A Realtor Is Not Always a Realtor - (Part 4)
(Eating an Elephant One Bite at a Time - Part 4)
At this point, you’ve met with your financial planner, an attorney, and possibly a lender, and you’ve identified what type of housing you can afford. Now you need to narrow down the property you’d like to purchase (or move into, in the case of assisted living, etc.), and sell your current home! In real estate jargon, you are now considered a “seller.”
As a newly minted seller, the next advisor to meet with will be a professional real estate agent or Realtor. Real estate agents are licensed by the state you live in. Most active agents work under real estate “brokers” who are often known by their agency names such as Coldwell Banker, Raveis, ReMax, etc. The majority of agents and brokers are also Realtors® which is a trademarked name for people who work in real estate and are also members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Realtors abide by a strict Code of Ethics, which is important in selecting someone who will be helping you sell what is likely your biggest asset.
In some regions, sellers have many agency options from which to choose. When it comes to selling your home, bigger is better. Larger agencies have a broader reach to potential buyers for your home. Not just through their internet marketing, but also through global name recognition, and their relationships with relocation companies.
Real estate agents often carry an alphabet soup after their name – CRB, GRI, ABR, etc. These letters signify that the agent has had extra education and experience in a specific area. Some agents represent only buyers, some – sellers, some – commercial property, etc. For seniors and their families, the most important designation to look for when selecting a Realtor is the SRES or Senior Real Estate Specialist. An SRES Realtor knows enough about financial, legal, tax and Medicaid issues, to make reliable referrals to the professionals in these fields. SRES designated agents should also have a familiarity with important senior topics such as universal design (making your current home easier to navigate), aging in place, and various senior living options (assisted living homes, retirement communities, etc.)
Although some home sellers feel that an “experienced” or “seasoned” agent is the best choice, this isn’t necessarily so! Often, these agents will have multiple active clients at any one time, which means they have less time to spend with each individual client, and selling your home will require a lot of your agent’s time! Newer agents tend to be “hungry” and have more time to devote to marketing your home. Newer agents are also more likely to be up to speed on current technology and social media, both of which are paramount to marketing your home to the widest pool of buyers possible.
Another important factor to consider when selecting a real estate agent is their familiarity with your community. You want someone who specializes (and hopefully lives) in your neighborhood. Certain aspects of a home can be learned through research, but the character of a town and its neighborhoods is best understood through personal experience.
The most common way to find a Realtor is through a referral from a friend, relative or service provider you trust. If a home has recently sold in your neighborhood, ask that seller if they would recommend their agent. The next best (and becoming more popular) way to locate a Realtor is by searching the internet. If you don’t use a computer yourself, you can ask your children, grandchildren or neighbor to help you “Google” local real estate agents. You will get multiple websites with agent profiles, outlining the communities they cover and what they might specialize in.
Don’t stop at the first Realtor you find (although you may ultimately come back to that one). Interview several. They won’t be offended as it’s part of their job to do a “listing presentation” for you outlining their services and their company. Think of these meetings as job interviews, and the agents - as prospective employees! Ultimately, you want to make sure that you genuinely like your Realtor because, as a seller, you will be spending a lot of time with them. Did you feel heard? Understood? Was the agent knowledgeable about your community? Were you comfortable with their communication style? A note about listing presentations – they vary greatly! Some agents will bring a laptop computer or iPad and present themselves and their company to you electronically with slides and videos. Others may forego any type of visual aid and will just describe themselves, their companies, and their listing strategies. If an agent shows up and does neither, don’t use them. Their lack of preparation may foretell their lack of thoroughness in selling your home.
After you’ve identified two or three agents you like, you can ask each to provide you with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA is the primary tool used by sellers to determine the “market value” of their home. Given that your home is likely your biggest asset, it’s important to know its value. You’ll also need to know its value as part of your larger financial picture which will help you understand what you can afford moving forward.
For more information about The Elephant Guide, please visit my real estate site at Marbleheadhomes.net.