The Role of Your Agent
Real estate agents know how to sell homes. Successful sales balance four components: the market, price, condition of the house, and exposure. Because agents know about market trends and the other houses in your neighborhood, they’re well equipped to play up your home’s advantages and downplay disadvantages. Plus, agents:
Have access to people who are most likely to buy your home
Are trained in areas like pre-qualifying potential buyers and negotiating with them
Will list your property in the MLS so anyone worldwide can find it
Are always "on-call"—they work weekends and answer the phone at all hours
We like to think good training and experience make the best agents. But the truth is, not every agent is right for every seller. We suggest using this simple formula to help decide whether an agent will work well for you:
COMPETENCE + COMFORT = CONFIDENCE
Competence: When you first meet with an agent, expect to see a portfolio of credentials, past achievements, sales volume and letters of recommendation. Look for evidence that his or her background is relevant to your needs; that is, someone whose portfolio includes success with houses in your price range, preferably in your neighborhood.
Comfort: The importance of being comfortable with your agent as a person cannot be overstated. You're going to be dealing with this individual on a regular basis, maybe for months, during a time that can be trying. Your agent will share the tension, anticipation, frustration and ultimately joy of selling your house.
It takes a combination of these two characteristics to inspire the confidence a homeowner needs to maintain peace of mind through the selling process. This is something I strive for.
Talk to friends, neighbors, relatives or anyone else whose recommendation you trust.
When to Contact an Agent
You should connect with a qualified agent as soon as you decide to sell your home. There are always buyers looking, and the agent is your bridge to those buyers. While the number of buyers remains relatively constant, they tend to act when a new property with high value comes up for sale. Timing is key, and a good agent is able to act quickly.
Peak selling seasons vary in different parts of the country, often dictated by weather. Late spring and early fall are prime listing seasons because houses tend to "show" better in those months. And of course, people like to do their house shopping in pleasant weather.
But keep in mind that there are also more houses on the market during peak seasons, which means you'll have more competition. While there is seasonality in the real estate market, it shouldn’t completely dictate your decision of when to sell.
Even if you're under no pressure to sell, waiting for particular market conditions is not likely to increase your profit potential. While you’re waiting for conditions to improve, you are continuing to make mortgage payments, insurance payments, HOA payments if applicable, and home repairs. This increases the amount of money you invest in your home while the price of your next home may also be increasing.