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How to Sell a House With a Realtor, From Home Prep to Closing Day

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 you’re selling a house with a Realtor®, you immediately have a common goal: sell the property in the least amount of time, for the most money possible. Whether you’d like to be extremely hands-on during this process or need your Realtor® to take the reins a little more, you’ll find success as partners in this journey.

“I tell my sellers that we are a team, and if they’ll do their part, I’m going to do my part,” says Brandi Abram, a top-selling real estate agent in Lawrence, Kansas.

You and your Realtor® both bring critical insights to the table. As the property owner, you know your house better than anyone. Meanwhile, your Realtor® has market knowledge. They can recommend key updates, advise you against unnecessary expenses, and market the home based on an expert assessment of local market conditions.

Still, working with a Realtor® can be a new and confusing experience if you’ve never done it before. Consult this guide on how to sell a house with a Realtor® and you’ll be sure to make a great team.

A Realtor® is not exactly the same thing as a real estate agent, though they’re similar. A real estate agent is someone who’s been licensed by the state to help transact real estate. A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Realtors® are almost always real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors®.

A realtor working with a client to sell a house.
Source: (Foxy burrow / Shutterstock)

Find a great Realtor® to sell your house

No sports team drafts new players without first evaluating their talent, statistics, and performance record. Unfortunately, too many homeowners fail to do the same due diligence when hiring the Realtor® who’ll help them sell their most valuable asset. In fact, 82% of recent sellers hired the first agent they met.

That’s a risky move, considering there are over 1.5 million active Realtors® in the U.S. and a huge difference in outcomes from top agents compared to average agents. In fact, HomeLight data shows that the top 5% of agents across the U.S. help clients sell their home for as much as 10% more than the average real estate agent.

If you’re wondering how to sell a house with a Realtor® look for someone with these experiences:

  • Selling in your neighborhood
  • Selling in your price point
  • Selling your property type (condo, townhouse, single-family home, etc.)
  • An above-average sale-to-list price ratio (meaning they on average fetch more for their sellers than their peers)
  • A history of going above and beyond for their clients

You can use HomeLight’s Top Agent Match Tool to find agents well-suited for your individual needs. HomeLight uses factors like their actual transaction history and past client reviews to get you a great match. From there, you can interview your agent matches before choosing the one.

And don’t feel bad for interviewing other Realtors®. They want to make sure you’re doing your due diligence! Abram even makes sure to ask her clients if they’re interviewing other agents in a questionnaire.

“I’m glad because sellers need to trust and feel comfortable with the agent they choose,” she shares.

In your interviews, listen for signs that your Realtor® consistently goes the extra mile for clients, like Abram recently did:

“I told my seller that their house was priced right in the pocket, so plan to be busy with showings the minute the listing goes live. But they didn’t believe me, so the house wasn’t clean or ready to show,” she shares. “I helped them clean the house that very day — which I’m glad we did, because we got a full price offer on the house that night.”

Work With a Top Real Estate Agent for a Great Home Sale

With our Agent Matching platform, we analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

A top agent found through HomeLight will help you set a competitive price, prep and stage your home, market and advertise your home, spread the word to brokers, conduct open houses, and more.

Develop a plan to achieve your selling goals

During an initial walkthrough of your home, you’ll have the chance to give your Realtor® a guided tour, and they’ll have the chance to make suggestions and comments with an objective lens. Your Realtor® may suggest areas of the home that need some attention before buyers come through. Come ready to take notes and be prepared to discuss:

  • Your home’s basics (Square footage, lot size, property taxes, HOA fees, average utilities, etc.)
  • Any known issues with your home (Age of older appliances/fixtures; any roof, plumbing, or electrical issues; exterior/interior damage, etc.)
  • Your budget for repairs/upgrades (Repainting interior/exterior; replacing light/plumbing fixtures; refinishing/replacing flooring, etc.)

From there, you can lock down a timeline that accommodates any necessary updates and repairs.

Your agent should also provide an overview of the entire sales process so you’re ready for next steps. “I’ll even walk them through sample offers so that they understand the process before they’re called on to make that major financial decision,” Abram says.

Sample offers give you a chance to discuss what a perfect offer might look like for you. You can discuss your goals when selling your house with a Realtor® to determine how they would translate into an offer. Your Realtor® will be able to help explain different non-monetary contract terms that might help sweeten a deal, including:

  • A closing date that aligns with your timeline
  • Few (or zero) repair requests, contingencies, or seller concessions
  • The buyer’s financial health (mortgage pre-approval, down payment size, etc.)
  • An all-cash offer
A man painting before selling a house with a realtor.
Source: (Anouk Doe / Pexels)

Make recommended indoor and outdoor updates

Often, sellers are so comfortable living in their homes that they’re blind to its live-in condition. That’s where your Realtor®’s suggestions for updates come in.

Keep in mind that these are just suggestions, but they don’t come from nowhere. Your Realtor® will suggest updates if they think they can help you get the most value for your house. Abram provides her sellers with a must-do list for the house. In her experience, when they commit to getting them done, their house sells much quicker.

“I recently listed a house for a client that had previously been on the market for a solid four weeks. He completed the to-do list I gave him, and as his teammate, I arranged for professional photography to show off his hard work,” Abram comments. “The very first day it was re-listed with me, he had 10 showings and by the end of the evening we had a full price offer.”

This must-do list covers tasks like:

A woman using a phone to sell a house with a Realtor.
Source: (Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst)

Identify and highlight your home’s strongest features

While your Realtor® comes up with smart ways to update your property based on what buyers are looking for, you have the experience of living in your home, which allows you to find unique selling points.

Write down all of those great features your house has, like the beautiful woodwork, the big backyard, or the convenient layout. Don’t forget to include all the things you love about the neighborhood too, including the schools, parks, stores, and restaurants.

Your agent may not be able to include it all, but the longer your list, the more creative they can be when writing your listing description.

Develop an effective pricing strategy

As part of their listing services, your agent will conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA) to suggest an asking price for your home. Their analysis will take into account recently sold properties in the area that are similar to yours in size, layout, and condition.

They’ll increase the price based on what adds value, like your new stainless steel appliances or your hardwood floors. But they’ll also subtract value for negative factors like your positioning near a power line or aging roof.

“Understanding pricing strategies can be difficult for sellers,” explains Abram. “Which is why we personalize our CMAs so that sellers can understand what buyers are buying, and how much they’re willing to pay for it.”

Agents use this data to help you focus less on what you think your home is worth and more on how your house compares to the competition before you settle on a list price. They do this by:

  • Researching outlier comps to include or exclude (Foreclosures, short sales, etc.)
  • Comparing sold price vs. house condition for each comp (Fully remodeled homes vs. as-is properties, etc.)
  • Evaluating the impact of market trends on pricing (Listing just under market value to spark bidding war in seller’s market, etc.)

However, if you feel at odds with your Realtor® on price, don’t be afraid to ask more questions. They’re there to walk you through exactly how they arrived at that number. Keep in mind that your personal stake in this sale and emotional ties to your house could cloud your judgment and lead to overpricing, which some agents say has been common in the recent seller’s market.

Your Realtor® will also break down the list of expenses and credits to clearly explain your final sales price and your net proceeds. And if you’re not ready to sell your house with a Realtor® just yet but are curious about the value of your home, try HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator tool.

Stage, photograph, and market your home

In order to have the best online listing possible, your Realtor® will likely suggest professional photos. Many Realtors® work closely with photographers who they can bring in for photos at no extra cost. They’ll walk you through how to stage your home, or how to get it ready for the photos. Many photo companies can even stage your photos digitally.

Your Realtor®’s marketing plan will likely lean heavily on digital promotion. They will upload your property details and photos into the MLS, which will syndicate your listing to other online listing sites, and post about it on Facebook and Instagram if they’re active there. Your Realtor® will also spread the word about your listing to their local agent and broker networks who just may have a buyer looking for a house like yours.

Once the listing is live, you can also share it online and with your inner circle, which Abram notes is super important.

“You never know when sharing the listing with a friend of a friend or co-worker will lead you to your buyer,” she notes.

A dog that is removed from a house before selling.
Source: (Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst)

Coordinate showings

Your Realtor® will get notified whenever a buyer is interested in touring your home. It’s their job to orchestrate showings based on your schedule — since you’ll need to leave the house for them.

To make your lives easier, establish some ground rules and make sure your agent knows which days of the week and times of day will — and will not — work for you to accommodate buyers. Ensure you have a preferred means of communication for showings requests, whether it’s via text message, email, or phone calls.

Meanwhile, your role is to make sure the house is tidy for the showing and that all family members and pets are out of the house. Work out a system that’s least disruptive for your family and allows you to clean up in a pinch. An imperfect showing is often better than no showing at all.

Field offers and negotiate with buyers

After you accept an offer on your house, there will be a period of negotiations over the contract and, later, any issues that come up in the inspection report. You’ll need to rely on your Realtor® to fight for your best interests. (They have to, as your trusted fiduciary!) Educate yourself on negotiation tactics to help better understand your Realtor®, like:

  • Use time and silence to your advantage
  • Counter a buyer’s big asks with small, slow concessions
  • Offer alternatives instead of giving hard “yes” or “no” responses
  • Frame your counteroffer as a “win-win” scenario
  • Bench your emotions to keep negotiations all business

Communicate through the inspection and appraisal

If your buyers request a laundry list of repairs based on the home inspection report or the home appraisal comes under contract value, things can get tense. However, now’s the time to stay calm and work with your Realtor® on next steps. This is a big reason why you hired them!

With any appraisal issues, your Realtor® will be able to explain your options, whether that’s negotiating with the buyers to make up the difference in the contract price or reviewing the appraisal report to ensure there weren’t any issues. Bottom line is, a Realtor® will help you overcome any roadblocks to closing.

Close the deal and celebrate the collective win

“Great agents act as teammates throughout the entire sales process, including closing day, so that their sellers are prepared for the transition,” says Abram. “I’ll even help my sellers make arrangements with movers, or schedule a donation pick-up with the Salvation Army — anything that’ll make the process easier for them.”

When you’ve got a teammate willing to go the extra mile for you like that, it’s only right to celebrate the sale with them, like by cracking open a bottle of champagne together on closing day.

It’s even acceptable (and much appreciated!) to give your agent a gift, as long as it’s appropriate. Examples include:

  • Gift cards to a local restaurant or coffee shop
  • Personalized presents (first name coffee mug, monogrammed business card holder, etc.)
  • Gift basket (personalize with hobby items like cooking supplies, focus on a favorite color or scent, or stick with a traditional gourmet gift basket)
  • A glowing recommendation suitable for featuring on their website and online profiles

Keep in mind

If you’ve never done this before, knowing how to sell a house with a Realtor® might seem like a long and arduous process. But remember, they’re there to make the process of selling your home easier! Even if you don’t know proper gifting etiquette or how to perfectly respond to offers, your Realtor® has your back. They’ve worked with plenty of first-time sellers in the past and had great relationships with them, too. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Realtors® in your area and see if they could be a perfect fit.

Header Image Source: (LinkedIn Sales Navigator / Unsplash)