I often get questions about the difference between real estate agents that represent listings as opposed to those who represent buyers. There is an impression that most agents are specialists in either selling or buying properties. While this can be true for some agents, I pride myself on being an expert in all aspects of real estate transactions which goes beyond just selling or purchasing homes. I’m a seller’s agent AND and buyer’s agent!
To help elucidate the role that a realtor plays through the lifetime of a client relationship, this article details what great agents do on both sides of a transaction, and what you should look for when considering representation regardless of where you are in your real estate journey.
In this 2 part article I’ll first cover the details of a listing agent’s responsibilities, followed by a second post to discuss what to look for in a buyer’s agent.
Most people are aware of the basic role that a listing agent plays when a homeowner wants to sell their property. They prepare the property for sale, market the listing to prospective buyers, and help negotiate the terms of the sale with the buyer’s representative. To give more color to the process let’s look at these steps in detail and also outline some things that many people are unaware of when looking for exceptional listing representation.
A seller’s agent makes recommendations on improvements to prepare a home for sale that will minimize the investment for the owner and maximize the final sale price. Most suggestions will be focused on improving the aesthetic appeal of the property, not investing in infrastructure upgrades. Typical recommendations include things like painting, landscaping, light remodeling (new kitchen countertops, refinishing floors, updated bathroom tiling, etc.), and high quality staging.
An exceptional seller’s agent will also provide wraparound project management services and have a stable of qualified vendors to provide cost-effective services in each of the recommended improvement areas.
Before any buyer can consider making an offer on a newly listed home, they will want to review home and inspection reports along with any other seller disclosures. Shockingly, many listing agents will bring a house to the market without having all the required disclosure documentation available for buyers to access. This effectively truncates the marketing period and forces buyers to make quick decisions with incomplete information. A truly professional listing agent will always have a complete set of disclosures available BEFORE the house is posted to the multiple listing service (MLS).
Setting an appropriate listing price is one of the most important tasks your seller’s agent will perform. A price that is too low may signal there is something wrong with the property or will attract offers that are much less than a seller might want to accept. Pricing the property too high will reduce the number of offers from prospective buyers and could lead to a listing sitting on the market for a longer period of time, thus becoming ‘stale’.
To thread the needle and price appropriately involves a detailed quantitative analysis of the comparable homes in the area as well as a deep understanding of local customs and buyer expectations. An exemplary comparative market analysis (CMA) will include:
- Similar homes that have sold within the past 3-6 months.
- Listings that are similar and already in escrow but have not yet closed. Also, a great agent will have close relationships with other agents and can discover what the actual sold prices are for pending listings, even before the transaction has closed and posted to the MLS.
- Active listings of comparable properties in the local neighborhood. This can help inform the list price as sellers will want to price as competitively as possible without going too low.
The art of accurate pricing is a combination of excellent quantitative analysis, strong agent relationships, and an intuitive sense of the state of the market borne from years of experience.
All homes are not the same, particularly in the eclectic Berkeley real estate market. A customized, detailed, multi-channel marketing plan should be a part of your Realtor’s strategy and they should be prepared to share the details with you before bringing the home to market. Make sure they leave nothing to chance and include a detailed property marketing brief that describes the target buyer personas and outlines the strategy for social media content, email marketing, and digital advertising. Marketing materials should also include high quality photography, drone photographs, video tours, 3D walkthroughs, 2D illustrated floor plans, and enticing marketing copy. The marketing copy should be professionally written and emphasize the unique or historic characteristics of the property and align with the perceived needs of the buyer personas.
In addition, your agent should be tracking every metric related to your property sale which includes things like disclosure downloads, property website visits, digital advertising views and clicks, and anything else related to the marketing strategy. By tracking this data closely, your agent can identify which channels are performing well and double-down on investments to ensure the maximum amount of exposure for your property. This is one of the areas that separates the wheat from the chaff, so dig in to make sure your chosen agent can provide you with samples of prior marketing materials and performance reports to give you the confidence that they know what they are doing and won’t leave any stone unturned.
This is another area where your seller’s agent will earn their commission. Price is not the only consideration to take into account. Look for your agent to highlight details of the offer including the amount of financing, any contingencies, the escrow term, the quality of the written offer itself (are there typos or missing information in the Residential Purchase Agreement), and the reputation of both the buyer’s agent and the lender.
Oftentimes the highest priced offer is not the BEST offer. The best offer is the one that is most likely to close without headaches. The worst case scenario is to find yourself relisting your home after a buyer falls out of contract because they cannot perform the terms of their offer due to failed financing. Your agents should advise you on these risks and help you select the best offer given the available data.
Escrow and Closing
In California, the escrow process is generally handled by the title company, but that doesn’t mean your agent won’t play an important role throughout the escrow period. A diligent agent will meet the buyer’s appraiser at the property with a set of market comparables to help ensure a fair and accurate appraisal value. They will stay in close touch with the escrow officer and lender to make sure all loan and closing documents are on schedule. They will keep you apprised of the status of the closing process and answer any questions you might have about what happens next.
A great seller’s agent will stay fully engaged throughout the closing process and beyond and will remain a trusted advisor when you have questions about insurance, home improvement, interior design, vendors, taxes, or any number of other homeowner concerns.
If you or any of your friends or family are considering selling your home, please reach out for a personalized consultation. I can provide you with a free home valuation and discuss both your short and long-term real estate and financial goals. I’d love to help you and put my proven approach into practice for your family!