There is a cycle to the real estate market. Spring is generally considered the “busy time”. Activity slows a bit in August/September as busy parents turn their attention to school activities. There is a bump of increased activity in October, early November, just before the Holiday Season kicks into high gear. A portion of this increase in activity is the re-listing, or second attempt to sell, a home that failed to sell first time around. In other words, the home that was first listed in April with a 6 month listing contract, that failed to sell, is now “off market” as the contract recently expired. So now what? Whether you attempt to sell now through the fall and winter, or decide to wait until Spring 2010, I have a few ideas about how to choose your next listing agent. Even though we know the volume of sales is down from the frantic 2005 market, there have still been an impressive number of new happy homeowners. The good homes are selling. You need to sell. And you have a good one. Now what? How should you select your agent?
In the thick of the fast paced real estate market (a moment of silence for the death of 5% – 6% yearly equity growth) real estate licenses were being printed and distributed at an alarming rate. About every third person I met had a brother, uncle, cousin or neighbor they thought they should use to help them buy or sell, AFTER they used me for some free advice. And those realtors are still lurking about. Never mind that cousin Buffy or Uncle Frank are holding down jobs at the hardware store and beauty salon. Uncle Frank can do a great job on your highlights, but he hasn’t sold house one. He doesn’t have time to stay up to date on MLS “pendings” and market trends. So who are you going to call?
Now don’t get me wrong. Getting your license is exhausting and anyone who does it should be applauded. The classes on financing, ethics, law, practice and principals are grueling. The information is endless and we must be able to comprehend and absorb it all to best serve you, the customers and clients. The test administered by the State of Ohio can be tricky. The National, State and local board dues will empty your checkbook. MLS dues are expensive. The E & O is pricey and we buy all of our own supplies: sign riders, business cards, cell phones, lock boxes, electronic key pads so we can show property. No one fills the gas tank for us. Want health insurance? Get out the checkbook. The list of expenses is endless and credit card companies love new real estate agents because “charge it” is pretty much the only way they are going to pay for all that stuff. And no one pays us ‘till we sell something. Wait a minute, I got off track. We were talking about who you are going to hire to sell your home. Here are some tips…take notes. These are good.
1 – Forget the “Neighborhood Specialist”. Just saying it doesn’t make it so. Even if you cross your fingers, click your heels, or smile into the camera. If that’s all you had to do to “make it so” I would still be a size 6 and 35 years old. I know people that have advertised themselves as “Neighborhood Specialists” and they have never, ever, sold in the area they purport to specialize in. In fact, they have zero sales to their name. Truth in advertising anyone??? Look for an agent with a track record, not just in your 800 home subdivision, but overall Greater Cincinnati market knowledge. I’ve lost listings because the agent lived in the neighborhood (they ultimately did not sell the house) or because the agent said he specialized in the neighborhood and had sold there before. Ok, that part was true, he had sold there before. He then overpriced the home by about $30,000. When the listing expired, the seller called me. I sold it, $1000 under asking price in 111 days in multiple offers in the dead of winter. By the way, I had never sold in that neighborhood, but I could still price the home. Ask me how when I come to your home.
2- Can your Agent get the Subdivision Name Right? I’ve seen The Meadows of Mason and The Meadows at Mason. I’ve seen Water’s Edge, Watersedge, and Waters Edge. For Pete’s Sake People! It’s Water’s Edge. McGuffey or McGuffy? Where is Lexington Run? Lexington Park? Get it right! If your agent can’t get your subdivision correctly into MLS, then other agents searching the area by subdivisions for their buyer clients will miss your home! Drives me crazy
3 – Describe My Home – See if the agent you are considering can give a two line description of your home, now that they’ve seen it, that doesn’t include the words “This one will go fast” or “Hurry, won’t last”. I love when I see those MLS descriptions, with a 243 “days on market” history and a picture of the spring blooms, as I schedule a showing 4 days after Thanksgiving. Those words are the kiss of death, and the beginning of a long long long time on the market. What else can she offer?
4- Don’t Sell to the Highest Bidder – I’m not talking about the potential next home owner here. I’m talking about the competing realtors. Seriously…this can cost you a boat load of money. Have we not yet learned that overpricing leads to nothing but disappointment? I have a lovely friend who is considering selling her home. She is a dear person you would be fortunate to know, and I want her to get 10 times the value of her home. Unfortunately, that won’t happen. She mentioned a price that she wants to try when we do finally list it. I cringed. It’s hard to tell people, especially close friends, that “there ain’t no way”. But I have to do it. It’s in your best interest. If I did it for a close friend, certainly I will do that for you. You can throw me out of the house, and never see me again. She won’t be that lucky. So, you know I’ll be honest with you.
How about this idea? Hire an appraiser. For about $300 you can have a guy come over who goes in and out of a bunch of homes all day long, then reports on their value. Ask the appraiser for the projected sales price, market value. We are looking for a price range. Here’s the thing: he gets paid one time to perform a service, an estimate of value. That’s it. His work is done. The realtors you have invited into your home to compete for your home's listing know that the only way they can hope to make the light bill and the car payment is to sell your home…ANY home. So, some will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to know, to get your business then hope for the best. That worked in 2005....not such a great plan in 2009. Hey! It’s your house! Get involved! Get a completely unbiased opinion. It will cost you $300 because appraisers are smart enough to know to charge for this service, and realtors give it away for free. But…sometimes you get what you pay for!
5- Fresh Ideas? Or Same Ole’ Same O” ? – Does your agent do anything different? Anything???? Shoot, I would even say hire the guy that will put on a bear suit and walk up and down Mason-Montgomery Road waiving a sign that says “BUY THIS HOUSE” on it, if it features a photo montage of your home’s finest amenities. At least it’s different! Seriously, I’m not putting on a bear suit, and there is only so much kitsch I’m willing to do and some of the “old school” ideas have lost their merit. I’m not into standing in empty open houses, hoping someone comes. Realtor Tuesday tours have all but disappeared. Too many other things to do and we can look at the online photos, combined with our customer tours, and see a whole lotta’ houses. But how about that pre-listing appraisal idea? Does the agent you’re considering have another idea you might like? Maybe there is a good stager he can suggest, or some form of outdoor advertising beside the sign in your yard she will tell you about. Just another option. How is your home going to be advertised to the home buyers in Timbuktu that don’t know who the local brokers are? Any thoughts on that subject?
6 – Sometimes Better Costs More – I know you’ve heard the saying “Champagne Tastes on a Beer Budget”. I prefer dining anywhere Jean-Robert de Cavel or Mary Swortwood is involved, but generally its pizza, takeout or someone has to cook. We are consumers too. We know cash is tight. You will do yourself a favor if you select the agent you want, and then worry about the fees. If your main concern is the bottom line, we will do what we can, but here’s the thing: Better Costs More. If you want the best doctor, the best personal trainer, the best veterinarian, the best hair stylist, you expect to pay more. A real estate professional is not so different. You should want the best. The best ideas. The best connections. The best marketing. The best photos. The best negotiating skills. Sure, there are discount brokers out there that serve a purpose. There’s a good fit for everyone. Decide what you want, what level of service or promotion you expect, then anticipate that you have to pay for it. Realtors are shy about asking to be paid. I think it is because we can identify with your needs and just really want to help. Thing is, we have to keep the lights on at our house too. But, if your online photos look like this, and the MLS copy reads “Hurry, this one’s gonna’ sell fast!”, and you paid me anything, you were ripped off!