Cover story: Selling? What to expect from Realtor

Just as every home is different, every marketing plan to sell a home must be different, too.

Creig Northrop, president of the Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate in Maryland, which recently was named the No. 1 team for transaction volume by the Wall Street Journal, Real Trends and Lore magazine, said a Realtor should take several steps to ensure a sale even before a home goes on the market.

“Your Realtor should give you a professional opinion of your list price and justification for that price,” Mr. Northrop said. “Next, you should be provided with professional help, such as staging services, to help you prepare your home for sale. You’ll need to do your ‘honey do’ list before your home goes on the market, and a good Realtor will tell you that and offer suggestions of what to do. If you need a contractor, your Realtor should be able to make some recommendations.”

Robyn Burdett, an associate broker with Re/Max Allegiance in Fairfax, said that while each marketing plan will be based, in part, on the home price and should be targeted to potential buyers in that price range, there are some marketing steps that are crucial for every home.

“Good, professional pictures are what sell homes today,” Ms. Burdett said. “If you don’t have any photos or if you only have one photo of the front of the property, a potential buyer will rule it out because they will wonder what’s wrong with the property.”

Jen Angotti, a Realtor with DC Real Estate (DCRE) in the District, said she hires a professional photographer for all her listings. She also recommends using HomeVisit, a photography service used by many Realtors.

“Half the battle for exposure is having great photos,” Ms. Angotti said. “If you have terrible photos, it’s almost better not to use them at all.”

Once good-quality photos are available, your Realtor should provide a thorough written description of your home to be posted with the photos.

“I write a blog on DCMud, which is the DCRE blog and gets thousands of hits every month,” Ms. Angotti said. “Thousands of people receive our newsletter, too, and then I also send out a blast email to my database of Realtors. I have a database of Realtors by ZIP code of agents who have sold homes in a particular area so that I can also target those Realtors in case they are working with buyers looking in the area of my listing.”

Ms. Angotti said listings need to be pushed out immediately onto a variety of websites, including homesdatabase.com, Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow and Redfin, to get maximum exposure within the first few days a home is on the market.

“We make sure we advertise and market our business in a variety of places so that our properties get pushed to the forefront,” Mr. Northrop said. “We also have an iPad app with mapping features that buyers can use to find our listings. Each property gets its own website by address so that we can provide more detail and multiple photos on the site.”

Mr. Northrop said his team caters to all types of buyers, including those who prefer print media, those who use the Internet and younger buyers who prefer text messaging. Each property’s for-sale sign includes information about text messaging that enables prospective buyers to see photos immediately and receive detailed information about the property via a text.

“We use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs, too, because the more people that see your property, the more you create demand,” Mr. Northrop said.

Ms. Burdett said she makes sure buyers can access complete information on a home, such as room sizes, in addition to photos, the moment a home is listed.

“In addition to the push online, sellers should expect their Realtors to market their property actively on the local level through open houses or brokers open houses that expose the property to agents working with buyers,” Ms. Burdett said.

If you are uncertain about whether your Realtor is marketing your home aggressively enough, contact your Realtor for an update.

“You have a right to expect a certain level of communication from your Realtor,” Ms. Burdett said. “You should have an established system of contact at least once or twice each week so you can get feedback on traffic and hear about what other Realtors are saying about your home. If it’s not selling, you need to know if there’s an issue with the price, the condition of the property or the marketing.”

Mr. Northrop said his team provides a weekly report to sellers about showings and feedback on the property.

“If your Realtor isn’t providing this, you should request it,” Mr. Northrop said. “This is especially important during the first 30 days. You should hold your Realtor accountable if you are not getting enough traffic or you are unhappy with the consistency of the marketing.”

Ms. Angotti agreed, saying that in many areas, the D.C. market is becoming a seller’s market.

“If you have not had an offer within the first 30 days, you need to discuss with your Realtor what the problem is,” Ms. Angotti said. “In many cases, price is the problem because it can still be very difficult to estimate a sales price.”

If you are still dissatisfied with your Realtor after requesting feedback, Ms. Burdett recommended going to the Realtor’s office manager or broker to discuss the problem.

“The broker may recommend that you work with another Realtor in the company if you are unhappy, but you are under no obligation to do so,” Ms. Burdett said. “In Virginia, you can notify your Realtor in writing that you want to withdraw the listing and the Realtor will be obligated to remove the listing from the MRIS and take away the lockbox.”

Ms. Angotti said the process of ending a relationship with your Realtor is similar in the District, requiring a written notice to release the agent.

“You should consult your listing agreement to make sure you understand how to appropriately end your relationship with a Realtor,” Mr. Northrop said. “But, ultimately, real estate is a client-driven business, so most Realtors will want to know if they are not meeting your expectations and will want to end the relationship on agreeable terms.”

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