To the uninitiated, it can seem that real estate agents do little. They snap a few photos, throw the images up online and take your money for letting other agents show their clients around your home. So, with the increasing profile of for sale by owner sites and the slowing down of the housing market reducing home sale profits, do you even need a real estate agent to help sell your home anymore?
A real estate agent will advise you about the best way to present your home, the most appropriate sale price for the current market, and how to negotiate the sales contract. Not only that, but they have access to an extensive network of buyers and the professionals involved in the home sale process, people who you would never have access to otherwise.
It’s easy to say that a real estate agent will help sell your home, but general terms don’t help you make an informed decision. So, let’s look at exactly what a real estate agent does to help you sell your home.
To Help You Sell Your Home, A Real Estate Agent Will:
#1 Provide General Housing Market And Specific Pricing Advice
The real estate market is much more than complex than just how much homes are selling for today. A real estate agent will know:
- How prices fluctuate throughout the year in your community.
- The difference in prices from neighborhood to neighborhood.
- How national, state, regional, and local politics will affect prices.
- How many other homes are for sale in your neighborhood and which ones your home will compete with.
- What buyers are looking for in your neighborhood.
Because of this market knowledge, a real estate agent can help you decide when to put your home on the market and at what price point to market it.
This impartial advice can reduce the amount of time your home is on the market while maximizing the sales price.
Without an impartial party to advise a seller about sales price, homeowners can put their home on the market at a price so high it prevents potential buyers coming to view it. Yes, pricing a little higher and being happy to take an offer can be an effective strategy but if your advertised price is too high, you won’t get anyone over the threshold.
#2 Help Ready Your Home For Market
It can come as a surprise to many sellers that how they live does not appeal to all of the people that come to view their home. From the decor and furnishings to how we use rooms, a real estate agent can help a seller optimize their space and appeal to the widest pool of buyers at the best price.
This “Ready For Market” expertise isn’t confined to what we would usually think of as home staging either. Yes, a real estate agent might advise you to return the room in which you’ve set up your home office to the bedroom it once was but there’s more. When we live with things such as cracked tiles, mismatched cabinet handles, or other minor defects, we become blind to them and may not think to fix them before showing our homes.
Another example of this that people are often unaware of is the smell of your home. A dog owner may be “nose blind” to the aroma of their four-legged friend, but if the first impression a buyer has of your home is a furry funk, they are unlikely to be overly impressed.
In addition, if your property is empty or partially empty a real estate agent can help by either renting and staging furniture and decorations to help the home look lived in and appealing, or contract a professional home stager to do it for you.
#3 Professionally And Appropriately Market Your Home
The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is rarely truer than when it applies to real estate. On top of that, one or two good quality photographs are worth more than two dozen oddly framed, low-quality pictures of the things you think are important but which are irrelevant to potential buyers.
In addition, as technology evolves more and more potential buyers are expecting to see a video, drone footage, or 360-degree views of a home and as a result, your quickly snapped phone pictures are just not going to cut it.
Even if you can produce an appropriate set of photographs, you have to write appropriate, legally compliant descriptions to go with them.
Legally compliant? Where does that come in?
In most states, you can get away with language such as “an ideal first home for the DIY enthusiast” to describe a rough around the edges fixer-upper, using the same phrase to describe a home which needs professional electrical, plumbing, structural, etc work moves into the realm of misrepresentation.
Only a professional real estate agent can upload the full details of your property to the MLS and have it appeal to the widest possible audience, despite what the “Flat Fee” MLS listing services would have you believe.
And something that is often overlooked is the key phrase “Potential Buyers.” There is a significant difference between putting some photographs of your home in front of the eyeballs of as many people as possible and focussing your time and effort in getting those same images in front of the people who may be interested and qualified to buy your home.
#4 Pre-Qualify Potential Buyers
Not every seller thinks about the need to check that potential buyers are qualified to buy your home. However, when you work with a real estate agent, they are likely to ensure anyone who comes to your home to take a look around is, at least on paper, in a position to make a serious offer on your home, should they wish too.
If you do not work with a real estate agent, it is your responsibility to ensure anyone who comes to look at your home can, in theory, afford to buy your home should they want to. This can take up a significant chunk of your time and if you choose not to check out your potential buyer’s qualifications, brace yourself for a parade of the curious lookie-loos to pass through your home, with no intention of making an offer.
Not only that, but unless you know what to look for – how would you ensure a potential buyer was qualified to purchase your property? Unless you demand a prequalification letter before booking a viewing appointment, you are unlikely to be able to do so.
#5 Provide A Degree Of Safety and Security
A parallel, yet distinctly separate issue is your personal safety and the security of your home and belongings. As a general rule, working with a real estate agent you can assume that the people coming to view your home are genuine buyers whose intention is to look for their next home.
And while it is not impossible for a criminal to pose as a buyer, or for a buyer to also be a criminal, the likelihood of the couple who viewed your home yesterday returning in the dead of night to break in and make off with your valuables in minimal.
This point is especially true when it comes to holding open houses. Many real estate agents have stopped holding open houses as the return on investment is minimal and only a microscopic proportion of homes are sold through one.
On the other hand, someone selling their home without the help of a real estate agent may believe they can throw open their doors safely when in fact it is well known that thieves can attend open houses not only to “case the joint” with an eye to a burglary at a later date but they may attend on the off chance they can pocket themselves some goodies on their way around your home.
Without a real estate agent, there is a greater risk you could invite someone with nefarious intentions into your home.
#6 Alert You To Issues With Your Home
I have already touched on how a real estate agent can help point out issues before you place your home on the active market, but did you know a real estate agent can also help once potential buyers have begun to view your home?
Once you have your home on the market your real estate professional will usually follow up with buyers, and not just to see if they are interested in purchasing your home. Realtors will also enquire as to the reasons why someone is not interested in placing an offer on your home.
Often this feedback is in the “it’s just not what we are looking for” ballpark but if there is an issue which is turning off buyers your real estate agent is more likely to find out than you. A buyer may not mind telling your agent that your color scheme and the replica Greek temple in your garden were a turnoff, but they are less likely to be comfortable telling you that to your face.
A real estate agent will also be able to take the feedback from buyers and provide you with constructive, actionable advice to address the issues. On the other hand, being told by someone who has just walked around your home that they could never live in a property that is so multi-colored that it looks like it has been vomited out of the belly of a unicorn is only likely to offend. It doesn’t provide you with any advice on how to address the issue so that it stops turning buyers off.
#7 Bring More Potential Buyers To Your Home
Although there are a growing number of websites on which you can advertise your home for sale, there is nothing like a professional network, built up over years, to get the details of your home out to as many potential buyers as possible.
Many buyers do not have the time and or interest in trawling through websites looking for homes that may meet their requirements and they have limited time in which to view homes. As a result, many are reliant on their buyer’s agents to whittle down the pack and your seller’s agent has access to those buyers agents – access you will not have. So, if you do not use an agent you are potentially excluding an entire segment of your potential buyers.
#8 Takes On The Time Burden
One thing that comes as a shock to many sellers is just how much time selling your home eats up.
Time is needed to review comparables, market your home, coordinate buyers, manage the offer to purchase and negotiations, keep other professionals in the process up to date and in the loop, and to bring the sale in on time.
Selling a home can be a full-time job. The person whose full-time job it is, ie a real estate agent, can help you do all of this effectively AND have a life outside of the sales process.
#9 Stay On Top Of The Paperwork
Selling a home involves more than just signing on the dotted line at closing. From reviewing the details of the offer and ensuring the contract meets your needs and requirements to overseeing the inspection and escrow reports and making sure that the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed in the final paperwork, your real estate agent does it all.
Or maybe the administrator or real estate transaction coordinator will do the paperwork – but you get the idea!
#10 Coordinate With Other Professionals
Those same people who are generating all of your home sale paperwork need a point person who will know what is going on. That point person is your real estate agent. They are the cushion between the homeowner and all the people who need to access the home for viewings, inspections, possible repairs and a myriad of other reasons.
A real estate agent’s network and professional relationships also come into play again at this stage. So, for example, if a potential buyer is concerned about the costs of repairs on how much it would take to carry out renovations should they purchase your home, your real estate agent is likely to know a builder who can come in at short notice, walk around with the would-be buyers, and provide advice about costs. This can make the difference between a sale going ahead and a sale falling through, especially in a buyer’s market.
#11 Provide Legal Guidance
What do you do when a problem crops up with your land title? Or maybe there will be a question over what you are or are not obliged to leave behind when you move out? These are just two countless, thorny legal questions that can appear from nowhere when you are selling a home. Your real estate agent can help by steering you away from any legal curveballs. Not only that, but a real estate agent can help you deal with issues and remain in compliance with the law.
Having said that.
In some states, a lawyer is required as part of the sales process and so the direct help of a real estate agent or the referral to a lawyer by a real estate agent may not be needed. However, even in the case of a “you must have a lawyer as part of your property transaction” states, a real estate agent can help you by translating information for legal-speak to language that a regular person can understand, as well as explaining what it all means and the impacts it may have on you and your sale.
#12 Bring The Sale In On Time
In most property sales, the buyer and seller are the only people in the mix who have just one transaction on their plate. For everyone else, it is likely that your sale is one of many they are juggling.
Without someone to chase up the other players, you could find yourself with a closing date that is seen as advisory rather than set in stone. A Realtor helps by checking everything happens as planned and on schedule so you can complete your sale as expected.
Not everyone knows or appreciates just how much a real estate agent does to help you sell your home.
A professional real estate agent is so much more than someone who sticks a sign on your front lawn, uploads a post to the MLS and sits back and waits to collect their commission. Real estate agents are part administrators, part marketers, part legal advisors, part counselors, and in some cases, it would seem they are also part magician, bringing home a sale when it seems all hope is lost!
From the moment you begin to work together until you move onto the next chapter, a real estate agent is there to help you.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.