How to get the most from your Realtor – part I

Selling your house often means selling the most valuable possession you’ve ever owned. Having a good Realtor to guide you through the process can reduce your stress and increase your financial return, not to mention assuring that you comply with all relevant laws and regulations.

In short, a listing agent’s job is to get you the highest price in the shortest time with the least inconvenience. As with any relationship, things between you and your Realtor will go better when everybody is clear on expectations and when communication is consistent and transparent.

Selling a property in a reasonably short period of time depends on two factors: price and exposure. Your Realtor will advise you on the listing price, but ultimately, that’s your decision. Exposing your property to the market is your Realtor’s responsibility. As long as you provide full access to your property for showings, as well as permission to use all possible communication channels, your Realtor will be able to inform as many qualified buyers as possible about your listing.

A word to the wise on pricing: no Realtor in the world can sell your home if you list it at twice its market value. It’s hard enough if you overprice it by 10%. When properties are overpriced, they quickly become shopworn. Once the real estate community has seen a property and knows it’s overpriced, they take it off their list. Even after a price reduction, they don’t always bother to add it back on.

It’s best to list your property based on current market conditions. Sometimes even when properties are priced right, they don’t sell as quickly as you hope. On the other hand, sometimes if you price to sell, you can inspire a bidding frenzy and end up with a higher-than-expected price. In general, Realtors know the right pricing zone, and it’s their fiduciary duty to give you the best advice they can.

As you consider which Realtor is right for you, it’s important to have a conversation about your goals and expectations, including the type and frequency of communication. Do you want daily, weekly, or periodic updates? Do you want phone calls, texts, or emails? How early in the day is too early? How late is too late? When dealing with documents, are you comfortable with email attachments and electronic signatures, or do you want hard copies and wet signatures?

Provided you’re not asking for anything crazy, your Realtor should communicate in a way that meets your needs. In return, you should respond to your Realtor’s inquiries and requests in a timely and courteous manner, whether you are making the property available to show, signing documents, or scheduling inspections.

Don’t take recommendations as insults
In preparation to list your property, your Realtor will walk through your house, taking pictures, measuring rooms, and jotting notes. Afterwards, they’ll make several suggestions about how to improve your property’s appeal.

I always start by recommending that sellers remove a third of their personal belongings from the house. It’s amazing how much we can accumulate after several years in a house. I probably have five times as much stuff as I need in my home.

I am not saying you need to sell or discard the easy chair from Aunt Mabel, but I am saying you should put it in storage so prospective buyers don’t trip over it every time they make their way from the living room to the kitchen. Also, remove knickknacks. They make a house seem crowded and small.

Your Realtor will make these suggestions and more, including ideas on repairs, maintenance, and upgrades—everything from moving trash bins away from side of house to replacing the roof and painting over the purple walls in your daughter’s bedroom with a more neutral color. Don’t be offended. A Realtor’s job is to help you do what’s best to market the property.

More about this next week.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.



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