How to Buy & Sell Real Estate in Today’s Market
How a Realtor Takes The Stress Out of Buying or Selling a Home
by Melissa Cizauskas
Buying or Selling your home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make. Hiring a skilled licensed Realtor is very important.
I’m sure you know someone, or have a friend or a family member with a real estate license – most people do. When making one of the most important financial decisions in your life time, it’s very important that you consider the criteria, background, and experience of the Realtor that you choose to represent you, whether on the sale or purchase of your home.
There is a perception that Realtors make a lot of money for simply showing a house or putting a house on the market. However, there are so many levels of experience, knowledge, and expertise that go along with being a successful professional Real estate agent.
It requires personal skill, marketing, knowledge of the market, being heavily networked within the area, maintenance of a solid relationship and reputation with other agents within the area, the ability to market home effectively and price it effectively, strong negotiating skills, and the ability to deal with people, personalities, finances, and emotions, as well as minding contingencies, deadlines, and knowing legal real estate contracts. It’s a lot!
Hiring a good agent can make the difference between getting the home you want when placing an offer over another agent, as well as getting top dollar for your home when listing it.
Most people know someone who has their real estate license whether it may be a friend or a family member. I have seen it time and time again where people have used a family member to represent them to ‘save money’. Oftentimes I’ve heard people say that if they used another Realtor their friend would be so upset; conversely I’ve seen it happen (sadly) when people have used a friend and it’s harmed their friendship for one reason or another.
What’s MOST important is that whoever you choose to represent you has:
Skill, Experience, is Networked within the community and other agents in the area you are looking to buy or sell, that they are a shrewd negotiator, they have knowledge of the current market pertaining to your type of property, and treats your transaction as if it were their own. I say that because I personally do feel that way with every client I work with. Everyone deserves the best I can offer, from my time, to my expertise, every step of the way from the beginning of 138 the process, through entering into contract, throughout the transaction and all the way to close of escrow and beyond.
This type of agent is not only your representative and go-to for all your concerns and questions but is also, most importantly, your negotiator. The ability to listen intently to your needs, goals, and financial desires, and then accurately translate that into action on your behalf is the true gift of the right agent. Your real estate agent shoulders the stress of all aspects in the buying/selling process, leaving you reassured that things will unfold in the absolute best way possible. You are then free to stay balanced in the demands of your own full and rich lives.
In the next sections, I am going to speak from personal experience as I illustrate aspects of the buying/selling process that the right agent handles with commitment and finesse. These examples will show you just how much work and worry a great agent can, and should, handle for you. Buying or selling a home is a deeply personal and often emotional journey. The best real estate agents know this first hand and develop a dedicated, trust based relationship with you. By the end of the process your agent, if not quite yet a friend, will most certainly be your confidante in matters most dear to your life.
First Impressions: Prepping And Marketing Your Home For Sale
Marketing your home to show well and attract the most showings of your home often includes staging the home for sale.
Why is staging important? How does it help the home sell, and sell at top dollar?
Have you ever walked into a model home and instantly felt like you wanted to just move right in? Or perhaps you’ve shopped in, or walked by a designer interior showroom and found yourself drawn to the beautiful interiors. In both instances the designers are well trained to ‘stage’ each area to be appealing to the consumer (you and I), with their thoughtful use of lighting, furnishings, draperies, and various accessories from pillows, candlesticks, artwork, floral arrangements, throw rugs, and so on. In both cases you may find yourself instantly drawn to the beautiful interiors and can ‘see yourself’ in that space.
In the same way staging a home for sale can involve decluttering a space, eliminating or adding certain furnishings, as well as accessories, so that the home buyer will be drawn to that space, and can visualize themselves in that home.
It’s no secret that homes are meant to be lived in, and all too often we as homeowners can sometimes can ‘add to’ our homes and get very comfortable in our space, without actually seeing our home as a buyer may.
As they say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. In this case the way your home shows can literally grab someone and cause them to want to see your home. Staging plays a big part in how your home shows vs. perhaps a vacant listing, or a similar home that has more of that ‘lived in’ look. The goal is to make your home appealing to the potential buyer so they can see themselves creating a life and making memories in that home with their family and friends. That is the same
feeling a good listing agent is looking to achieve when staging a property for sale.
For myself, I have a whole plan that involves, first off, prepping the property according to proven staging guidelines. These are techniques that are going to get you a higher price for your home. It can include everything from painting, furniture rearranging/changing, cleaning, small obvious repairs, lighting adjustments, landscaping, clutter removal…you name it. I believe in this process wholeheartedly and have done the same things for my own investment property. In my case, my property had been rented for five years prior to selling. We redid the landscaping, painted inside and out, put in new flooring, had the gutters replaced, and even replaced the roof. I knew this was the best approach to receive the right value for the property. Someone else might have felt this was extensive but in my experience these efforts lead to a successful sale that more than pays for the initial time and money spent.
Once the staging process is finished, a property is ready for the next step on the list – professional photos. I take this process on completely – setting up the photographer, meeting them at the property to oversee the photo shoot, and ensuring that the final product is pleasing to the property owners.
Now, with these photos done, a website for the property, as well as a professionally completed brochure can be created. The fold-out brochure has all of the features and amenities listed on one side, the neighbourhood and community features on the other, the photos laid out front and back with a beautifully worded description of the home, and the list price.
At this point, we are ready to show off all of our hard work. Even before the home is on the MLS, I will post it as “coming soon” with contact information so that interested parties can call for details. Then I will pitch the property at Realtor pitch sessions and announce… “This property is coming soon. If you would like to see it, or have interested buyers, I am willing to show it to you prior to it going on the market.” All of this acts to create a buzz for the property so that when it actually goes on the MLS, I have prospective buyers already in place. It is generally the case that I am in contract before the end of the week.
This prepping and marketing process is very involved, labour intensive, and requires the skills and knowledge base of someone in the field. The right Realtor understands this process and actively takes it on so that you are relieved of it and reassured that all of this preparation is being taken care of professionally and to your best advantage. As mentioned above, the costs involved through this process are more than recovered in the final listing price the property achieves, and it is your Realtor’s job to achieve this best price with the least amount of stress falling on your shoulders.
Accurate pricing is key. The real estate market may have an ebb and flow of being hot, or more of a sellers’ market, or more of a buyers’ market, but it is always price-determined. Buyers determine what they’re willing to pay. If an agent states that a property is worth a certain price but there are no bites, then that alone is telling you where the market currently sits.
An effective, capable real estate agent takes the time to know the market well. Your agent should know the comparable sales, as well as the list prices of similar properties that have been on the market for more than seven days. I would say if a property has been on the market longer than two weeks, it has not been priced right. If it has been on for longer than a week without an offer, it has not been priced right. This is simply the way the market currently works.
One of the first things that I do when I represent a buyer is look at all the current properties on the market that are similar to the one that my client wants. I will call the various listing agents and say, “Hey, how are you? Would you mind doing me a professional courtesy? Could you give me some insight as to whether you’ve had much activity on this property? Have you had many offers? My client is writing an offer for a similar property and I’m just trying to get a gauge on the market.” They usually respond by telling me that they have had offers of this type, or that type, or that they’ve had one fall through etc. This gives me a clear idea of what the market is like at that moment and helps me to prepare the offer for my buyer.
Another thing that I do is communicate with the agent of the desired property. A lot of times people think sellers simply want the best price, but there are times when this is not the case.
In the selling of my own investment property, I took $20,000 less because I had a shorter close of escrow. I also could have gone through multiple counter offers but I chose not to because I didn’t want to get into that game. To me the term was somewhat more important than upping the ante to get a
higher price. I wanted to be able to close within 15 days and I wanted an appraisal contingency removal.
In multiple counter offer situations, where there are several buyers making offers, I’ve had my clients write letters expressing why the home is important to them, or why it is their dream home, and I have even gone so far as to include pictures of my clients. That is because, in many cases, the sellers want to pass the property on to someone who will love it and care for it as they did.
These are aspects of pricing that your real estate agent can research to your best benefit. If you know what is most important to the seller then you gain an edge when you make your offer. And as a seller, the same principles apply. With your agent investigating on your behalf and actively pursuing this type of valuable information, you will have a much better chance of getting into contract in a timely and relaxed fashion.
Getting Into Contract
What does it mean when your home is under contract?
The main goal of the hard work and research discussed above is to achieve a contract offer on your home – or as a buyer…on the home you desire. When you work with a real estate company, your agent will provide contracts that were created by legal staff and approved by the local and national real estate board. These pre-printed contracts will have sections that are created to legally protect both the buyer and seller. The contract offer is then made by the buyer and accepted by the seller who not only agrees to the offered
price for the home, but also accepts any conditions spelled out in the contract. The seller must sign the agreement, then send the document back to the buyer’s agent, at which point the property is said to be under contract and is presumed to be sold. It remains under contract until closing occurs.
Simple, right? … No, not usually. However, having a Realtor who is an effective and positive negotiator in this process greatly reduces the many potential stressors. This brings us to the perfect point to clarify the meaning of contingency in real estate for those who might not be in the know.
Simply put, a real estate contingency is a condition written within your contract that must be met in order for the contract offer to go through. There can be any number of contingencies; the most common types have to do with: property appraisal and pricing, financing, sale of current home, clear title, and home inspections. Essentially, a contingency clause gives the parties the right to back out of the contract under certain circumstances that are negotiated. And here is where the pressure on all parties increases.
To illustrate how demanding and sometimes unpredictable this process can be, and how much of that demand your Realtor can take from you, I am going to use the example of the home inspection contingency.
In my experience, the sale of a property almost always includes a home inspection contingency whereby a contract to purchase a home is not valid until the buyer, through a home inspector, has had an opportunity to verify the condition of the property. For buyers, at the point of inspection your Realtor has already negotiated to get into contract and your offer has been accepted. The contract then
will stipulate a timeframe within which you must have the inspection completed. Such a home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the home done by an inspector who has the training and certifications to perform this task. The inspector prepares a written report of findings which the client then uses to make informed decisions about the pending real estate purchase.
The first thing that I take care of for my clients is the scheduling of vendors. The physical inspector can make recommendations for many aspects of the property – roofing, foundation, mould/moisture, plumbing, electrical, airconditioning, swimming pool equipment, and more. At that point it is necessary to schedule vendors to come to the property and give estimates so that we can be prepared to present the request for repairs to the seller’s agent. I take care of this entire process for my clients – meeting at the home, communicating with the vendors, and ensuring that the right information is collected. We will then have the physical inspection report along with the proper documentation on what the repairs will cost when we negotiate for the funds. The agents who do this relieve huge amounts of stress and worry from their clients and I find it shocking when I encounter situations where it is not done.
To use my own property as an example again – I was informed that a buyer requested an $800 credit. I was given no documentation of any kind, not the physical inspection report nor the vendor’s estimate. So I refused until the proper paperwork was presented to me. Having an agent who understands these requirements and ensures that all the work is done properly can make the inspection process smooth, efficient, and clear, with little involvement on the
part of the client. When this already time consuming process is not done properly, more time is wasted unnecessarily, and more stress is added through the back and forth refiguring of costs, paperwork, and timeframes. When clients want the contract to close as soon as possible, this kind of oversight and lack of involvement can delay things significantly, whereas having the right agent on your side can do so much to ensure that you reach your goals with ease.
Closing The Deal – It’s All About Negotiation … And Care
Closing in real estate occurs when all contingencies have been removed in writing, additional monies have been deposited in escrow, you’ve made your final walk-through of the property, and now you sign the papers that make a home your own. It is the moment you’ve been waiting for, when all of the hard work is finished and you can celebrate a great accomplishment.
However, before the deal closes and you’ve signed those final papers, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong, and a lot of different personalities and emotions to deal with. By being a great negotiator, your Realtor handles these inevitable situations in such a way that they impact you very little and in the most positive way possible.
Buying and/or selling a home touches on the most important aspects of people’s lives. Sometimes, as a sale comes closer, it pulls on people’s heartstrings and memories. Sometimes people are selling for difficult reasons. Sometimes finances become stressful. Occasionally, a property that the seller thought was absolutely perfect comes in with unexpected
repair demands and that brings up issues of pride, or feelings of being challenged, for both of the parties involved. The ability of your Realtor to negotiate on your behalf with skill and integrity can ease these situations and remove the rising tension, often with little or none of your involvement required.
For myself, the how in an accomplishment is almost as important as the accomplishment itself. Was I kind to the vendors? Patient with my client’s needs? Polite and receptive in my communication with other agents?
With the right approach and skill, the tireless dedication of a hardworking, relationship-focused real estate agent can remove mountains of stress in the process of selling or buying a home.
In my world, at the end of the day when the deal closes, I want all of the people involved, including myself, to be breathing deeply and easily. To feel a sense of wellbeing along with the thrill of a successful sale, that is what a great Realtor aims to give you. And when that is the case… everyone has reason to celebrate!
- About the Author
Carmel Valley-Del Mar
San Diego, CA
Innovative, creative and energetic, for over 23 years, Melissa has enjoyed a varied and successful career in the Real Estate Industry.
Melissa began her real estate career working with high end developers and Realtors, in title, escrow, and merchandising. Positive results from these relationships led to career opportunities over several years, As a manager of customer service, and then to the position of an Account Manager, with North American Title Company. After a few short years in this position, Melissa was awarded two of the top sales achievement awards for all of North American Title Company: “Top Five Salespersons Award”, in Northern
California, and “Salesperson of the Year Award”, the following year.
After taking time to start her family, Melissa successfully ventured into the lending side of the industry, where for several years she was able to negotiate loan programs for her clients in Silicon Valley, drawing from years of best practices in sales/promotion, marketing, and leveraging technology to build a broad, sustained client base. She currently brings that wealth of industry knowledge and experience to you as a Realtor.