Your initial meeting with a Realtor® is often overshadowed by other parts of the home selling process such as inspections and the appraisal and open houses. While it can be a casual meeting to level set, act too nonchalant and you could miss the opportunity to stop potential issues before they start. A productive, thorough conversation is mission-critical for getting the most profit with the fewest hiccups.
Your agent wants to make this easy.
Jennifer Rosdail is a top real estate agent-based in San Francisco with 18 years of experience to date. Her perspective? Real estate is not just about selling homes.
“It’s really about helping people,” she says. And that first meeting is your chance to lay all your concerns and questions on the table. Think about it: When you’re moving, you’re starting a new chapter. It’s often a major turning point in your life, marked by a milestone life event.
Maybe you’re expanding your family, relocating for a new job, or you’ve lost a loved one and are having to sell their home. Stressed, sad, excited, and nervous may all be emotions bubbling up as your house becomes an active listing. So what should you expect from that first meeting with a Realtor® to ensure this process doesn’t add to your stress? Here are some considerations.
(First, a quick primer: A Realtor® is not exactly the same thing as a real estate agent, though there is a lot of overlap between those two job titles. A real estate agent is someone who’s been licensed by the state to help transact real estate [and is usually also a Realtor®, but not always.] A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors® [and is almost always also a practicing real estate agent or broker.])
Come prepared with key documents.
Luckily, there’s a lot less paperwork involved for the seller than the buyer during a home transaction. You don’t need to gather bank statements or proof of employment. However, as a seller, there are still relevant documents and information worth providing to your listing agent.
- Mortgage docs that reflect what you own on the home. This will help your agent price the home and build a net sheet that projects your profit after fees and closing costs.
- A list of upgrades you’ve made to the home. Again, this helps your agent price your home based on the investments you’ve made, finding and comparing your upgrades to other homes in your neighborhood.
- Your pre-listing inspection. That is if you’ve opted for one. It’s not required, but it might help you sell faster by getting ahead of repair requests that can turn some buyers off, and sometimes prevent them from making an offer to begin with.
- Property survey. It’s not always relevant but may be when there are property easements or when it’s not clear where your property begins and ends, and you want to be sure it’s properly priced per square foot and marketed in your listing (you can read more about property surveys here).
Expect to give a full tour.
Be prepared to give your agent a detailed tour of your house and speak to your upgrades and any issues about the house you’re aware of. Typically the walkthrough is conducted in person, but the current climate may dictate that you provide a tour over Zoom or another video conferencing platform.
Regardless, this is also a good time to highlight any items you want to keep, such as the washer and dryer or anything that’s attached to the walls. Go room by room, and your agent will ask questions and recommend upgrades or improvements.
While you’ll want to cover the listing agreement as well as your agent’s fees and marketing plan in that first meeting, the house itself will likely be the highlight of your conversation. Rosdail views this time with sellers as an opportunity to advise on decluttering, cleaning up, and minor repairs.
“That’s often people’s biggest concern is ‘what am I going to have to do to my house? And how are you going to help me get it done?’”
In addition to the list of upgrades you’ve made in your home, come prepared with a list of any problem areas you know exist that may not be easily visible to the agent. If there’s anything you suspect will need to be fixed (maybe a leaky faucet or some dinged up walls) you can ask your agent if it’s worth repairing or OK to leave as is.
Start planning for home prep.
Talking about how to prep your property is a key part of the listing process, and your agent’s advice on the subject isn’t just fluff talk. It could help you keep buyers on the hook.
According to the National Realtor® Association’s Confidence Report, about 27% of contracts that fell through in June of 2020 were due to inspection issues. To avoid this, it’s important to get ahead of anything that may deter buyers, from major problems like shoddy wiring to simple fixes like deep cleaning and decluttering. And your agent will cover all of that in your first meeting.
Make no mistake, even if your home is free of major issues, consider the little things your agent points out or they may come back to haunt you. Rosdail recalls a buyer years ago who passed up her dream home (at below-market price!) because there were crumbs on the kitchen counter. “She was completely grossed out by that and she couldn’t see past it.”
So let’s say it together: take your agent’s advice. It’s one thing when a project or repair is out of your budget. Your agent won’t push the issue (and may even offer concierge funds to foot the bill upfront, which you’ll pay back in the closing costs).
But when you simply don’t want to rearrange the furniture or declutter that one closet or deep clean bathrooms, you’re ultimately making it harder for your agent to sell at top dollar.
Plus, once you are on the same page about prepping the house, you’ll be able to take care of another critical step: Deciding on an official list date (i.e., when your house will go live on the market!) depending on how long it’ll take to get the property ready to show.
Some of the most common suggestions agents make in that first meeting include:
This includes organizing closets, taking down overly personal and aesthetic-specific decor, and neutralizing (for the most part) each room. According to HomeLight’s research, cutting clutter out of the equation can add up $2,500 in resale value. Use this decluttering checklist to get started. But ultimately, walk your house in a prospective buyer’s shoes. Think about what you would (and wouldn’t) want to see.
Your agent may recommend rearranging furniture to showcase the best use of the space. They might also recommend adding or removing specific decor items. If you want to go all out, you can also hire a professional home stager who will bring in all new furniture for key rooms. But keep in mind that with staging, often less is more:
- In the office: your desk, chair, lamp, and a rug will do.
- In the bedrooms: leave only a bed, white linens, a dresser, and a nightstand with a lamp.
- In the living room: have a couch, a coffee table, a TV, and an area rug to create a clear seating area.
People don’t want to feel like they’re getting your hand-me-down house — so your agent will likely tell you to take out more items than you’re putting back in.
“That’s why staging works so well,” says Rosdail. “You don’t feel like you’re intruding in someone else’s house. You’re there with a blank canvas to kind of have an emotional connection.”
And staged homes are more than just pretty rooms. There’s value to putting in the effort. 50% of agents in HomeLight’s 2019 Q1 Top Agent Insights survey reported that home staging increased home value between 1% and 10%, while 83% of agents report that staged homes sell faster than unstaged homes.
In 2019, 94% of top agents agreed that buyers will pay more for a house with great curb appeal. So don’t be surprised if your agent suggests pulling weeds, mowing grass, and adding a few new plants for color pops.
No one expects you to introduce expensive, high-end landscaping. But does the yard look clean? Does it look well cared for? Those are the questions to ask yourself. However, aside from fresh-cut grass and waging war on weeds, what else goes into curb appeal? We’ve outlined a weekend’s worth of projects that add curb appeal and everything you’ll need from the hardware store to get it done.
Be prepared to talk dollar signs and sign paperwork.
As important as home prep is, don’t forget to talk about your home’s list price and finalize your listing agreement if you haven’t already. If you have an idea of what you want to sell for — or have done the math to know what your bottom line is to break even — lay all these cards on the table. Your agent will be able to walk you through comparable homes in your area and compare your listing to other homes that have recently sold.
Keep in mind, overpricing is one of the most common mistakes sellers make. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but hear your agent out if they suggest a lower list price than you had in mind.
“Being available and open-minded is the key,” says Rosdail of how agents and sellers can work best together and make the most of that first meeting. You both have money to gain from this deal, so your first meeting is all about aligning on strategy, ensuring your needs are met, and communicating your expectations from the start.
Header Image Source: (Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock)