Whether you’re buying or selling a house, remember that the real estate agent you hire is there to negotiate for you, says Antoine Thompson, national executive director of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. When challenges arise, “you want to have a good advo- cate working on your behalf.”
Here are some services you should expect:
When you sell
Setting a fair price, and boosting value. Your agent should bring a deep understanding of the local market, including current economic conditions and new developments that could affect values, to help you set a reasonable price, Thompson says. The agent should also have a keen eye for modest improvements (say, a new coat of paint in a popular color) that could significantly improve your home’s appeal to buyers, he adds.
A marketing strategy. There should be a clear plan in place for publicizing your home, from professional photography and staging (setting up your house for showing) to getting the word out via social media and multiple websites, says Vicky Scarnuley, a licensed real estate agent in Trumbull, Connecticut. “They should help you evaluate offers and negotiate the best price,” and help arrange ancillary services such as attorneys, title services and even moving companies.
An open house. Open houses take time and money to arrange, and not all agents offer them, especially for mid- to lower- priced homes. Even so, “I encourage sellers to ask their agents to do open houses,” Thompson says. “That gets traffic into the property, which reduces the amount of time it might be on the market.”
When you buy
A price advocate. Your real estate agent should help you understand current market conditions for your area and the type of home you’re interested in, and whether specific properties that catch your eye are priced fairly, Scarnuley says.
Help with inspections. Your agent should recommend qualified inspectors to thoroughly examine any home you’re thinking of buying. “They should attend every inspection and be with the buyer every step of the way,” Scarnuley says.
Negotiating fixes. If the inspection reveals flaws, particularly safety or health risks such as structural problems, mold, septic, or asbestos issues, or water damage, a buyer’s agent “should have the client’s best interest in mind,” Scarnuley notes. That should include negotiating with the seller to ensure problems are fixed before you move in.
Real estate is a relationship business, so interview potential agents. In addition to their experience and knowledge, consider whether you enjoy spending time with them. “You’ll be working together through what can be a lengthy and stressful process,” Scarnuley says. “If the personalities aren’t a good match, you should be able to find a better fit with someone else.”