Representation by an Agent
First and foremost the listing agent has a fiduciary duty to you, the client. This means the agent must act in your best interest; not in their own interest or any other party involved in the real estate transaction (E.g. the buyer). The agent must treat all parties fairly, even those not considered clients.
Setting a Sales Price
Once entered into a contract, the seller’s agent is tasked with helping you set an appropriate price before marketing your home and getting qualified buyers through the door. Agents have access to the most current information about comparable home sales and competing listings in your neighborhood. This information is critical when setting your home’s sales price and strategically positioning your home for sale.
Marketing your home to potential buyers and their real estate agents begins with your agent recommending staging techniques and tips for enhancing your home’s curb appeal. The listing agent also supplies professional-quality photographs and often a video tour that is then promoted online, increasing the pool of potential buyers. Hosting open houses and providing tours to fellow real estate agents are other techniques used to increase your home’s exposure. Since time is money, the role of the seller’s agent is to identify potential buyers that may become serious prospects.
Negotiating the Sale
Once a purchase contract is received, your agent will get to work and negotiate the sale of your home on your behalf. This phase is best handled by an experienced agent who is skilled in the art of negotiation and is familiar with real estate law and contracts. Communication between parties, completing and tracking paperwork, and guiding you through this part of the process shifts the majority of the stress and responsibility to the listing agent.
Selling Your Home on Your Own
If you are still considering selling on your own, discount programs like ForSalebyOwner.com and HelpUSell allow you to save on agent fees by paying only for the services you choose. These options include marketing your home on the same local multiple listing service (“MLS”) real estate agents use. It is important to note that many direct sellers using discount programs still offer commissions to buyers’ agents as an incentive for showing their home to potential buyers. A homeowner who offers a commission to the buyer’s agent typically sells their home faster than those who don’t.
Before passing over the services offered by a full-service real estate agent, consider the time and effort required to sell your home. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median days on market for homes sold in Q3 2015 were only 49 days (Homes.com, Cook, 2015). It took an average of 41 additional days to close. If costs are a concern, and you are thinking of hiring a seller’s agent, you should have an honest conversation with your potential agent about their terms for getting paid.
If signing a contract with an agent, do so for the shortest possible period; usually 30 or 60 days. This should give you enough time to evaluate the agent’s performance, during which time you will likely reach your most serious and qualified buyers−if the agent has effectively priced and marketed your home.