Selling Your Home Series – Part 5 – Using a Real Estate Agent

by JS 

realtor This is the final installment of our “Selling Your Home Series.” Today’s article is about using a real estate agent, which has significant advantages over the “for sale by owner” route, but does have a pretty high cost as they usually work on a commission basis.

A quick tip before we get into the article: yes, you can negotiate the commission rate, however sometimes the agents who won’t negotiate and charge the highest commissions are worth every penny more and can even make you more money on the sale of your place.

Showing the House

If you’ve never bought or sold a home before you may have wondered what those strange gray things locked to railings and screen doors are?

Well, they’re called lock boxes and they allow any licensed realtor (they have a master key) to unlock the box and retrieve the keys to your home.

The biggest decision with an agent is whether to use a lockbox or ask for appointments. Both have merit. A lockbox is a little black box with a combination code that only you and the agent will know. When the agent comes to show the house, they will use the key that you have placed inside the lockbox to access your home.

A seller can choose to have the home shown by appointment only. This is usually the case when the home owner wants to be notified because there are times that they don’t want the house available for showings. If appointments are the option it should be posted on the signage in the yard along with the contact phone number for potential buyers.

Here is the problem. A lockbox is useful for showings at any time. Sellers aren’t always available at times that are convenient for the buyer. The agent will spend less time on the showing aspect of the marketing strategy if there are too many time constraints included.

Whether it is a showing for two people or an open house, the agent must contact the seller to let them know of their intentions to show the house. If the seller is home, they will probably want to leave. If they are away, it is a courtesy so they know when it is okay to return to the house.

Secure or Hide any Valuables

Valuables of any kind should be locked safely away. This includes all medicines and cash in plain sight. At an open house, many people will be coming through. Some of them are interested in the sale and some are interested in your precious items. Reduce the risk of being burgled after the showing by hiding the good stuff.

On the day of the open house or showing, remove all pets from the home. It is hard to sell a home where pets have lived especially if the potential buyers have no pets. Send them to the doggie spa for the day or have a friend pet-sit for a few hours. Young children should also have a sitter for the day. They are cute but they may also inadvertently say something that they shouldn’t to a potential buyer.

Negotiating the Contract

The number one thing to remember when selling a home and receiving offers is:

It isn’t Personal!

If someone makes a “low ball” offer, way below your asking price, don’t be offended. I’ve seen people lose a potential sale by reacting badly to a low or ultra low offer. From the buyer’s point of view this may just be their style of finding out your bottom line price, or maybe they really aren’t that interested, or maybe they are an investor and have to get the home at a certain price to make it profitable.

Either way, it isn’t worth taking it personally and getting upset, or firing off a rude counter offer.

What the Agent Does

For a seller with representation, the process is much the same except the bulk of the checking and rechecking is handled by the agent. They take charge of opening escrow and obtaining any documents that the potential buyer needs (neighborhood association rules, condo rules and regulations). Your agent will talk to their agent or the buyer directly if they have no representation.

You are not out of the loop, however. The decision to accept the offer is up to you. The seller always has the right to counteroffer. Agents can assist with the counteroffer and answer questions about the use of contingency offers.

A contingency offer is one where the sale of the home is dependent on something else happening. For example, the seller has to move out by the time that the new owner wants to move in. Usually that is at the time of closing. If the seller thinks there will be problems locating a new home, they can add a contingency that the home is sold to the new owner when a new residence is found by the seller.

Buyers can also ask for contingencies. In the state of California, contingencies can be canceled after seventeen days. At that time the seller can ask that a buyer release them from the contingency for whatever reason. The seller has the right to terminate the contract if the buyer refuses to provide a release. Check your own state laws, or consult your realtor to get details for your area.

In Conclusion

What did you decide? Will it be For Sale by Owner or will you hire an agent? Before making a choice consider all of you options. Things change when the market moves. We could be in a seller’s market at some time in the near future and either option for home selling will benefit you. You may need to sell your home in the winter months and want the expertise of an agent to get the best deal under less than ideal circumstances.

Take a trip around the Internet. Visit websites like and to find out more about the selling process and resources for sellers who go it alone and those who use the expertise of an agent.

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