When you hire a real estate agent to list your home, you immediately have a common goal: sell the property in the least amount of time, for the most money possible. Whether you’d like to be extremely hands-on during this process or need your agent to take the reins a little more, you’ll find success as partners in this journey.
If you think about it, you and your agent both bring critical insights to the table. As the property owner, you know your house better than anyone — its pitfalls, its highlights, its quirks. Meanwhile your agent knows how to put what they see in your house into the context of the greater surrounding area. They can recommend key updates, advise you against unnecessary expenses (how about you repaint, instead of replace, those cabinets?), and market the home based on the competition and what makes local buyers tick.
They’ll also be your counselor and confidante every step of the way, giving you an objective and outside perspective on a deal that will inevitably feel very personal to you. With that philosophy in mind, consult this guide on how to sell a house with a Realtor, by arming them with the information they need, taking their feedback in stride, and finding success as teammates who want the same thing and can help each other get there.
Draft a great agent in the first place
No sports team drafts new players without first evaluating their talent, statistics, and performance record. Unfortunately, too many homeowners fail to do the same due diligence when hiring the pro who’ll help them sell their most valuable asset. In fact, 75% of recent sellers hired the first agent they met with, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. That’s a risky move considering there are over 2 million active real estate agents in the U.S. and likely thousands in your market alone who would gladly accept your business.
Note that certain factors make some agents a better fit for you personally than they would your cousin across town. Your agent should ideally have experience:
- Selling in your neighborhood
- Selling in your price point
- Selling your property type (condo, townhouse, single-family home, duplex, etc.)
- A solid, above-average sale-to-list price ratio (meaning they, on average, fetch more for their sellers than their peers)
- A history of going above and beyond for their clients
HomeLight can connect you with three top local agents well-suited for your individual needs based on factors like their actual transaction history and past client reviews. From there, you can speak with your agent matches, and ask in-depth questions to evaluate each agent’s knowledge base and communication style before choosing the one.
“I have a questionnaire that I ask my sellers to fill out at our initial meeting, and I ask them, ‘Are you interviewing other agents?’” says Abrams.
“Oftentimes they say ‘yes,’ and I think that’s great. I’m glad because sellers need to trust and feel comfortable with the agent they choose.”
In your interviews, listen for signs that your agent consistently goes the extra mile for clients, like Abrams recently did:
“I told my seller that their house was priced right in the pocket, so plan to be busy with showings the minute the listing goes live. But they didn’t believe me, so the house wasn’t clean or ready to show. I helped them clean the house that very day — which I’m glad we did, because we got a full price offer on the house that night.”
Schedule an initial walkthrough to come up with a game plan together
Sometimes an agent will conduct a walkthrough of your home during the interview process, but you may need to schedule a more thorough tour of your house once you’ve officially decided to work together.
Either way, during the walkthrough, you’ll have the chance to give your agent a guided tour. Your agent may make comments on how your curb appeal looks and any areas of the home that need some attention before buyers come through, all with an objective lens. You may hear them say things like “Let’s get my landscaper in to fix that bald spot on the lawn” or “We should swap out this shower curtain for something more neutral — I have a spare one you can use.”
Come ready to take notes and be prepared to discuss:
- Your home’s basics (Square footage, lot size, property taxes, HOA fees, average utilities, recent repairs/upgrades, etc.)
- Any known issues with your home (Age of older appliances/fixtures; any roof, plumbing, or electrical issues; exterior/interior damage, including foundation issues, etc.)
- Your budget for repairs/upgrades (Repainting interior/exterior; replacing light/plumbing fixtures; refinishing/replacing flooring; kitchen/bath upgrades, etc.)
From there, you can lock down a timeline that accommodates any necessary updates and repairs. Remember that your agent’s suggestions are just that: suggestions. However, their advice doesn’t come out of nowhere. Their goal is to maximize the value of your home and show it in the best possible light based on local trends and the state of the market.
Your agent should also provide an overview of the entire sales process for you so you’re ready for next steps. “I prepare my sellers during the listing appointment so that they know the game plan up front,” says Abram. “I’ll even walk them through sample offers so that they understand the process before they’re called on to make that major financial decision.”
Go over your pricing strategy with your agent’s CMA
As part of their listing services, your real estate agent will conduct what’s called comparative market analysis to come up with a suggested asking price for your home. Their analysis will take into account recently sold properties in the area (ideally as close to your home as possible, as prices may vary even a few streets down or across the river) that are similar to yours in size, layout, and condition.
They’ll increase the price based on what adds value — your new stainless steel appliances, your hardwood floors, your amazing open floor plan. But they’ll also subtract value for negative factors like your positioning near a power line or aging roof.
“Understanding pricing strategies can be difficult for sellers. Which is why we personalize our CMAs so that sellers can understand what buyers are buying, and how much they’re willing to pay for it,” explains Abram.
Agents use this data to help you focus less on what you think your home is worth and more on how your house compares to the competition before you settle on a list price. They do this by:
- Researching outlier comps to include or exclude (Foreclosures, short sales, etc.)
- Comparing sold price vs. house condition for each comp (Fully remodeled homes vs. as-is properties, etc.)
- Evaluating the impact of market trends on pricing (Competitive list price in tough buyer’s market; at or just under market value to spark bidding war in seller’s market, etc.)
However, you feel at odds with your agent on price, don’t be afraid to ask more questions. They’re there to walk you through exactly how they arrived at that number. Keep in mind that your personal stake in this sale — not to mention the connection and emotional ties to the home — could cloud your judgment. According to HomeLight’s research, over 50% of top agents say that overpricing is the no. 1 mistake home sellers make. Trust in the impartial expertise of your agent here.
Get your house in shape by making recommended indoor and outdoor updates
Oftentimes, sellers are so comfortable living in their homes that they’re blind to its live-in condition. That’s where your agent comes in:
“I leave my sellers with a must-do list for the house, and if they commit to getting them done, we’ve usually sold the house within days,” says Abram. “I recently listed a house for a client that had previously been on the market for a solid four weeks. He completed the to-do list I gave him, and as his teammate, I arranged for professional photography to show off his hard work. The very first day it was re-listed with me, he had 10 showings and by the end of the evening we had a full price offer.”
This must-do list to prepare your house for listing will cover tasks like:
- Deep cleaning and depersonalizing your interior
- Going neutral with fresh interior paint colors
- Refinishing or replacing your flooring
- Refreshing and cleaning your home’s exterior
- Improving your curb appeal
- Adding an exterior pop of color by planting flowers
Don’t put these things off until the last minute. You want your house updated and spruced up ASAP so that it’s ready for the listing images photo shoot.
Review your home’s highlights and unique features for the listing description
While your agent comes in with fresh eyes that can spot smart ways to update your property based on what buyers are looking for, you have the experience of living in your home to really dig deep into its selling points.
Write down all of those great features your house has, like the beautiful woodwork, the big backyard, or the convenient layout. Don’t forget to include all the things you love about the neighborhood too, including: the great schools, clean, safe streets, or convenient stores and restaurants.
Your agent may not be able to include it all, but the longer your list, the more creative they can be when writing your listing description.
Help your agent increase exposure for your listing
Your real estate agent’s marketing plan will likely lean heavy on digital promotion with perhaps some offline efforts mixed in like flyers or mailers. Your agent will upload your property details into the MLS, which will syndicate your listing to other online listing sites, and post about it on Facebook and Instagram if they’re active there. Your agent will also spread the word about your listing to their local agent and broker networks who just may have a buyer looking for a house like yours.
However, there’s no reason why you can’t share your property listing, too, online and with your inner circle: “Exposure is huge for a home sale, so the biggest way a seller can support their agent once the listing goes live is sharing it on social media,” says Abram. “You never know when sharing the listing with a friend of a friend or co-worker will lead you to your buyer.”
Navigate showings with clear expectations and close communication
Your agent will get notified whenever a buyer is interested in touring your home and it will be their job to orchestrate showings (which you’ll need to leave the house for) based on your schedule.
To make this easier on everyone, establish some ground rules and make sure your agent knows which days of the week and times of day will — and will not — work for you to accommodate buyers. Save your agent from checking in about a 2 p.m. showing by telling them that your kid always naps at that time. Ensure you have a preferred means of communication for showings requests, whether it’s via text message, email, or phone calls.
Your role, meanwhile, is to make sure the house is tidy when you agree to the showing and to be ready to take any pets out of the house as well. Consult HomeLight’s guide for selling a house with kids so as to work out a system that’s least disruptive for your family and allows you to clean up in a pinch. An imperfect showing is often better than no showing at all.
Know what a winning offer looks like for you, and share that with your agent
Your agent should know your priorities and needs as a seller before there’s an actual offer on the table. Be sure to vocalize what the perfect offer looks like to you, and if you’re not sure how to, ask your agent for guidance on what would be ideal for your situation. Your agent will be able to help explain different contract terms that go beyond dollar signs that might help sweeten a deal, including:
- Closing date aligns with your timeline
- Few (or zero) repair requests, contingencies, or seller concessions
- Buyer’s financial health (mortgage pre-approval, down payment size, etc.)
- Benefits of an all-cash offer
Your agent will also break down the list of expenses and credits to highlight your final sale price in clear terms.
“Whenever I present offers to our sellers, I send them on the same form that I went over with them on day one so that they’re familiar with all the numbers presented,” explains Abram. “That way they know the estimated net up front—because the amount they’ll walk away with is the number that sellers care about most. And if it’s not a full price offer, I’ll also send a possible counter offer along.”
Support your agent during negotiations and trust their guidance
After you accept an offer on your house, there will be a period of negotiations over the contract and, later, any issues that come up in the inspection report. Unless negotiating is a skill in your wheelhouse that you use on the regular, you’ll need to rely on your agent to fight for your best interests (they have to as your trusted fiduciary!) The best way to support your agent’s calls during this tense time is to educate yourself on negotiation tactics, like:
- Use time and silence to your advantage
- Counter a buyer’s big asks with small, slow concessions
- Offer alternatives instead of giving hard “yes” or “no” responses
- Frame your counteroffer as a “win-win” scenario
- Bench your emotions to keep negotiations all business
Lean into your agent’s judgment on the inspections and appraisal
If your buyers request a laundry list of repairs based on the home inspection report or the home appraisal comes under contract value, well, those can be tense moments. However, now’s the time to stay calm and work with your agent on next steps. This is a big reason why you hired them! Real estate deals are complex and sometimes don’t go as planned.
Luckily an agent will be able to tell you things like, “This request from the buyer was unreasonable because it’s cosmetic, but it’s probably best to offer a credit for this because it poses a safety risk.” With any appraisal issues, your agent will be able to explain your options, whether that’s negotiating with the buyers to make up the difference in the contract price or reviewing the appraisal report to ensure there weren’t any issues. Bottom line is, an agent will help you overcome any roadblocks to closing.
Close the deal, and celebrate the win
“Great agents act as teammates throughout the entire sales process, including closing day, so that their sellers are prepared for the transition,” says Abram. “I’ll even help my sellers make arrangements with movers, or scheduling a donation pick-up with the Salvation Army—anything that’ll make the process easier for them.”
When you’ve got a teammate willing to go the extra mile for you like that, it’s only right to celebrate the sale with them, say by cracking open a bottle of champagne together on closing day.
It’s even acceptable (and much appreciated!) to give your agent a gift, as long as it’s appropriate:
- Gift cards to a local restaurant or coffee shop
- Personalized presents (first name coffee mug, monogrammed business card holder, etc.)
- Gift basket (personalize with hobby items like cooking supplies, focus on a favorite color or scent, or stick with a traditional gourmet gift basket)
- A glowing recommendation suitable for featuring on their website and online profiles
Teamwork (with your agent) makes the dream work
Selling a house is a challenging undertaking that’s beyond stressful, especially when you try to go it alone. That’s why it’s so vital to team up with the right real estate agent. Providing in-field experience, local market analysis, and a personal touch, your agent can be the valuable partner you need to sell your home — if not without a hitch — than at least without feeling like you’re fighting an uphill battle.
Header Image Source: (LinkedIn Sales Navigator / Unsplash)