1. Get Referrals

The best way to find a great realtor is ask for referrals from someone you trust on this topic, such as a neighbor who has recently hired a realtor, your lawyer or CPA. Or ask another realtor, one that is not focused on your part of town. Find and interview at least three referred realtors. Try to avoid using the services of family or friends that do not practice real estate in your neighborhood. Real estate is a “hyper-local” business. Be careful about using someone out of obligation – such as your best friend’s brother-in-law, who lives in another county. Or seeing an advertisement on your grocery cart. Carefully choose someone who is going to manage the biggest financial transaction of your life. You want a realtor who truly understands your goals and will help you reach them. Good listening is a skill that makes one realtor better than another. Part of their competency is knowing when to push you gently and when to respect your pace. Choose one based on competency, in-depth knowledge of your market, and someone you trust and like. I know many excellent realtors, so you can always request a referral from me!

2. Market Expertise

Interested buyers will ask about all the neighborhood issues, such as: what is being built near you, are there any environmental concerns, are all your needed utility services available from good providers (internet connectivity, power and gas, water and sewer, public safety, etc.), general condition of sewer lines, noise issues, special property taxes, the schools’ ratings (you may not have school age children but your buyers might). Your buyers will learn these things from their realtors and other sources, and your realtor should be prepared to address these things satisfactorily. Your realtor should also know all of the other realtors in your area and have a reputation as someone who is cooperative in a transaction.

3. What are the questions to ask in the interview?

When the realtors come to your home for the interview, they should always bring his/her own marketing plan for the home, a comparative market analysis (CMA) which provides the data on recent sales of comparable homes in your neighborhood, and a professional bio pointing to their experience working with seniors. The National Association of Realtors offers a special designation that a realtor earns through classes, testing and experience, called “Senior Real Estate Specialist”. This demonstrates the realtors’ commitment to seniors.

The CMA is the one of the most important tools for determining the listing price of the house in the current market. The realtor has chosen several properties that have sold in your area that are comparable to your house. You and the realtor can collaborate on this issue factoring in your timeline and market conditions. Pricing is an art and a skill. A good realtor should have a good “list to sell ratio”.

Again, all real estate is local so ask how many transactions they’ve accomplished with seniors in recent years in your neighborhood. If it has been several years since you purchased or sold a house, ask the interviewees how real estate is different for seniors, especially related to marketing your home, who potential buyers will be, how much foot traffic there will be through the house (especially if a resident is not well). Their answers should be specific and insightful, including the changes in real estate practices and your emotional challenges about selling your home.

Here are some questions for yourself:
Do they seem sympathetic to the emotional aspects for you?
Do they understand where you are moving to and how important are the proceeds that you will receive from the sale?
How quickly do I need the house to sell and can they do it?

And some interview questions for the realtors:

  • How long have you worked in your neighborhood? How many transactions have you completed in the past 2-5 years?
  • What is your List-to-Sell price ratio?
  • Do you have an assistant? Or do you do all the paper work?
  • Are you comfortable with handling paperwork in person vs by computer?
  • What do you do that is different than other agents?
  • What resources do you have to help me make the repairs?
  • Do you do the staging or do I have to hire someone?
  • What is your suggestion about all my belongings?
  • Are they non-judgmental about your furnishings which may be a bit older?
  • Should I sell my house first, or find my new home first?
  • I want to sell my house to a nice family. Can you make that happen?
  • Tell me about your philosophy and skills regarding negotiating the best price for me.
  • Dig deep about their negotiation skills. Contrary to a belief that realtors just want the highest price so that their commission is higher, what realtors really want is for transactions to close. The highest possible price is not necessarily their goal. Be sure to communicate your financial goals and determine if they are the right negotiator for you. And of course, you need it to close, too!

4. Check Their Reviews

Internet services such as Yelp or Google My Business can provide others’ experiences with realtors. Look up the ones you plan to interview. If you see something you don’t like, ask them about it when you meet. There is often a decent explanation.

5. Ask the Real Estate Broker

If you’re not getting enough good referrals, call the local real estate brokerages and speak to the broker-of-record. Ask him/her who in the office works primarily with seniors and who they think would be a good match for you.

6. NO on For Sale by owner (FSBO)

Sellers, Do It Yourself (DIY) might be the greatest idea when it comes to refinishing furniture and making crafts but doing your own real estate transaction is a fool’s errand. Unless you have been trained in how to conduct real estate transactions, For Sale By Owner (FSBO) is probably the worst way to garner the home’s full value, ensure a proper and legal closing, and the least likely way to have a smooth transaction.

First, it places all of the liability on you, the seller (for years). There are many laws designed to protect the buyer, and failing to comply and disclose, disclose, disclose on the part of the seller can be a recipe for a disaster and/or an expensive lawsuit. Secondly, any real estate contract is fraught with deadlines, twists and turns, and legal land mines, and for an untrained person it will be extremely stressful, to say nothing of costing you dozens of hours of your time. Instead, work with a professional real estate agent to represent you, one that comes highly recommended from someone in your immediate geographical area.

7. Trust Your Gut

Now that you have selected and carefully interviewed at least three realtors, all referred by trusted individuals, you have to decide. Those that have answered all your concerns satisfactorily, can be put to the ‘gut test’. Who do you like? Who can you trust to give you good advice? Who is going to negotiate hard for you? Who cares about the price, your stress level, and you in general. Are they going to really work for YOU?

8. Getting Started

Once you have made a selection of a great realtor, s/he will initiate several things. Up front, your realtor will ask you to sign a listing agreement. Then you and your realtor will go over marketing plans and timelines. S/he will give you names and contact info of the people on her team, tradespeople, title and escrow officer. S/he will check the title, run the comps and help you hire tradespeople. From this time forward, she will communicate all the steps leading up to the listing, including implementation of the marketing plan, bring you buyers, execute the contract and close the transaction!

You are now on the path to creating the next chapter of your life. Most importantly, keep in mind all the good things that this transaction will bring to you and your family. You’ve made a good decision for yourself. The freedom and peace of mind you are heading for will be worth every moment of this task. If the going gets tough during the sale, just remember to “keep your eye on the prize”!

ALWAYS feel free to call Millie at 415-987-8636!