10 Things to Do Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent

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There are a million and one reasons why it might be the right time to sell your home, but whatever the motivation, almost all sellers want their house sold at a good price and relatively quickly. Working with a top agent is important, but make sure to take care of these things before hiring a real estate agent to help sell your house.

We asked top-rated agents what they wish sellers would do (and not do) before contacting them. Here is their list of the top 10 things to do before hiring a real estate agent.

Having a price range in mind is always helpful because it helps us understand where you’re at.
  • Shannan Laudet
    Shannan Laudet Real Estate Agent
    Shannan Laudet
    Shannan Laudet Real Estate Agent at Adept Real Estate | Professional Realty Services
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    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 20
    • Transactions 399
    • Average Price Point $315k
    • Single Family Homes 367

1. Determine your selling goals

Before you can even think about hiring a real estate agent, you need to map out your selling goals. This means you’ll need to determine the price range you’re willing to accept offers from. Shannan Laudet, a top-rated real estate agent in Bremerton, Washington, advises homeowners to have an offer range that they consider is an acceptable offer for their home.

“Having a price range in mind is always helpful because it helps us understand where you’re at,” she says. If the price range is unreasonable, the agent can suggest a range that is more in line with local market conditions.

Along with the price range, you’ll want to think about what timeframe you’re comfortable with — and how that might impact the ultimate sale price. Are you willing to accept a lower offer for a quick sale, or do you want to hold out for the best price? Are you willing to negotiate or are you firm on the price?

Note: If you don’t yet have a price range in mind, you can use HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator to get a sense of your home’s current market value

Get a Home Value Estimate As You Prepare to Sell

HomeLight’s tool takes into account recent comparable sales records, local market trends, and your home last sale’s price to provide a preliminary estimate of home value in under two minutes.

2. Know how much equity you have in your home

It’s helpful to know how much equity you have built up in your home before contacting a real estate agent. Home equity is a homeowner’s financial stake in their property that they own free of their mortgage loan obligation. It’s calculated by taking the current value of your home and subtracting the total cost of the mortgage balance and any additional liens that must be paid off in order to sell the property.

Ideally, you’ll have enough equity to use as a decent down payment on a new home (if you’re going to be buying a house as well), but at the bare minimum, your equity should be sufficient to cover expenses you’ll need to pay once the house is sold  — such as the agent commission and closing costs that will be deducted from your proceeds.

Remember, any remaining mortgage value will need to be paid off once your house is sold.

3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage if you are buying, too

In August 2021, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) released their Realtors® Confidence Index Survey, which found that 22% of real estate contracts were delayed and 8% of contracts were terminated due to issues obtaining financing. Since buying a house while selling one can be tricky for a number of reasons, get ahead of the game and get pre-approved for a mortgage before you even begin looking for a new home.

You could get pre-approved in as little as five minutes if you apply through HomeLight’s Home Loan program. HomeLight Home Loan provides loans at low rates with fast closing times and a $0 lending fee and is currently available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

4. Research the best time to sell in your area

Life has a crazy way of throwing us a curveball and sometimes you don’t have a say in when you need to sell your house. However, if you are able to be more strategic, find out what time of the year is the best time to sell your house in your area.

Housing market trends show that the difference in sale price for homes listed during the peak selling season compared to those listed at the slowest times of year is, in most years, a swing of over 10 percentage points.

Note: You can use HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator to figure out which month is the best time to list. We recommend hiring an agent at least three to six months before the recommended month to sell in order to give yourself enough time to complete pre-listing renovations and repairs.

5. Make necessary repairs

In the same NAR report, 9% of contracts are delayed and 9% of contracts are terminated due to home inspection issues. Don’t let your sale fall through or be delayed because there were some repairs that needed to be addressed. Be proactive and use a repair checklist to make sure your home will pass future home inspections with flying colors.

Of course, you can order a home inspection on your own prior to calling a real estate agent. The inspection report will tell you exactly what needs to be fixed and then you can start scheduling appointments so the repairs will be completed before the house hits the market.

6. Gather receipts and warranties for home improvements

Real estate agents can use tools like automated valuation models (AVMs) to get information about your house. However, they can tell when a home has been taken care of and when it hasn’t, and they take that into consideration when they suggest a price range for your home.

You can help them come up with a fair price by keeping detailed records of the work you’ve put into your house. These records should include any receipts and valid warranties, as well as a rundown of project costs, materials, finishes, and when the project was completed.

“Having a list like that ready for a Realtor® is huge because it’s all about us being able to enhance the buyer’s perception of value,” Laudet comments.

A father cleaning a house with his son before hiring a real estate agent.
Source: (Gustavo / Pexels)

7. Deep clean and declutter

The moment you decide that you’re going to sell your house, you should start the cleaning and decluttering process. This task can take anywhere from weeks to months from start to finish, but it is a crucial step if you want to get the best price possible.

Deep cleaning the interior of an average house can cost between $200 to $400, but some companies will charge an hourly rate, typically $25 to $50 an hour. Of course, the actual costs will depend on factors like the size of the home, the extent of the work that needs to be done, your location, and any additional services you may opt for. If you’re going to have the exterior of your home professionally pressure washed (which you should!), the average price ranges between $300 and $600.

At the end of the day, deep cleaning and decluttering the interior of your home can add about $2,000 in sale price, and a professional pressure-washed exterior can add up to $15,000. Beyond the sale price, a cleaner home will be more attractive to potential buyers.

8. Refresh the interior

Once the interior is sparkling clean, think about ways you can make your home feel refreshed and new. An easy way to breathe new life into a home is by replacing the linens, curtains, and towels with fresh ones (neutral colors only!) throughout the house.

Other ways you can refresh your home include:

  • Replace the existing light bulbs with LED bulbs so rooms look brighter
  • Eliminate (or hide) unnecessary extension cords
  • Paint kitchen cabinets and update hardware
  • Place a few plants (be they live or faux) throughout the home

Note: The agent you decide to hire may suggest a staging plan because staging helps buyers envision themselves in the home, according to NAR’s 2021 survey. In addition, staging can net a higher sale price, with 23% of agents reporting offers increased between 1% and 5% compared to similar, unstaged homes. Plus, staging can decrease the amount of time your home sits on the market.  

9. Take time to boost curb appeal

In selling a house, first impressions matter, beginning as soon as a potential buyer spots your house from the road. The way your yard looks and how well it’s maintained is going to leave an impression on potential buyers, so make it a good one!

Fortunately, boosting curb appeal doesn’t mean you have to hire a professional landscaper to overhaul your whole yard. You can do simple things like:

  • Pressure wash the exterior of your home, the driveway, walkways, and patio/deck
  • Wash the windows, inside and out (remove screens if they’re in poor condition)
  • Clean up the yard and remove clutter, debris, and dead plants
  • Keep up with regular lawn maintenance tasks like mowing, fertilizing, and watering
  • Add fresh mulch to flower beds

10. Start researching top real estate agents near you

As you’re completing this checklist of things to do before hiring a real estate agent, you can start your research into who you should hire. There are about 3 million real estate agents with active licenses doing business in the United States, so suffice to say you have a lot of options, but remember: not all agents are equally good.

So how do you sift through the millions of agents? Well, you can ask people in your network for referrals, but you can also use HomeLight’s agent matching platform.

We’ve crunched the numbers on real estate data to find top performing agents in your area. Our platform will match you with three top agents based on their average list to sale price, how many days the average house they sell is on the market, and client reviews.

Find a Top-Rated Real Estate Agent

HomeLight makes it easy to connect with the best real estate agents in your area. Tell us a bit about your home and when you plan to sell, and we’ll connect you with two to three agent recommendations in minutes.

Once you narrow down your top candidates, reach out and schedule an appointment (in-person, Zoom, or phone) for an interview. In the interview, make sure to ask these 24 questions. These questions will give you insight into their work ethic, experience, availability, marketing strategies, and so much more.

After the interviews, take some time to reflect on the agent’s answers and their overall vibe. They may have amazing credentials and history, but if they rub you the wrong way during the interview, chances are you may not be the best match.

A man using the internet to hire a real estate agent.
Source: (Avi Richards / Unsplash)

What not to do before hiring a real estate agent

There are a lot of things to do before hiring a real estate agent, but before you go wild, there are some things real estate agents wish homeowners wouldn’t do before hiring them, such as:

  • Starting major renovations: There’s no guarantee you’ll see a return on investment
  • Painting the walls: Poor color choices could be a buyer repellant
  • Advertising your home: This could cause problems for your agent’s marketing strategy
  • Change the interior design: Like painting, anything but neutral can drive buyers away
  • Updating fixtures: Updating fixtures can be costly and not worth the investment
  • Upgrading the backyard: The upgrades you do may not be in demand in your area

A top agent understands your market and they’ll be able to advise you on what upgrades will increase the value of your home and which ones will not. They can help you choose finishes and materials that will give you the most bang for your buck.

Most of all, the right agent will have an extensive network of contractors, landscapers, and home designers that can take your home from “just okay” to “I want that!” with ease. So, roll up your sleeves and tackle this list and you’ll be ready to reach out to and hire an agent having already made a solid start to selling your home.

Header Image Source: (Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels)