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The Right Real Estate Agent Makes a Difference, Even in Berkeley’s Million Dollar Seller’s Market

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

When Terry Leake inherited his grandparent’s house in Berkeley, California, he had a big decision to make.

Sullivan and Viola Mosely purchased the house in 1954 for only $14,000. Over the course of 60 years, their children and their children’s children watched the neighborhood transform.

Recently, the area’s real estate market skyrocketed. The average home sale price hit an all-time high of $1.33 million in 2018, according to historical real estate transaction data gathered by HomeLight.

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The house Terry Leake inherited sat in a prime location––between the Berkeley Bowl, bart station, Whole Foods market, and University of California, Berkeley––where the average home sale averaged $1.33 million in 2018, according to HomeLight data. (Photo Credit:

“I doubt they could have known what would have grown up around it,” Terry said. “It was just dumb luck the house was in its location.”

He knew he wanted to sell the house. He knew the house would sell. And he knew he stood to make a sizeable profit.

But the big decision was: how could he sell an heirloom that had been in his family for over 60 years for the most money possible?

“There was an unspoken instruction of, ‘Don’t squander this opportunity, don’t lose the house to creditors, and know what the house is worth,” he said.

On one side, stood Daniel Winkler—a top real estate agent with 29 years of experience who, on average, sells homes for 9% over list price.

On the other side, stood a friend—a local real estate agent who Terry had known for years and felt he could trust in the sale of his most prized possession.

Against HomeLight’s recommendation, Terry chose his friend.

homelight real estate agent sells home for more money
Terry and his real estate agent, Daniel Winkler, made minor repairs and updates to maximize the home’s value. (Photo Credit:

She wanted to list the house for the same price as Daniel, anyway. But, as they prepared to list the home, Terry started to notice some major red flags.

“She was very inconsistent. It was as if she had someone else in her ear, giving her conflicting information,” Terry said. “After I’d push back, she’d come around to my side, but it was like pulling teeth.”

The agent told Terry to list the house as a fixer-upper and advised him against painting, refinishing the floor, or any other minor updates.

As the owner of a local window business and a designer by trade, Terry knew minor repairs could increase the home’s value and attract more buyers. But his real estate agent didn’t listen.

“Every step of the way was hard with her. She didn’t make it easy,” he said. “She also scheduled her vacation right in the middle of my listing timeframe.”

Between her unprofessional manner and skeptical marketing strategy, Terry came to realize that he needed more than the average real estate agent to sell his home for the highest price possible.

He couldn’t bear to sell the house for less than it was worth, not only because it would decrease his profit but it would dishonor his late family’s wishes.

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Terry Leake, holding pictures of his mother, Minnie (left), and his grandparents, Viola and Sullivan Mosely Sr. (right), who purchased the Berkeley home for $14,000 in 1954.

So, he called Daniel Winkler, the top real estate agent he had originally turned down, and found qualities that he didn’t know he needed.

“Integrity. Being trustworthy enough to entrust them with the sale of a family heirloom. Responsiveness. Knowing I could count on them in the middle of the process, and bounce ideas off them,” he said.

Terry fired his real estate agent, called HomeLight, and immediately hired Daniel. With Daniel’s confidence, experience, and compassion, he helped Terry prepare the house to sell to make the most money possible.

Daniel knew the buyers in the market well—after all, he handles over 50 home sales a year in the area—and agreed that cosmetic updates would appeal to more buyers. Plus, as Terry hoped, the property would appeal to growing families looking for their forever home.

“Daniel encouraged me to paint what I could and present a complete package,” Terry said. “He estimated the house could sell for a range between 1.2 million and 1.3 million.”

After the repairs were complete and the original details of the historic house maintained, Daniel executed his proven marketing strategy, staged the house and took professional high-quality photos for the listing.

The house sold for 18% over the initial asking price.

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With pride and accomplishment, Terry turned over the keys to a multi-generational family ready to put down roots. The family’s young daughter, Winnie, moved into the same bedroom Terry’s mother, Minnie, once called her own.

Terry’s only regret?

“Not hiring Daniel from the start.”

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Terry (right) and new homeowner, Kelly (left), bought the house with her mother and four-year-old daughter.