Last week I pointed out the first half of the value REALTORS® provide their clients. As I alluded to at the end of part 1, those values are all items that should steer you away from agents who are not REALTORS® and also provide you the expectations you should have when you are dealing with a REALTOR®. However, I also promised you that I would show you what REALTORS® can REALLY do for you when selling your home.
Keep in mind, these are the minimums. Each professional has a different “Schedule A” which will provide their own contractual commitment to you. Because this Schedule A is often written by someone else in their office (a broker, or someone in the head office), you will usually see most differences between different firms – with some additions made by the individual REALTOR®. Part of the reason I chose my brokerage was based on their strength of this document.
So, the question remains, how will a REALTOR® help me through the buying or selling process? Apart from what was already stated last week, what am I really paying for?
For starters, we are educators. I mean this is in the most positive sense of the word. We don’t just tell you what we think you should hear. We listen to your concerns, we ask questions to find out the details of your situation (financial, personal dynamics, expectations etc.), and we explain the real estate process based on your circumstances. This knowledge comes from experience, from research (I allot several hours of my work week solely to researching the market numbers), and business development courses which provide the most up to date information on real estate contracts, product knowledge, technology updates, and much more (which, of course, aren’t free).
Get your REALTOR® to explain how they came up with their market analysis of your property and make sure they provide you with their honest interpretation of the current market, specific to your area. If they don’t know what is going on in your neighbourhood, they shouldn’t sell your house. They should have a current statistic package provided to them by their real estate board, ask them what the numbers mean – their job is to understand these numbers and communicate their meaning to you.
While we are always enthusiastic to tell you about our marketing plans (the basics are usually the same, but the execution can differ quite radically), we MUST somehow put that marketing plan into our Schedule A so we can carry out those promises to you. There is no minimum requirement forcing a real estate professional to actually do any marketing, but at bare minimum, a REALTOR® puts your home on the MLS®. The Multiple Listing Service is NOT Realtor.ca, but is a powerful tool, now completely online, for REALTORS® to share legitimate, accurate, credible information, including the confidential information that is legally protected for your benefit. In a hot market, sometimes this is enough. I’ve seen places in Vancouver sell over asking price without even a picture or any marketing whatsoever. This is rare and not the case in most markets.
Get your REALTOR® to show you their detailed Schedule A. This should include marketing options such as print advertising, online advertising, social media, inter-office networking, agent tours, floor plans, virtual tours, open houses, professional signage, etc. The point is to get as many people looking at your property as possible. If there are 100 people looking at properties like yours, we want to get at least 10 in your home, and out of that 10, we want 1 good offer. Effective marketing will increase the odds.
Also in a REALTOR®’s Schedule A are other obligations, such as providing an accurate market analysis of your property (there is a bit of a game here – are you going to listen to an accurate assessment or are you going to go with the agent that gives you the highest list price? – more on that another week). A good REALTOR® will give a review of the property with suggestions and may even provide a home stager to come give a professional opinion. A REALTOR® will respond to buyer and REALTOR® inquiries with professionalism and show your home or arrange private showing times so that you don’t need to take time away from work. This itself is a major reason why homeowners who attempt to sell their home by themselves do not manage to sell, or do sell and end up losing money (more on this another week).
A good REALTOR® will also qualify their own buyers or keep in contact with a buyer’s REALTOR® to gauge the credibility behind an incoming offer – this can be very important when dealing with longer than average subject removals. Again, make sure all this, something similar is promised in your REALTOR®’s Schedule A – BEFORE LISTING YOUR PROPERTY!
Moving on, and this is where you’ll need to use your common sense, you need an agent who can negotiate. This doesn’t mean the agent is a slick talker. You want an agent who balances getting the deal done while maintaining the primacy of your interests. Selling your property for a discount price may get the deal done and the agent paid, but it may not be in your best interest to do so. So check your trust-o-meter going into business, because the negotiation is where your agent is your greatest asset. Your trusted REALTOR® will explain his/her opinion of an incoming offer, but must follow your instructions. Your REALTOR® can explain why he/she thinks a certain course of action will put you in the best position, but will follow your instruction and negotiate base on that decision. The best REALTORS® will find the data that will backup your decision to the best of their abilities.
Negotiation skills are directly tied to a REALTOR®’s ability to write a proper contract. Words mean [almost] nothing. If it isn’t in writing, it is nearly impossible to enforce. Make sure your REALTOR® explains what they are putting into that Addendum and why. Too many subjects may scare away the other party, too few may not protect you. Ambiguous terms may leave you (and your agent) liable for damages should something go wrong. Terms should be rock solid.
Finally, there are completion and post-completion services. Most offices that I know of streamline this process, but it is up to your REALTOR® do take the load off your back (which is where the industry has helped lower conveyancing costs), pass along the information required and address any possession problems that may arise, making sure that the contract is properly fulfilled. The REALTOR®’s liability is perpetual and they remain the conduit between all parties. You should never find yourself knocking on the door of the house you just sold 6 months ago with some sort of legal documentation.
Be protected, get the most money for your property, get a faster sale, use a REALTOR®.