Maybe you’ve just landed the job of your dreams 1,000 miles away from your home. Or perhaps you’re ready to downsize, so the nest feels a little less empty. No matter the reason, your desire to sell your home is about to boil over: You’re ready to reach out to a real estate agent.
But don’t hit call yet — there are a few things to do before contacting a real estate agent. You’ll want to kick-start pre-listing tasks notorious for taking months to complete. Not to mention invest time in researching real estate agents to ensure you find the best agent for the job.
We asked a top-selling real estate agent what they wish every seller would do (and wouldn’t do) before contacting an agent. Complete these eight tasks before you hire an agent to start your home sale journey off right.
1. Check your equity to evaluate if you’re ready to sell
Before you contact a real estate agent, check your equity to know where you stand with your mortgage. At a minimum, you want to have enough equity in your home to cover the cost of selling your home (e.g., closing costs and agent commission). Otherwise, you’ll need to find another way to finance these costs. If your mortgage is underwater, you’ll need to pay the difference between the sale price and what’s owed on your mortgage, as well.
Use this basic formula to estimate your home’s equity:
Current market value of home ($500,000)
Outstanding mortgage balance ($300,000)
Home equity ($200,000)
To estimate your home’s current market value, plug your home details into HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator.
2. Determine your selling goals
Do you need to sell your house as fast as possible, or would you rather hold out for the best price? Determine your primary selling objectives before you contact a real estate agent, so they can tailor your listing strategy accordingly.
Shannan Laudet, a top real estate agent in Bremerton, WA, who’s sold 78% more single-family homes than average, also advises homeowners to consider what offer range they’re willing to accept for their home.
“Having a price range in mind is always helpful because it helps us understand where you’re at,” she comments, adding that your agent will let you know if this range is realistic or not for your local market conditions.
If you’re not sure what price to aim for, don’t stress. Your agent will help pinpoint your home’s fair market value and share what homes like yours are currently selling for.
3. Research the best time of year to sell in your market
If you plan your home sale timeline wisely, you can sell your house faster and for more money. Nationwide housing market trends prove that homes sold at peak times during the year sell for 3.82% more on average. In contrast, homes sold during inopportune times sold for 7.2% below the annual average.
Discover the best time to sell in your area with HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator. Our tool crunches housing transaction data to show you when homes in your market sell the fastest and for the most money. Once you determine the best month to sell, contact a real estate agent three to six months before the recommended sell date. This way, you have enough lead time to complete pre-listing home upgrades and accounts for the average time it takes to sell a home once it’s live on the market.
4. Find top real estate agents selling near you
There are around 2 million real estate agents with active licenses in the United States, but not all agents are equal. Our data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average agent.
To find the best agent for your home sale, reach out to your network for referrals, and match with top agents using HomeLight’s Agent Finder. We’ll match you with the three top agents for your home sale based on their average list to sale price, days on market, and client reviews.
Once you narrow down your candidates, interview at least three agents before finalizing your decision. Prepare a list of questions to help you evaluate each agent by the following criteria:
- Expertise: You want an agent with local expertise who knows what sells homes in your market. Ask your candidates questions about the local market, like how fast homes are selling in your area and what design trends resonate most with your local buyer pool.
- Experience: The best agent for your needs will have proven experience selling homes like yours. You should also find out what the agents’ strengths are to ensure their experience matches your selling goals. For instance, if you need to sell your home ASAP, you’ll want to ask the agents about their average days on market time.
- Personality match: While interviewing agents, ask yourself whether or not you get along well enough to work on a project together for several months. Discuss your preferred communication methods and ensure the agent you choose is happy to accommodate.
5. Gather details on your home’s recent repairs and renovations
With automated valuation models (AVMs) and other digital tools, your agent has access to your basic property information, including the square footage, number of bedrooms, and location, before they even walk in the door. However, you’ll need to supply them with details on your recent home repairs and renovations before they can advise on a listing price.
Gather information on these home features and upgrades, noting the materials, finishes, project costs, and date completed:
- Roof repairs or replacement
- Insulation features
- Electrical or plumbing systems
- Heating and air-conditioning system
- Energy-efficient appliances and technology
- Flooring upgrades
- Recent cosmetic improvements
“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.
6. Deep clean and declutter your home
Before you contact a real estate agent, jump start deep cleaning and decluttering. These pre-listing tasks can take weeks to months to complete yet are essential for securing the best sale possible. According to our Top Agent Insights Report, on average deep cleaning adds $1,728 in value while decluttering adds $2,584. A study by Consumer Reports echoes this finding, suggesting that decluttering increases your home’s value by 5%.
For added objectivity, Laudet advises sellers to take pictures of their home and review the photos from a buyer’s perspective. “What do you see in that photo? Comparing photos of your home to Pinterest or HGTV can give you a good idea of where you need to go when decluttering,” she comments.
Remove excess decor and personal items like family photos so buyers can better envision living in your home. Pack up items you plan to keep into moving boxes and store them in the garage or attic until moving day. Donate or sell any unwanted items using services like OfferUp, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace.
7. Take care of necessary repairs
The National Association of Realtors’ 2020 Confidence index reports that 16% of closing delays are due to home inspection issues. Home repairs take time to book and complete, often creating a bottleneck that holds up the entire selling process.
Take a proactive approach and create a repair checklist before contacting a real estate agent. Start scheduling the largest jobs like roof repairs and major plumbing work first, so you have plenty of lead time to complete the repairs before your home goes on the market.
8. Refresh your home’s interior with new linens and curtains
In our Top Agent Insights Report, 67% of top agents agree that staging helps a seller fetch more money for their house at resale. Your real estate agent will help with strategic staging, but there’s no harm in buying some new home goods if you’re eager to get started. Replace worn out and dated curtains, bedding, and towels to refresh your home’s interior. Stick to light, neutral colors like grays and beiges to ensure your home appeals to the most buyers possible.
Here’s what you shouldn’t do before contacting a real estate agent
However excited you are to kick-off your home sale, there are a few pre-listing tasks that you should hold off on until you have professional guidance from a real estate agent, including:
- Major remodeling projects
- Painting walls
- Advertising your home
- Changing the interior design
- Updating fixtures
- Upgrading your backyard
A top agent can advise you which home upgrades will increase your home’s value, so you recoup project costs at resale. They’ll also help you choose the best colors, finishes, and interior design style to boost your home’s marketability and draw in buyers.
“Realtor® have been through hundreds of homes and have listened to hundreds of buyers’ comments about what they like and don’t like,” shares Laudet.
Furthermore, real estate agents have a network of vetted contractors, landscapers, and stagers who can help you take your home to the next level.
Header Image Source: (Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels)