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What You Need To Know About Selling Your Home: Finding an Agent

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to our inbox.

It's time to sell your place, and you've visited a few open houses to see what the market's like. It's confusing. Now it's time to select a professional to help you along the way.

Finding an agent:

Most people go with referrals: a reference from someone you know and trust who's had a successful sale. But aside from this, consider going with an agent well versed in your neighborhood's specifics as these change almost daily. And that agent can bring you buyers who want to be in your 'hood, thus speeding the process.

Probate and Trust Sales:

If the property is being sold on behalf of an estate in probate- a dead person's house as opposed to a grand country place- talk to agents who specialize in those types of sales, especially if you are an out-of-town heir. Most of the large brokerages have an agent who's carved out a career in probate sales, which require special disclosures, bidding, and Probate Court confirmation. Trust sales, on the other hand, where the property has passed into a trust set up by the deceased, proceed like a regular sale and don't require court confirmation. Since the owner's dead, some of the items in the disclosure form may be unenforceable in a probate sale, but there is still the requirement to disclose if a recent death had occurred on the property. Additionally, trust sales can be marketed and staged like any other property, which is slightly more difficult with probate sales if the expenses require court confirmation.


How will your property get marketed? Don't disclose the amount you're looking for. Let the realtors do their dog-and-pony show- and tell you what they think your property should sell for- before making a choice of which agent best aligns with your own sense of the home's value. Realtors generally expect a commitment for ninety days, after which you can decide to change agencies or renew the listing, unless you sign a contract that pins you to that agent.


How much are they going to charge you? Typically the fee is still 6%, sometimes 5%, of the sale price, and conventionally, this percentage gets split 50/50 if two brokerages are involved. If you agent is at the top of his/her food chain at the brokerage, that agent may get as much as 2%, but the sorry fact is that most beginner agents will wind up with 1%. When broken down this way, you can see that while the professionals involved have a fiduciary duty to get you the highest price, their livelihood depends on the volume of sales they produce. This means that if your price expectations are unrealistic, your property may not get the attention it needs.


As today's market is so competitive, some agents are advising their clients to price their property at the bottom of their limit. The lower the price, the bigger your potential draw of qualified buyers and the potential for multiple bids. You always have the right to turn offers down, especially if this is your pricing strategy. But be prepared to get your house ready for sale, which will involve much clearing of surfaces, probably paint, killing a few termites and manicuring the shrubberies to get the highest price.

Which brings us to staging?which we'll be breaking down in part three of the selling portion of Curbed University.
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