As you gear up to sell your home, you start building a mental to-do list: repair the backyard fence, scrub down the bathroom tiles, declutter the garage, arrange your next living situation… There’s a lot to do — you know you’ll need to reach out for some professional help. But when should you contact a Realtor® to sell your house?
“I would probably say around three months in advance if they want to do some preparations on the home. That’s good timing,” shares Carmen Gonzalez, a top real estate agent in Orlando, Florida who sells 76% more single-family homes than the average agent. “Much earlier than that, earlier than six months, is too early because things change quickly in the market, at least here in Florida.”
Let’s break down what you can do to prep your home before you meet with an agent (or Realtor®, if your agent is an active member of the National Association of Realtors®) how to choose the best agent possible, and how to take the next steps to sell your home together.
Before you contact an agent, start with some basic home preparations
When you’re starting to feel the home selling bug, there are a few steps you can take to initiate the process before you reach out to a real estate agent.
Review your finances
Selling your home requires some financial commitment. Your home sale price should be enough to pay off your remaining mortgage and cover these additional expenses:
- Repairs and renovations: These costs depend on your home’s condition. For instance, painting a room a neutral color can cost as little as $200 while replacing an old HVAC system sets you back $4,820 – $9,350.
- Closing costs: For sellers, closing costs range between 6-10% of the home sale price, including real estate commission fees.
- Moving expenses: On average, moving costs $1,250 for a local move to $4,890 for a long-distance move, according to Moving.com.
Declutter your heart out
Before you contact a Realtor®, you can go ahead and begin decluttering as soon as possible, especially if you’re downsizing. HomeLight’s Top Agent Insight’s Report: Q1 2019 reveals decluttering adds a staggering $2,584 in value. A recent study by Consumer Reports reveals similar findings, estimating decluttering potentially returns a 3-5% higher asking price. Tackle your clutter one room at a time, following HomeLight’s decluttering checklist.
Start deep cleaning
Similar to decluttering, a deep clean adds marketability and value to your home (an extra $1,728 by our account). So go on, detail those french window frames, scrub the basement floors, dust every lighting fixture. Give your home that new house smell.
Attend to necessary repairs
Fix anything that’s broken or in a major state of disrepair before you contact a Realtor®, but hold off on starting any renovation projects. Gonzalez explains: “Before you start making changes or improvements to your house, it’s a good idea just to get the opinion of a real estate agent. We see houses day in and day out and we have a lot of ideas on what things you can do, what will make sense for attracting the buyers in your area.”
When you’re ready to contact a Realtor®, interview several to find the best match
Around 3 or 4 months before you’re ready to list your home, search for agents with extensive experience selling homes in your area. Reach out to your network for referrals and compare agents online with HomeLight’s Agent Finder. Our system analyzes millions of real estate transactions to compare agents based on years of experience, transaction volume, average price point, speed of sale, specialties, and client reviews to match you to the best agents to sell your home.
Interview at least three candidates before you commit
Your choice of real estate agent directly impacts the speed and final price of your home sale, so take time to screen multiple agents to find the right one for the job. Reach out to at least three real estate agents for initial screenings. Gonzalez recommends conducting interviews over the phone, rather than over email or text to better gauge the right match.
“The initial contact over the phone is much more personal. People can get their questions answered quicker, they can get a better idea of the process, and a better impression of the agent that they are talking to.”
Share your objectives for your home sale with each agent and ask them important questions including:
- How many homes have you sold in my city or county?
- How many clients are you currently representing and how many will you work with at one time?
- What kind of properties do you mostly sell—single-family homes, condos, townhouses?
- Who else on your team will assist with our home sale?
- What does your typical marketing plan look like? How does your team use social media to reach potential buyers?
- How much experience do you have working with first-time sellers?
- What are the top three things that separate you from the competition?
- What kind of guarantees do you offer?
- If I pick you, what’s the first thing we do to get started?
Choose the real estate agent with experience you trust
After the interviews, compare your top Realtor® candidates based on their experience, relevant network, and personal connection. Go with your gut, even if it means letting down a referral or friend in your network.
“It is very common to have a friend or a friend of a friend or someone in the family who has a license, but they’re not necessarily going to be the best person for the job,” shares Gonzalez, emphasizing that sellers need to choose an agent with proven experience selling their property type (condo, single-family home, luxury home, etc) in their area.
Take the next steps in your home sale with your newly hired agent
Top real estate hired and three months to spare, you’ll have plenty of time to tackle pre-listing tasks. Your agent will kick off the process with the following:
Conduct an initial walkthrough: Your real estate agent will walk through your property with you, noting your home’s best features and opportunities for improvement. For an even deeper dive into your home’s condition, consider hiring a home inspector to conduct a full pre-listing home inspection. A pre-listing home inspection provides you with a list of needed repairs upfront so you can tend to them before pricing and listing your home.
Suggest home improvements: Depending on your home’s competition and your budget, your real estate agent will suggest renovations to improve your home’s marketability. With their expertise and objective eye, agents will evaluate what needs replacing or just refreshing, which improvements can bring a high return on investment, and which blemishes are better left untouched. For instance, Gonzalez advises: “If you need to replace the carpet or countertops then it’s often better to do it before you put the house on the market. Otherwise, you may be obligated to give the buyer concessions which will cost more at the end.”
Connect you with reputable local contractors: Agent rolodexes are full of reliable contractors and designers. They’ll put you in touch with whatever specialist you need to get your home into top shape and assist with scheduling to ensure jobs are completed before your target listing date.
Set you up with staging services: If your home’s interior could benefit cleverly curated interior design, your agent may recommend staging. According to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights: Q1 2019 Report, 67% of top real estate agents agree that staging increases the sale price of a home to some extent and nearly 83% believe that a staged home sells faster than an unstaged home. Many agents even cover the cost of light staging in their commission fee; 75% of agents surveyed stated they’ve provided sellers with complimentary staging services.
Perform a comparative market analysis: Your real estate agent will conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA) to set the most important piece of the puzzle: listing price. CMAs analyze the sale prices of comparable homes taking into account everything from square footage and neighborhood location to listing photos and unique features. The objective behind CMAs is to determine the market value of your home in order to price it competitively against other homes in your market.
By contacting an agent at the right time, your home sale reaps the benefits
When you contact real estate agents about three to four months before you want to list, there’s plenty of time to find the best agent, make key renovations, and market your home effectively — all of which are essential steps in selling your home for a great price.
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