Choose a Real Estate Agent You Like and Price Right

When thinking about buying or selling property, priorities begin to form. Generally, buyers focus on finding a home with many of the features they want, at a price they can afford. For sellers, price, commission and preparing the house for sale are important. But then what?

It’s been said that sellers set the price and, to a degree, that’s true—but sellers who influence prices are the ones who have recently sold, setting a benchmark for what buyers expect to pay. Other key factors impact sales and they include current market conditions, interest rates and inventory.

Many buyers and sellers research properties on the computer and the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island provides an excellent website,, which contains a wealth of information including size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, taxes, pictures and even some virtual tours. Hamptons Real Estate Online (HREO) offers a similar site for homes on the East End and in New York.

If you haven’t performed upgrades in about 20 years and you can see on the computer that most of the other houses for sale nearby have been upgraded, or you’re competing with a lot of new construction, then these will affect your price.

And in your information gathering, read newspapers. You’re laying the groundwork for a great transaction; the more you know the better.

If you’re the seller, visit a few open houses for ideas on staging your home. You might pick up hints on what not to do, too.

As for commission, when you hire real estate salespeople, you’re not only paying for their time, but for their expertise and the reputation and support of the firm they represent. How can you evaluate the firm? Do they have a positive presence in the community? Do they actively support local organizations and participate in fundraisers, parades and the like? Do they have a strong marketing strategy? Do they support their salespeople by advertising in newspapers in addition to a variety of websites? Do they have a record of selling homes within a reasonable timeframe? Do the print ads present the homes attractively or are they so tiny you can hardly see them?

Whether you hire a salesperson through family, friends or by calling several firms to interview, you should be confident that they also know the inventory and are skilled negotiators. If you object to the commission, do they fold like a rug? Will they sell your house at the highest price possible, or again, acquiesce? And remember, the commission not only compensates your agent and his firm but if another agency’s salesperson produces the buyer, then a portion is paid to her and her agency too.

And if you believe you found the right salesperson, be open to their recommendations. They should ask what you’ve done in terms of improvements and consider them when determining the list price for your home. But if you insist on a price significantly higher than the “comparables” support, one of three things will happen. The agent will: 1) thank you for your time but decline the listing because she knows it won’t sell near your price and a year later you’ll be unhappy 2) take the listing and hope someone falls in love with the house, has no idea what comparable homes sell for and doesn’t care (unlikely) or 3) take the listing and hope with little or no traffic, you’ll agree the price is too high and reduce it.

It’s good to note, most homes actually sell twice: first to the buyer and then, if the purchase is financed, to the bank appraiser. Appraisers base their values on the “comps” too.

Your salesperson should recommend having a broker’s open house in addition to one or more consumer open houses. Some agents provide lunch—not quite on the scale of Million Dollar Listings, but the agent is asking other salespeople to find time in their workday to preview her/his listing (versus someone else’s) and that’s important because many agents have buyers they’re already working with.

When another agent schedules an appointment to show your home, not all listing agents attend, but those who do recognize the importance of being present to insure that strong features in the home are not passed over during the buyer’s tour.

Tell your salesperson how often you expect updates. Some agents don’t like contacting clients unless they receive an offer and that’s not good. Ongoing communication is generally productive.

So clear the clutter, spruce up the lawn, hire an agent and, when you least expect it, someone will offer to buy your nice house at the right price. And then…start packing!

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