Award-winning Realtor, real estate media commentator, author, columnist, industry thought leader and speaker, Cara Ameer brings a unique perspective to real estate as a bicoastal agent focusing on the Southern California and Northeast Florida markets with Coldwell Banker. Inspired by takeaways and lessons learned from numerous encounters, conversations and interactions about all things real estate, she enjoys sharing her unfiltered insight and perspective in the hopes it helps enlighten, empower and inform.
For the past year or so, most sellers have largely been coasting in a low-inventory, high-demand market where buyers were throwing offers at house after house, trying to make one stick.
Pick-me letters (which are no longer allowed), crazy, over-asking offers, waived contingencies, letting sellers stay in their homes for months on end after closing and not asking for one concession or repair — these things became the new normal we all got used to.
Of course, some of this is still in play, but not to the degree it was during the height of the pandemic.
While inventory is projected to remain low for the near future, along with interest rates, a seller’s market to the degree we’ve experienced is not likely to last at the same pace and intensity.
Sellers have always been in need of sound advice from their agent, but the reality is, a lot of that advice went out the window when there were 25 buyers outside the seller’s front door waiting for their meager 15 minutes to see the house. Suddenly, pricing, condition and pre-sale repairs didn’t matter as much.
As we transition to some sense of normalcy, sellers likely need to be grounded a bit with some back-to-basics guidance. Agents need to dust off their knowledge and adapt this advice to their local market and the kind of property and seller they are working with.
Here are 10 things sellers need from their agents to sell for the most and the fastest:
1. Prep-for-sale check
The condition of the property needs to match the pricing. When discussing an appropriate pricing strategy, you need to base the conversation on whether the property is going to be prepped before going on the market (and to what extent if needed) or not.
There is usually some degree of prep work that should happen to make sure the home shows its very best. Agents need to be candid with sellers about what things absolutely need to be done and what things should “ideally” be done or improved upon to command top dollar.
Creating a checklist and assisting in obtaining estimates for the work that you’re recommending is helpful for sellers.
2. Concierge services
In regards to prep-for-sale work, agents should be able to aptly deploy their team of vendors to address whatever needs to be done in a prompt and efficient manner.
Many sellers get overwhelmed with the idea of having to coordinate so many different aspects of prep-for-sale — from painting, repairs, cleaning, pressure-washing, landscaping and tree trimming and everything in between. Oftentimes, they aren’t sure with who or where to start.
If your sellers need to make some upgrades, like changing countertops or flooring, you should have your list of “go-to” people to make this as much of a stress-free process as possible for your clients.
When it comes to pricing, sellers need candid, honest advice. Just because the inventory is low doesn’t necessarily mean that buyers are going to throw themselves at the only overpriced listing in their price range on the market.
Sellers need to understand that many buyers took themselves out of the market after getting outbid or losing to cash buyers with bigger wallets than they had.
As a result, many buyers have been priced out of neighborhoods they were looking at six-plus months ago. So, in some cases, there may be less buyers because the buyers who can afford the going prices for one neighborhood can afford more and want something else instead — a larger, more updated home, one that comes with a nice view.
Trying to price higher than the last highest sold in a neighborhood may not make the most sense. What’s more, if the property is considered uber-luxury or unique, pricing can be arbitrary and may also not always make sense.
However, an agent’s gut instinct usually tells them what pricing will work and what won’t — hence the challenges. Therefore, sellers need to trust their agent’s gut or at least concede to go with their recommendation after a specified amount of time if they want to try it at a much higher price than what the agent thinks they ought to come on the market with to start.
4. Marketing strategy
Every listing needs a customized marketing strategy based on the kind of property it is. Agents should have a marketing plan of action that they can review with the seller to discuss specific items that need to be done.
This includes things like determining if the property should go into “coming soon” status and related premarketing activities, how to approach social media, digital marketing, video and print, as well as considering single-property websites and so much more.
The seller’s agent should work with a highly creative marketing team to create the appropriate messaging and collateral for the property.
5. Professional photography and video
While we may have gotten used to taking a few cell phone photos because demand was so high and trying to time a photographer with a listing that needed to come on the market ASAP wasn’t always meshing up, professional, high-quality photographs are a must.
The same goes for video. It doesn’t matter if the listing may sell right away. Until a property goes to closing, nothing is ever guaranteed. Plus, the listing can serve as a continuous lead-generation tool to gather backup prospects as well as new ones.
Video allows so many platforms beyond the MLS to get creative and showcase a listing for maximum engagement. Aerial photos and videos should be done whenever possible to give the buyer as many perspectives of the property as possible.
6. Negotiation and contract skills
Having a solid understanding of the purchase agreement and all related addenda is critical. That’s how you help protect the seller’s interests and ensure a smooth transaction for all involved. They need to appropriately manage all contract timeframes and know how much of an escrow or binder deposit to request.
An agent needs to have strong negotiation skills and make sure the selling agent clearly understands all terms being communicated — down to the most mundane of details.
You need to have a proactive approach with your sellers. Review the contract documents with them before going on the market. Explain the various provisions, particularly when it comes to buyer inspections and due diligence, repairs, financing, appraisal contingencies and seller obligations in regards to property condition before closing.
Agents should coach sellers on what to expect so they are not blindsided or unpleasantly surprised when it comes to offers or post-inspection negotiations. They should also go over various strategies on how to manage or limit contingencies when it comes time to negotiating offers.
With respect to multiple offers, a seller needs an agent who is able to handle these with skill, care and diligence. They need to have finesse with all agents they are interacting with and treat every offer as if it was the only one received (so you don’t alienate or discount any interested party).
A seller needs their agent to be able to summarize all offer terms on a detailed spreadsheet with commentary and insight and help them understand each and every one.
7. Good relationships with other agents
Sellers don’t always think about this one, but what is the reputation of the agent they are hiring in the local agent community? Are they highly thought of? Are they known for handling transactions skillfully and carefully? Are they easy to reach and prompt in responding to other agents’ calls, texts and emails?
Is the agent easy to work with and do they get along with others? Are they professional and detail-oriented, or are they careless and sloppy?
Sellers should — and most probably will — try to gauge an agent’s reputation before reaching out. And they’ll likely want someone other agents want to work with and show their listings to.
Are you that person, someone who’s known for handling things with professionalism and care? Your relationships with other agents will prove to be critical at this point.
In addition, if sellers to find another property to buy, especially in this low-inventory market, this is where having good relationships will come in handy. Having a strong rapport and networking with other agents in the marketplace will allow you to uncover properties that could be available soon with an owner who’s interested in selling.
In short, relationships always lead to opportunity.
8. Closing, escrow, title and attorneys
Speaking of relationships, a seller’s agent needs to have strong relationships with those involved in closing a transaction. Many times, agents will need to reach out to their trusted closing-related vendors upfront, so they can assist the seller with title issues or clarifying who must sign documents in cases of divorce, death and if there are multiple parties involved.
Additionally, being able to obtain estimates for closing fees ahead of time is critically important. That way, the seller has an idea of what to expect when it comes to closing fees.
Legal issues and questions often arise prior to and while selling, and it helps to be able to have someone the seller can talk to on short notice.
9. Strong problem-solving skills
A real estate transaction is often ripe with opportunities for problem-solving from end to end. Sellers need agents who are strong problem-solvers, responsive, resourceful and able to think on their feet.
You should have the contacts and resources necessary to help you resolve any issues and concerns. This could mean getting estimates or repairs done quickly after inspections, tracking down the names of paint colors needed to finish a repair, contacting the homeowners association, etc.
In other words, you should never simply shrug your shoulders and leave it up to your sellers to figure things out. They need your guidance and input throughout this process.
10. Good communication skills and responsiveness
A seller’s agent needs to be highly responsive and communicative to all questions and concerns, along with promptly following up with showing inquires, feedback, offers, counter offers and related communication.
Failure to respond could result in a lost sale or missed opportunity. If you’re not able to fully respond to them immediately, you should at least acknowledge the communication and give them an estimated timeframe as to when you’ll get back to them.
There are numerous factors that affect a seller’s ability to sell for a strong price in a short amount of time. Some are seller-related; others are agent-related. Ideally, both should be working together to achieve a successful result.
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.