You probably know that a Realtor does more than just post a FOR SALE sign on your front lawn, or guide potential buyers through your home. But how much more? What exactly will a real estate agent do for you?
Taking the time upfront to understand what to expect from your agent will help to reduce misunderstandings, and make the selling process less mysterious and stressful. You’ll be able to anticipate what’s going to happen next, be prepared to ask the right questions along the way, and be aware of whether your Realtor is meeting expectations.
Typically, you should expect a good real estate agent to:
- Explain the Listing Agreement to you. (This is your contract with the real estate firm.)
- Describe the home selling process, and answer all your questions and concerns.
- Prepare a realistic appraisal based on the expected market value of your home by comparing it to similar property sales in your area.
- Provide you with advice on how to make your home more appealing to potential buyers, especially during showings and open houses.
- Create a comprehensive marketing plan to promote your home.
- Screen enquiries, schedule appointments, and show your home to potential buyers.
- Field offers from potential buyers, deal with counter-offers, and negotiate the best terms and selling price possible for your home.
- Help you throughout the entire selling process to make it as easy and stress-free as possible.
These services should be the minimum you expect from a good agent. The best agents will actually do more. They will be there for you in the weeks, months, and even years after the sale to make sure everything continues to go smoothly in your new home.
There’s an old saying: What you can’t see won’t hurt you. But, that’s not true. Less than ideal air quality in your home can result in allergies, colds, languor, and even sleepless nights.
Here are some tips that can help:
Let in the fresh air. Weather permitting, open windows and doors to help circulate stale indoor air with fresher outdoor air.
Change the furnace filter. According to studies, most filters on forced air heating systems in homes do not get changed regularly. Tip: Change the filter when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors – at least twice a year.
Easy on the household cleaners. Cleaners that are tough on stains can also have the same effect on your health. So use them with care. After cleaning any surface, wipe the residue dry with a clean absorbent cloth.
Keep things dry. Mould spores thrive on moisture. So make sure bathroom fans adequately remove humidity. A fan should be strong enough so that a piece of paper clings to the intake.
You don’t have to roll an actual red carpet down your walkway every time you show your home. (But it wouldn’t hurt!)
The most important thing is to make sure the journey to your front door is a pleasant one. That’s when buyers form their first impressions.
Make sure the walkway is swept clean and is clear. The last thing you want is for a buyer to trip on a broken paving stone, or get matted clumps of freshly-cut grass stuck to their pant legs!
Obviously, your home should look its best when potential buyers arrive. However, time is not always on your side. There may be times when you have only a few minutes to get things ready. What you do with those minutes can mean the difference between an interested buyer… and one who crosses your home off their list.
Here are some things you can do to help your home look its best in just five minutes or less:
- Put away coats, hats, and shoes. Clean up, especially around the foyer. You don’t want clutter to be the first thing a buyer sees.
- Turn on all lights and lamps. A home that’s bright looks larger.
- Put on some soft music. Easy listening is the best choice. Don’t play rock or jazz music because some people might dislike it. Think elevator music.
- Make sure the toilet lids are down. Even when a washroom is sparkling clean, a raised toilet seat gives the impression – however incorrectly – that things are less than hygienic.
- Relocate the pets. Put pets in the backyard or basement, or at least segregate them in a separate room. Better still, take them away from your home entirely.
- Close the garage doors. Most garages don’t look great on the inside.
- Hide the waste bins. Keep them out of sight.
- Wash the dishes. If possible, don’t leave them on a drying rack. Put them away.
- Put away personal items. Put family pictures, bills, and other personally identifying information away. You want the buyers to visualize themselves living in your home, not you.
- Open all curtains and blinds. This makes rooms look bigger and brighter, even at night.
House hunting can be a grind. If you’re not careful, it can easily take both an emotional and physical toll on you.
At the beginning, you and your family will be fueled by excitement, desire and enthusiasm – the raw ingredients of adrenaline. That’s what keeps you going.
After a while, however, a long day of viewing homes with fidgety kids and an empty stomach can leave you exhausted. When that happens, even the most ideal home can seem undesirable.
Since you don’t want exhaustion to result in a missed opportunity, it’s important to pace yourself. Here are some tips for doing just that.
- When it comes to endurance, everyone has their limits. If a child or spouse is looking tired, take a break. Just because one person is able to see a lot of homes in quick succession doesn’t mean everyone else in the family will have the same stamina.
- Never house shop on an empty stomach. Make sure everyone has a good breakfast, lunch, or dinner before heading out.
- If you have young children, find out where the local parks and playgrounds are located. These are great places to take a break and let the kids play for a while.
- Keep some bottled water and perhaps some light snacks in the car. You never know when someone’s stomach will begin to grumble.
- During an all-day excursion, avoid the temptation to eat a large lunch at a restaurant. It may make you feel sluggish and tired in the afternoon.
If you’ve been househunting for several weeks, all the homes may start to look alike. If this happens, take a few days off. It will help to restore your perspective.
When potential buyers visit your home, they often feel like intruders. After all, in most cases, they don’t know you personally. Yet, there they are, walking through your hallways, looking in your bedroom closets, and even checking out the cabinet space in your washrooms.
Obviously, you want buyers to feel comfortable when they are viewing your house. But how do you make sure they do?
Here are a couple of good ideas:
First, pack up family photos and other personal items you have dispersed throughout the home. Why is this important? When a buyer sees a diploma hanging on the wall, they get that uneasy “someone lives here” feeling.
Second, don’t be in your home during viewings. Instead, visit a coffee shop, go shopping, or take the kids to the park. Buyers feel really uncomfortable viewing a home when the owners are there. As a result, they may leave without giving your property serious consideration.
If you absolutely must be home during a viewing, try to remain out of the way. Don’t volunteer information or attempt to give buyers “the tour”. Instead, be available to answer questions, if asked.
You see a great home. You pull out your mortgage calculator and start punching in the numbers. The estimated monthly payment is displayed on the screen. You think, “Yep, we can afford that!”
It’s easy to be seduced by a mortgage payment calculation. However, mortgage payments aren’t the only costs of owning a home. You also need to consider:
- Property taxes
- Home insurance premiums
- Electricity costs
- Maintenance (especially a factor in older homes.)
- And more.
If you don’t, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars more per month than you originally expected.
Make a Power Switch!
If you’re looking for ways that you and your family can reduce your energy use, keep track of your consumption by saving your bills, and noting the dates of any major changes (eg. severe weather, new appliance, change of routine, etc.). Then compare your consumption and spending to previous years’ results.
Meanwhile, here are some “electrical switches” you can make right away, for a noticeable cost reduction:
- Switch to newer, smaller fluorescent bulbs.
- Switch large or multi-light fixtures to dimmer controls.
- Switch to water-saving showerheads.
- Switch your laundry wash to cold water – most washing energy is spent making hot water.
Imagine this scenario. You hire a Home Inspector to inspect a house you’ve made an offer on. The inspector goes over everything with a fine tooth comb, outside-to-inside, basement-to-ceiling.
Great so far.
Then he presents you with his findings, points out areas that need repairs – and then offers to do this work himself because he’s also a contractor!
That’s called a “conflict of interest”. You cannot confirm whether the home inspection was done honestly, or with the aim of getting more work from you.
When hiring any professional, make sure that the advice or opinion you’ll be relying on is unbiased.
No one buys or sells a home alone. You need the help of a professional – and likely a whole team of professionals – to assist you in achieving your goals and protecting your interests.
A real estate transaction can be stressful enough. So when it comes to choosing professionals to help you – before, during and after the transaction – be selective.
Typically, you will require a REALTOR® and a lawyer to complete the purchase and/or sale. But you may also need a lender, home inspector, insurance broker, home improvement contractor, landscape specialist, tradesperson(s), interior designer, etc. Here are three important factors to consider when making your choices:
Before you hire any professional, make sure they have the appropriate qualifications. Ask specifically what degree, certification or training they’ve received. Many professionals in the home industry are licensed or certified by their respective professional or trade associations. Ask to see these documents.
As author Douglas Gray points out in Home Buying Made Easy, a lawyer with ten years experience may only have spent six months handling real estate transactions. Remember, you’ll be relying heavily on the skill, advice and insights of each professional you hire. Make sure they have experience in the specific field you require.
Ask for client testimonials and references. Be sure to call these people and ask for their candid opinions of the services provided. Talk to others in the industry. Word of a good, as well as a bad, reputation gets around.
Choosing the right professional is like picking the right players for a baseball team. The better you choose, the more likely you are to win the game. (Or, in this case, the home of your dreams.)