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Choosing the Right Agent / Broker

Do you know what makes a good Real Estate Agent? Most of us have very little idea what their role actually is or how to pick a good one. Wherever you find an agent, asking a few questions up front can save you a heap of trouble later by choosing the right real estate agent now.

15 Questions to Ask an Agent

  1. Is this your full-time gig? How many clients have you served this year?
    Okay, that’s two questions. But both get to the heart of the same issue: an active, full-time agent is more likely to be up-to-date on the market and the law.
  2. How many sales have you handled in my target area or neighborhoods?
    You want someone who knows the local market, with a few recent deals in your target neighborhoods.
  3. When clients are unhappy with your service, what has gone wrong?
    Asking why a client has been a bad fit for an agent can help you figure out if you’re a good fit.
  4. Has a client ever filed a complaint against you?
    If you’re uncomfortable asking, just check with your state’s licensing board.
  5. What’s your fee?
    The seller pays the buyer’s agent using the money you pay for the house, typically 2-3% of the sales price. Since the commission amount is set by the seller and can vary from home to home, you should insist that your agent is upfront about his share; you don’t want an agent who pressures you into a home based on his chances of landing a fatter commission check.
  6. What services do you offer beyond negotiations and escrow?
    Make a list of what you’ll be paying for. Negotiations, paperwork and contingencies are the minimum.
  7. When am I committed to working with you?
    Many consumers start touring homes without realizing this can obligate them to work with the agent, contract or no contract.
  8. How many foreclosure or short-sale transactions have you handled (if applicable in your situation)?
    Distressed properties can be great deals, but the paperwork is complicated, and your liability is greater. The best agents have experience closing deals with banks.
  9. Who else will be working with me?
    An agent is often supported by a team. But the person you hire should do most of the work when choosing the right real estate agent .
  10. Am I obligated to work with the lender, inspector, or other service providers you recommend?
    A “yes” here is a big red flag. Though good agents may have solid recommendations for lenders, inspectors, or other service providers, you should never feel pressured to use their recommendation. It’s illegal for an agent to force you to use “his” lender or other service provider.
  11. How quickly can you get me into a home?
    Hot homes move fast. Ask how the agent handles tours on short notice.
  12. Do you represent buyers and sellers on the same house?
    When one agent represents both the buyer and seller, this is known as dual agency, and it is not a good thing for buyers. If the seller’s agent is trying to get the most money for his client’s home, how can he also be trying to get you the best deal? Our advice is simple: avoid dual agency.
  13. What sets you apart from other agents?
    Look for expertise, not just enthusiasm. You want an agent with experience in your favorite neighborhoods, a proven track record of happy customers, and deep knowledge of any special requirements you might have in your home search.
  14. What if I’m unhappy with your service?
    Most agents get paid when you buy a house, giving them an incentive to close the deal, even if you have doubts. Even if you have complaints after you purchase your home, it may be too late to do anything. Ask your agent if she’s willing to guarantee your satisfaction, and what recourse you’ll have for a bad experience.
  15. Can I see reviews of your past deals?
    Every agent has clients he served well. But the best agents consistently deliver excellent service. There’s a difference between reading a few hand-picked endorsements and getting the full good, bad, and ugly on your agent. We think a good agent should have nothing to hide; that’s why Redfin posts reviews for all agents and partner agents after every deal. While you won’t find that for every real estate agency, you can use sites like to view real customer opinions for an agent you’re considering.
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10 Home Selling Secrets

Home Selling Secret #10: Pricing it Right

Find out what your home is worth, then shave 15 to 20 percent off the price. You’ll be stampeded by buyers with multiple bids — even in the worst markets — and they’ll bid up the price over what it’s worth. It takes real courage and most sellers just don’t want to risk it, but it’s the single best strategy to sell a home in today’s market.

Home Selling Secret #9: Half-Empty Closets

clothes-in-closetStorage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

Home Selling Secret #8: Light it Up

lamp-in-grassMaximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.

Home Selling Secret #7: Play the Agent Field

A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know what properties are going on the market and know the comps in your neighborhood. Find a broker who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.pets


Home Selling Secret #6: Conceal the Critters

You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.

Home Selling Secret #5: Don’t Over-Upgrade

Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Mammoth makeovers, not so much. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.

Home Selling Secret #4: Take the Home Out of Your House

One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of


Home Selling Secret #3: The kitchen Comes First

You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back. It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated. The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance. Why one? Because when people see one high-end appliance they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.

Home Selling Secret #2: Always Be Ready to Show

Your house needs to be “show-ready” at all times – you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be in tip-top shape. Don’t leave dishes in the sink, keep the dishwasher cleaned out, the bathrooms sparkling and make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners. It’s a little inconvenient, but it will get your house sold.smiling-girl-in-hat


Home Selling Secret #1: The First Impression is the Only Impression

No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Spruce up your home’s exterior with inexpensive shrubs and brightly colored flowers. You can typically get a 100-percent return on the money you put into your home’s curb appeal. Entryways are also important. You use it as a utility space for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.

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Selling a Home in 2016?

Here’s what you need to Know

If you expect to put your home on the block at some point in 2016, here are some key factors for you to keep in mind before you address issues and concerns to make the best possible deal.

It’s a Seller’s Market …

Many homeowners remember the fallout that the housing bust had on real-estate prices. Even though most investors think of the financial crisis as having hit its peak in 2008 and early 2009, it took three more years for home prices to hit bottom.

Yet since early 2012, prices have climbed higher, and the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index is coming within spitting distance of matching its highs from 2006 and 2007.

Where you live is a key factor in determining just how much of a seller’s market you can expect. Hot markets like San Francisco have seen some housing-boom-era practices return to favor, with many reports of bidding wars that result in offers well above the asking price.

By contrast, areas where economic prospects are less favorable have never fully recovered from the housing bust. The more lucrative a region’s economic future appears to be, the easier you can expect it to be to sell a home.

… But Mortgages Could Get More Expensive

One key factor in how much sellers receive for their homes is how much buyers can afford. Low mortgage rates have helped fuel price increases in recent years.

But some now fear that with the Federal Reserve having begun a new cycle of rate increases, a move higher for mortgage rates could make homes less affordable.

So far, the tiny quarter-point boost that the Fed made in mid-December hasn’t pushed mortgage rates appreciably higher. Historically, though, tightening has generally led to increased rates on mortgage loans. Sellers need to be prepared for greater difficulty for prospective buyers trying to get financing.

Tax Benefits Still Favor Home Sales

The biggest tax break for ordinary taxpayers is still the exclusion on capital gains for the sale of a personal residence. Single taxpayers can exclude up to $250,000 in gains from the sale of a home from tax, and joint filers get a double-sized exclusion of $500,000.

To qualify, you have to meet a couple of tests. First, the property in question has to be your main home. In addition, to get the full exclusion, you have to have lived in the home for at least 24 months in the past five years.

You can’t have claimed a home-sale exclusion on tax returns for the previous two years. In some cases, partial exclusions are available, but getting specific tax advice from your accountant or tax professional is essential to make sure you’re aware of all the tax implications of a home sale.

Get Help at the Right Price

Most homeowners use a real-estate agent to help market and sell their homes. Historically, the typical 6% commission on home sales was sacrosanct, but some agents have increasingly been willing to negotiate lower commissions for their services.

Flat-fee brokerages have also popped up, offering a fixed cost that sellers can count on that’s often lower than the percentage-based commission would be.

The issue raises a huge debate in the real-estate community, with full-service agents arguing that they fully earn their commissions by bringing in more potential buyers and eventually getting higher sale prices.

Yet with some agencies offering incentives to buyers and sellers that reduce net commission costs, sellers should realize that they have leverage in coming up with a deal that works for them.

Selling a home is a monumental event, and it can introduce a number of complicated financial considerations. Being aware of those considerations and making a plan to deal with them will help the selling process go a lot more smoothly.


Article by Dan Caplinger