How to Hire a Real Estate Agent

by George Herman

Now that you have decided to hire an agent to help you sell your home, you are faced with the question of who to choose.  A competent real estate professional will help market your home and manage the sale, provide you with negotiating expertise, knowledge of your local market, and cost management.  Also—and important for us Garden Stagers—is that hopefully your agent will assist you in maximizing home value by suggesting necessary repairs and fix-ups, making your home attractive to prospective buyers.

Competent real estate agents know their business. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What is the profile of potential buyers for my home?
  • How will you protect my legal and financial interests throughout the selling process?
  • How will I obtain the maximum price for my property in the shortest time?

Hopefully, in response to this last question, the prospective real estate agent will encourage you to stage your home.  Staging increases market value and your final selling price while reducing its time on the market. A thoughtfully staged property will sell for more money and quicker than one that is sold in its “lived in” condition.

Staging goes beyond the interior of the home. In fact, buyers decide how they feel about a property as soon as they see it from the street.  On the day of the open house, many agents watch ruefully from the kitchen of the unstaged house as cars pull up along the street only to speed off again, not even setting foot inside.  This phenomena, referred to by some as “slow and go” has taught them that the exterior of the home should be inviting, or they risk missing out on a buyer. Real estate agents also know that a potential buyer who does walk through the door, willing to look at such a home,  is going to expect a discount on the price.

The good news is that any home will demonstrate perceived higher value with thoughtful improvements. In fact, the return on investment can be high. It has been determined that the landscaping of a property contributes between 5 and 11 percent of the home’s value. For example, if a property is valued at $500,000 with bad curb appeal, the landscaping contributes about 5% or $25,000. If the curb appeal is improved, then the value of that same home should be $530,000 or a 6% increase. Usually landscape staging can have good effect for less than a third of the available $30,000.

In order to maximize the full scope of service that you are paying for, it’s important to understand that you may well find that you resist the advice given by your real estate agent. Selling a home is a very emotional time, stressful, and complicated.  If you are like most of us, you probably think your house is worth more than what the market allows.  Be prepared to hear as much from your agent, if you have made a good choice.  A good agent will provide you with the data to demonstrate what you can realistically expect for your house.   Finally, a good agent will be able to speak to the reality of the situation, even when you don’t want to hear it.