Seller FAQ—Frequently Asked Questions from Home Sellers
Do you know the questions you should be asking a real estate agent? If you are selling your home, chances are you have some questions. If you didn’t, you would be very unusual. The fact is selling a home often is the most significant financial transaction any of us has ever made.
There is a lot of money involved, which means you don’t want to mess anything up if you can avoid it. As a long-term Realtor, I have fielded my fair share of questions from sellers. Here are some of the most common ones I have been asked and answers to those questions.
By asking the right questions, you’ll hopefully avoid some of the common home selling mistakes. Grab a cup of coffee and dig in.
1. How does the market look right now?
Without a doubt, one of the most popular questions among consumers is how is the real estate market doing. Even if you are not going to be selling a house anytime soon, people that know you are a real estate agent will ask this question. It’s the kind of thing most homeowners are curious about. After all, for most people, their home is their most tremendous asset.
Unless you are a professional agent—which if you were, you wouldn’t have these questions—you are unlikely to have your finger fully on the pulse of the local real estate market. There are simply too many factors to be aware of and too many shifting variables to keep track of. Market knowledge is one of the biggest reasons to hire a reputable Realtor.
An excellent real estate agent can give you lots of valuable information about the local market. Not only that, he or she can help you understand what all that information means to you and your sale.
Your agent should be able to tell you about the current days on the market of homes for sale, market absorption rates, average sale price and more. Knowledge is power. In real estate, market knowledge is essential, so be sure to do your homework.
2. When should I sell my home?
This is one of my favorite questions from home sellers. Why? I will answer honestly while most agents will always say “right now.” It is still easy to spot an agent that gives advice based on what’s best for them.
Of course, you want to sell when you are likely to get the best possible results. But when is that? The answer is complicated. Generally speaking, the best time to sell is when you are ready. There are advantages to selling in every season, in spite of what some agents may try to tell you.
Spring is undoubtedly considered most ideal in a lot of circles, but that does not mean you can’t get great results in summer, winter, and fall. You just need an agent who knows how to sell year-round. They are out there, so if you want and need to sell in a season that isn’t’ spring, know that you can do so and be happy with the results.
You can learn the tips for selling a house in each of the seasons of the year. Whether you are selling in the spring, summer, fall or winter, you’ll get some excellent advice for each of the time frames you might choose to sell your property.
3. How do I get my home ready to sell?
An excellent question for any seller to ask a Realtor is “what should I do to get my house ready for the market?” There is a lot of work to be done before you list your home.
Everything must be done behind the scenes before you give buyers the opportunity to look at your home and start asking questions. That way, when you finally open the doors, you are prepared to make a sale then and there—and don’t need to do a bunch of stuff that you overlooked.
Your agent is the best-qualified person to help you identify what needs to be done before you sell. Keep in mind that every home is different, so the advice you get for your home might be different than the information another seller would get.
That being said, there are some things that almost every seller needs to do. These include:
- Clean things up. No one wants to buy a dirty house. Or, in reality, only bargain seekers are going to be highly interested in a cluttered, messy home, because they assume they can get a great deal from an as-is seller. If you want reasonable offers, you need to remove clutter and clean thoroughly.
- Make needed repairs. Broken door handles, missing tiles, stained carpets—there are probably several little jobs that need to be done around your house before you list it. The more of these small, cheap fixes you make, the more desirable your home will be. Proper home maintenance shows you care for your property. There may also be big jobs that need to be done. Wait to talk to your agent before you invest in any major repairs, just to be sure that doing so will benefit your sale as you expect. Doing your part before the home is listed for sale is also a side benefit for being ready for the house inspection.
- Take great pictures. The photos on your listing are the first thing that most buyers are going to see. You want them to be good, and it takes talent and practice to produce those kinds of pictures. Your agent should either be skilled at taking real estate pictures or know someone who is. That way your listing looks as good as possible and shows the best side of your home. See some great tips for shooting your real estate photos.
4. Can I use real estate websites to set the perfect price for my home?
No, you can’t. There are several trendy real estate websites out there now that offer pricing options for sellers. They draw on massive databases to give you an idea of your home’s value currently. While they are undoubtedly useful for getting a general idea of your home’s value, they are not sufficient for pricing a home for sale.
Pricing a home to sell in a reasonable time frame and for the best possible price is both an art and a science. It requires up-to-the-minute market knowledge of what is going on at a local level, and it requires a feel for how your home compares to other similar homes in your market. A website algorithm cannot substitute for a skilled real estate agent.
In my daily life as a real estate agent, I find many homeowners who under the mistaken belief that what Zillow says their home is worth is the actual value. No, it is not! In fact, the amount they display on their website could be off by tens of thousands of dollars. When you are selling a home, you can’t afford to be off on your price. It is the most critical factor in selling a home.
5. How do you figure out the value of my house?
What real estate agents do and what appraisers do are a bit different. The result, however, is getting to what a buyer will most likely pay for a property. Both appraisers and real estate agents use what’s called comparable sales or “comps” to determine fair market value. Real Estate agents will perform what’s called a comparative market analysis.
More than likely the report generated will include the following:
- Closest homes in similarity that have sold in close proximity to the property.
- Similar homes that are currently under contract but haven’t closed yet.
- Competing properties that are currently for sale in the general price point.
The most important data is what has sold. The least important is what is currently for sale. The price for these homes can change at a moments notice. You never want to hang your hat on what someone thinks their home is worth.
The analysis that your real estate agent performs will compare your house to other properties that have sold. The evaluation will include the following points of interest.
- The size of the home, or more commonly what’s referred to as the square footage. While size is a crucial variable, unskilled agents will use this as the end all be all in comping properties. Using square footage to value properties is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
- The style of the home – for example, is it a colonial, contemporary or a raised ranch.
- The number of bedrooms.
- The number of bathrooms.
- The condition of the property.
- The amenities such as central air, central vac, alarm system, sprinkler system and a whole host of others that affect value.
- The age of the house.
- Ages of mechanical and structural components such as roof, heating and cooling systems.
- The desirability of the lot.
- The appeal of the neighborhood or school district.
6. How are list price and sale price different?
The list price is the price you list the home for sale. It is the reasonable goal you set for your sale, one you hope to get close to as you make the transaction. The sale price is the price that you actually sell the home for, after negotiations. A terrific agent should be able to help you set a price that will be close to the sale price.
A word of caution – many less desirable real estate agents will present their market analysis to sellers without giving a seller a list and sale price. Your real estate agent should be setting proper expectations from day one.
The best agents will suggest you list at X with a probable sale price of Y. One of the most essential skills of a real estate agent is accurate pricing. Agents who are worth their salt will be on the money with the price.
7. Does assessed value have anything to do with market value?
NO! NO! And no! Assessed value has nothing to do with market value. The assessed value is nothing more than a figure the local municipality uses to collect the appropriate amount of taxes.
Uneducated real estate agents will often confuse the public when they make statements like “come see this absolute steal that is listed below the assessed value.” Big deal! Don’t be suckered by this kind of nonsense.
See what’s the difference between market value and assessed value to better understand this topic.
8. Should I price my home high, so I have wiggle room for negotiations?
One of the most popular questions a seller will ask a Realtor pertains to pricing and negotiating room.
Leaving room for negotiations is one of the biggest home pricing myths in real estate. There is a lot of unnecessary risks that come from pricing a home too high. While you may think that you are giving yourself room to negotiate, too high a price is more likely to drive off potential buyers.
The longer you have the home on the market due to a high price, the more of a stigma that home develops. If the price is too high, you may not get any offers and be forced to relist the house for a lower price. When this happens, your home will certainly be viewed as a problem home by many buyers. Why else did you have to lower the price?
Instead of pricing high, price right. Work with your agent to find the perfect price.
9. What commission do you charge?
It is essential for you to find out what commission the real estate agent will be charging. You might be thinking that is would be great if you can find an agent who will charge a lower rate than everyone else. Unfortunately, the commission split really matters when you are selling a home. It is imperative that a buyer’s agent wants to sell your house!
If all the homes you’re competing against have higher commission splits, guess what happens? Fewer agents will want to sell your house. The bottom line is you will NOT save money. Instead, you will probably net less. Don’t make this foolish home selling mistake.
10. How long is your contract?
Real Estate contracts can vary from agent to agent and company to company. As a general rule, most contracts fall somewhere between three to six months. You will find that homes in price points that take longer to sell usually have more extended contract periods.
Some agents may offer a guarantee that if you are not satisfied, you can escape the contract. Most, however, do not let you cancel a contract just because the home hasn’t sold.
11. When will you be doing an open house?
Many homeowners think that an open house is an essential marketing activity. They are not! Who can blame a seller though when a significant percentage of real estate agents promote them like they are necessary to sell a home.
You see all the open house signs around town and think this must be important. WRONG!
The dirty little secret in real estate is that open houses benefit real estate agents, not home sellers. Any serious buyer is going to schedule a showing with an agent. Open houses do not sell homes.
What they do is bring people into your home that doesn’t belong. Why would you want to have unqualified buyers walking through your door? Worse yet why would you want to dramatically increase the odds something will be stolen from your house? Outstanding real estate agents always discuss the pros and cons of holding an open house.
12. Will you only be representing me in the transaction?
When hiring a real estate agent, one of the most important questions to get an answer to is whether they will be representing you exclusively. Some real estate agents practice dual agency which has been banned in a handful of states and should be made illegal everywhere.
If you allow dual agency your real estate agent will become a neutral party in the transaction. They will no longer be in your corner to get you the best terms and conditions in the sale. In fact, the only benefit in dual agency goes to the real estate agent who will be collecting double the commission.
In dual agency, the real estate agent has the incentive to close the sale whether it benefits you or not. Reject dual agency!
13. What will you be doing to sell my house?
Finding out precisely what your real estate agent is going to be doing to sell your house is another critical question. Every real estate agent has a broad range of services they offer. Some agents do an exceptional job at marketing and others who little to nothing but put your home in the multiple listing service (MLS).
Hiring the post and pray real estate agent will usually lead to a lack of success. You want a comprehensive real estate marketing plan that is designed to sell a home quickly for the most money. Accept nothing less.
14. Do you have contractors you can recommend for work needed on the house?
A real estate agent wears many hats in a sale. Any agent who has been in the business for a while will have a list of contractors that can help prepare for a home sale. It is not uncommon for real estate agents to refer sellers to many different vendors including:
- General carpenters or handyman
- Electricians or plumbers
- Home Stagers
14. What should I do to prepare for showings?
One of the most crucial aspects of selling a home is the buyer’s first impression. There are some simple things you can do to ensure the buyer feels good about your house. These include:
- Making sure the home is clean and tidy. Removing all excess clutter is essential. You want the home to feel as spacious as possible.
- Make sure all of the curtains are drawn, and the home is getting good natural sunlight.
- Turn on lights in any areas of the home that could use a bit of additional light.
Here are some additional home showing tips that are worth reading.
15. Will you be accompanying the showing?
It is advisable not to have the listing agent present during a showing. Buyers and their agents want to be able to speak freely during a showing. They don’t want a seller’s agent hovering around. Keep in mind having your agent present is not going to make one bit of difference. Real Estate agents do not talk people into buying homes.
Additionally, if your real estate agent has all the time in the world to be at every showing, you haven’t hired the best agent. Sellers also ask if they can be present for showings – the answer is NO. You should not be around. Let the buyer walk through unencumbered.
16. Will you be representing me at the home inspection?
There is a percentage of real estate agents that try to get away with doing as little as possible during a real estate transaction. The home inspection is a milestone your real estate agent should be attending. They will be there to observe and listen. The inspection is for the buyer’s benefit. However, that doesn’t mean your agent shouldn’t be there.
Home inspectors and buyer’s quite often exaggerate home inspection issues. What’s said in person by a home inspector is quite often different than what is put in the paper. The home inspection report can be a big CYA that makes every minor issue look like the house is a lemon.
Proper representation means understanding how big or small the issues are.
17. How much do I have to disclose to buyers?
When it comes to selling your home, honesty is generally the best policy. There are several reasons for the honest approach. First, your state likely has real estate disclosure laws that require you to report any significant issues you know about with the home—especially if you are asked about those issues. It’s important to ask your agent about disclosure in your state.
In some locations, it is caveat emptor or “let the buyer beware.” What this means is you don’t have to disclose problems, but you do need to answer questions honestly.
In states where disclosure is mandatory, you avoid the risk of a potential lawsuit by disclosing known issues. If you were to not reveal a problem to a buyer, that buyer could come back after the sale and sue you for failure to disclose.
One thing you should keep in mind about disclosure: Disclosure laws in real estate generally require you to answer questions honestly about significant issues—not to give a laundry list of minor problems to every possible buyer.
You may not like the way your garbage disposal works, but if it works, you don’t have to tell buyers about your feelings. You can go overboard with telling buyers about problems. If you have a question about an issue and disclosing that issue, ask your agent. Your Realtor can give you targeted advice to protect you and your sale.
18. How will you be communicating with me?
One of the most vital things when hiring a real estate agent is proper communication. The agent you hire should ask up front how you prefer to keep in touch whether it is email, text or an old fashion phone call. The agent should be flexible enough to accommodate whatever mode of communication you prefer.
One other essential question to ask is if you will be getting feedback after showings. You want to know what the buyer thought about your home right? Skilled agents have systems in place, so they provide feedback after showings.
19. How do you handle offers?
The best scenario for any seller is to have multiple offers on their home. When you are in a strong seller’s market having a bidding war is not that uncommon. It is crucial to speak with your agent about how to deal with various offer scenarios.
Sometimes the best offer isn’t the highest offer. Keep that in mind. For example, if the highest bidder has a home sale contingency. A home sale contingency is something you want to avoid the vast majority of the time.
20. What happens if my home doesn’t appraise?
One of the things that can happen when you have multiple offers is your home sells for too much. The appraiser is unable to justify the price based on comparable sales data. Of course, there are times when an appraiser comes in low, and it isn’t justified.
In cases like these, you’ll need to know how to contest the appraisal. There are usually a couple of scenarios the rectify a low appraisal including the following:
- You challenge the evaluation, and it’s adjusted.
- The buyer makes up the difference by coming up with additional deposit funds.
- The worst case – you lower your price.
- A compromise – you lower the price some, and the buyer comes up with a larger down payment satisfying the lender.
As a home seller, it is vital to ask your real estate agent all of these types of questions. Homeowners who are educated about the selling process usually have the least amount of problems in a sale. Be sure to hire an agent who is going to go above and beyond your expectations.
So many sellers make mistakes choosing an agent. Have a set of real estate agent interview questions ready. By asking the right questions, you’ll improve your odds of working with an agent you love.
Never underestimate the importance of asking a real estate agent lots of questions.
Additional Helpful Home Selling Resources
- What renovations offer good ROI – see which improvements you can make before selling your home that will offer a safe return.
- How should I handle bids on my house – is there a right or wrong way to handle offers? There are certainly excellent practices of a real estate agent when it comes to negotiating. See some solid tips.
- Tips to get my house ready for the market – take a look at some outstanding advice when it comes to being prepared to list your home for sale.
- Have a smooth home inspection – Find ten excellent tips for ensuring your home inspection goes through without a hitch.
Use these additional articles to get more useful advice when you are selling your home.
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on frequently asked questions from home sellers was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 32+ years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.