Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Sell a House - Part Two - The Realtor

You've done all your homework - looked on the internet, gone to an open house or two, and thought about what you're doing and why. You are ready to go - or at least close.

It's time to call in a Realtor. I know the draw of doing it yourself - being a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) - and I would have agreed with you before I became a Realtor, but I don't any more. I have seen the difference a professional makes in a transaction. It's not just the sale of the house, but all the nitty-gritty that goes along with it. In the business the thought is that only 25% of the entire sale is the finding/marketing of the home. There is so much more.

And welcome to New York! We have paperwork and more paperwork, attorneys for everyone and rules and regulations. You need someone who can cut through it all, direct traffic as it were. Some people who have had bad experiences never recommend the ancillary personnel - the mortgage person, the inspector, attorneys. I do - because I have had bad experiences by not recommending anyone. And that knowledge is wrapped up in my service to you, the homeowner.

How do you find someone competent to handle your sale? Choose me and you don't have to worry about that...sorry, I had to say it. I am proud of what I've learned and how I conduct my business and I have the references to show for it. But if you don't want me....sigh....then -

Talk to friends. We had an interesting set of statistics that just came out yesterday. At RE/MAX, the vast majority of clients come from friends and past clients. If you know someone who sold a home or bought one in the past year, ask that person about their experience.

I think the most important skill a Realtor should have is communication. Without that, the process falls apart. If you call your Realtor, I believe that call should be answered within a couple hours. I further believe that the Realtor should be pro-active - calling you to inform you of progress or the lack thereof. How often depends on the sale and the property. Certainly in the beginning until everyone trusts that phone calls will be returned and strategy will be discussed the calls or e-mails should be daily. There's a lot to do. But you have every right to expect this, I firmly believe.

Next you have the right to ask about experience. How much has the person worked in the field? When I first started out I knew very little, but of course I thought I knew a lot. I was lucky - I sold the first house I ever showed. But I needed help and was aided by the other people in the office. My clients caught on soon that "they were my first," as they said, but we persevered and fought off a multiple offer.

At RE/MAX 95% of the agents are professional. By that I mean that they are not new to the profession, they have worked elsewhere and work full-time at real estate. Other companies make it possible financially to be part of an agency but sell only one house, if that, a year. You need to answer your own question - Do I want a part-time or full-time real estate agent to handle my sale? If course part-time and new Realtors also have their plusses - they may have more time for you, may be "hungrier" than's all up to you and your level of comfort.

Primarily it is comfort that you must feel. It is a process that could take a while given the present market and your own goals. You need to sense confidence in the person to get the job done. You also need to be willing to engage in a business relationship. You are hiring this person. If you cringe every time the Realtor calls - that's not good! You are turning over your home to the care of this person. Think long and hard if you want him or her in your home for extended periods of time.

Years ago at the Waldorf School in Saratoga I learned about a philsophy that suggested that we treat each other as if we will have to spend eternity with them. I believe that if the agent to homeowner relationship is to succeed, the concept of eternity can be the remainder of our lives. It's not just a sale, a transaction, when a house is sold. It's not a two hour purchase of a refrigerator or even a car. It's a process, long or short, that can be wonderful but will certainly have its bumps along the way. You have to be willing to work with the person you hire, good times and bad.