How to choose and work with real-estate professionals.
Home is where the heart is. If you’re like most people, your home is also your single largest investment. That’s why selling or buying a house can be so traumatic if you’re newly divorced or separated. If you must sell your matrimonial home, take the time to examine your priorities and find the right real-estate agent.
Don’t be afraid to interview a few different agents, suggests Barbara, a 43-year-old teacher from Marina del Rey, CA. “The first agent I spoke with was so paternal. I wasn’t helpless, but he made me feel like I was.” The experience encouraged Barbara to “shop around” for the right real-estate agent. By doing a little homework, she found an agent who was sensitive to her unique legal, financial, and emotional needs. Here’s how you can find the agent who’s right for you, too.
How to choose a realtor Start your search by preparing a list of questions. Then choose a comfortable location for the interview. It doesn’t matter whether it’s over the telephone, over a cup of coffee, or over at the realtor’s office. Here are some sample questions you might consider when choosing a real estate agent:
- How long have you been in the real-estate business?
- Do you work on a part-time or full-time basis? What is your suggested selling price for my home? How did you determine that price?
- Do you live in the area where I would like to purchase or sell my home?
- How long have you been working in this area?
- Can you supply me with a list of vendor references?
- How many homes have you sold to date this year?
- What percentage of your business comes from past clients or referrals?
- What percentage of your listings sell successfully?
- How often will you supply me with listings?
- Are you willing to prepare a marketing plan for my home?
- How many listings are you carrying?
- Will you prepare a professional, typeset flyer of my property? Will it include an exterior photo? Will it list the positive features of my home? Will it feature information about the neighborhood for prospective buyers?
- How many potential buyers do you talk to on an ongoing basis?
- Will my property be listed on the Multiple Listing Service and your agency’s website? How will you differentiate my property from others in the same area?
- How will you encourage other agents to sell my property?
- Will I receive a marketing update of my property on a weekly basis?
- Have you worked with divorcing clients, and are you willing to protect my privacy in that regard?
How to work with them
Once you’ve chosen an agent, listen to his or her marketing suggestions. Real-estate professionals are objective, and they know what will help sell your home. Some of these suggestions may include:
- Hire a maid once or twice a month while your house is on the market.
- Hide knick-knacks in drawers or in a friend’s or family member’s basement.
- Clear kitchen and bathroom countertops and make some space in closets.
- Fix that dripping faucet or squeaky cupboard door.
- Keep blinds and drapes open during the day and turn on all the lights if showing your home at night. Replace dim bulbs with bright ones.
- Critique your home’s “curb-appeal.” (If it’s April, it’s time to take the Christmas wreath off of the front door.) Put the bikes, toys, and garden tools away. In the warm weather, rake the leaves, cut the grass, and plant some attractive shrubs or flowers. In the winter, keep your house accessible: shovel the driveway and front steps and clear the ice.
- If you have the resources, you might want to consider renovating your kitchen and/or bathroom. They’re still the two most marketable rooms in any house. If you can’t afford a full-blown renovation, spruce up your home with a lick of fresh paint, or add new drawer pulls, knobs, or switch-plates.
- Finally, make your home as accessible as possible to potential buyers and agents. Chances are, whoever buys your house is just as busy as you are. If you really want to sell, you must cater to the buyer’s schedule, not your own. Soon, with the support of a trained real-estate professional, you’ll be able to plant that sold sign on your front lawn and get on with your life.