give particular focus to the sections that address contingencies with respect to financing, the appraisal and inspections.
Explain what these contingency paragraphs allow as far as the buyers’ ability to exercise their right to get out of the contract.
Also review the seller’s obligations and responsibilities, such as specific performance, maintenance of the property through closing, keeping utilities on, etc.
In short, you can never get too basic and should never assume a seller “probably gets it” when it comes to the contract.
7. Give a realistic marketing timeline
You’ll be asked to answer the mega million dollar question every seller wants to know: “How long will it take to sell my home?” This one ranks right up there with a comparable sales reality check.
While it can be extremely difficult to predict the marketing time of a property, an agent can give their most educated assessment based on the time of year, average days on market of comparable sales, absorption rate and the amount of competing inventory.
Real estate markets do fluctuate, so while the preceding 30-60 days had brisk sales in the neighborhood, it is possible that when a home comes on the market there could be a dip in activity that is contrary to what conditions indicated.
It is important to prepare the seller for varying levels of showing activity and to understand that the number of online views will likely never translate into crowds of people lining up at the front door to see the home — unless it is in a very underserved price point or an extremely rare find in a neighborhood or area that rarely sees any turnover.
8. Share showing feedback
Speaking of marketing times, it can often be a confusing and frustrating process trying to make sense of what buyers and agents really thought of the home after a showing. Agents are notorious for providing vague feedback that often makes little to no sense, and sometimes they provide no feedback at all.
It is important to prepare a seller for this process and explain that while you will do your best to tightly manage the showing feedback process and make a concerted effort to follow-up with agents to get an accurate assessment of their customer’s interest level, ambiguities and lack of responses may occur.
The seller should be asked how they would like to receive showing feedback so you can tailor the process accordingly. If a seller never checks their email, then receiving an automatic showing feedback form from a showing management system is likely useless.
You can certainly explain the benefits of communicating the information in one method or another and illustrate how using an automated system can easily track and summarize all activity and comments so that you can review with the seller at various points during the listing process if offers are not being generated.
9. Secure for showing appointments
While agents show homes every day, sellers do not, and they often have concerns and fears about the process. Having a home on the market can be a highly intrusive process, so it is important to discuss with the seller how to get the home ready for a safe showing, securing valuable items and prescription medications.
Also discuss how much notice will be needed before showing the home. It’s important to create balance in the seller’s personal life while the home is being made available and accessible within reason.
A seller may see nothing wrong with 48 hours notice for showings, but an agent, knowing how the real world of real estate operates, knows this could be detrimental to the seller, so you should work with them to come up with realistic time frames for agents to request appointments and that allow a seller to have sufficient time to prepare.
It is also important for the seller to understand how showing appointments are made in their specific marketplace. Work with them on a preferred method to be contacted for scheduling. They should also be made aware that showings are sometimes requested outside the desired time frame for notification and that the seller should try to accommodate whenever possible.
A listing agent should explain that a buyer’s initial search is often fluid and can change once they start seeing neighborhoods and properties, so they might decide to shift gears on their agent, hence a last-minute showing request. Relocation buyers under a time crunch are also known to change course with typically little time to see an area and make a decision.
A listing agent should explain how they will be able to validate if a showing occurred, such as receipt of an email notification that shows when the agent who made the appointment has physically accessed the lock box. If the marketplace’s lock box provider allows a seller to receive a similar notification, the agent should consider setting the seller up to receive the same alert.
10. Remain flexible
No matter what, it is important to educate sellers on the importance of remaining flexible throughout the process. They need to understand that there are going to be a variety of circumstances and situations that arise as part of selling a home and things might not go as perfectly as planned despite best efforts and a tightly managed process.
Showings could run early or late, and potential buyers might not arrive during the exact time frame that was scheduled. Lights might be left on or a door unlocked, despite reminder notes posted inside.
Buyers and agents could track in dirt from outside with their shoes, and yes, while the courteous thing to do is wipe their feet before entering (or remove shoes entirely), not everyone will take the time to do so.
Buyers who said they initially eliminated the house might come back for a second showing and stay for two hours but not put in an offer. These are just a few trials and tribulations of every day real estate, and the list goes on.
If you’re looking to impress your sellers, get back to the basics with good old-fashioned customer service that leaves your sellers prepared, informed and comfortable with the process of selling their home.
Cara Ameer is a broker associate and global luxury agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.