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How's the Market - Real Estate Newsletters

Top-10 Questions to Ask a Listing Agent (Part 1)

We talk to sellers regularly about selling their home and they mention that they are talking to other agents. This is great, because it is important to research your options, but often when we drill down a little further and ask the question 'How will you decide between each agent?' we are often met with silence because the sellers really haven't thought through what is important when selecting a listing agent.

This surprises us because, more often than not, a persons' home is the largest asset they own, so why aren't they doing more considered research to choose the right agent to get them the highest price? We believe that it is often because most sellers don't know what type of questions to ask because it is a relatively infrequent activity in a persons' life. So, this newsletter will provide you with those questions, and we'll also answer them from our perspective.

1. What are the current market conditions in my town and price range?

So, why is this question important? It's important because if an agent only sells 1 or 2 houses a year, or less (and this is the majority of agents in a town), then they really don't have a good understanding of what is happening in the market. An agent should be able to talk articulately about what is happening with inventory, average sales price, whether it's a buyer's market or seller's market and why, what trends are being seen with offers coming in, whether competing offers are common, and even the 'stickiness' of the buyers. When we talk to sellers we talk to the statistics that are updated monthly on our website and generated from our datawarehouse. Our datawarehouse contains over 10 years' worth of data and we describe how each component impacts the others, and how these relate together to form a picture of the market conditions. As a busy team, and as the #1 ranked Lexington based agents/teams for the number of listings, we know that a current characteristic we are seeing with buyers this year is that they are not as 'sticky' as in prior years. The market is seeing a large proportion of homes that go under agreement coming back on the market because buyers are exiting the contract for different reasons. Because of this we consider the offers that come in with a different 'lens' to ensure that we protect our sellers from this as much as possible. An agent who has only done 1, or 2, or less listings in a year will have no idea that this is the trend we are seeing in the market and wouldn't be considering this when reviewing the offers.

2. Can you help me get my home ready?

Advice on what to do:

We focus on obtaining the highest price possible for our sellers. To get the highest price it's important to present the home in its best light to the potential buyer pool for this home. This may mean minor paint touch ups, or cleaning up the garden, or many other things around the home that will maximize the sales price. We walk around the home with you and suggest various things to be done and talk about the pros and cons of doing them. It's your decision though as to what you do and what you don't. If the agent you are talking to isn't interested in suggesting things for you to do around the home then they are really just wanting to get your home on the market as fast as possible regardless of condition, and really don't care if you get $30,000 more for your home because it doesn't make that big a difference to their fee, but it has a huge impact to yours.

Access to contractors:

Along with suggesting things to be done around the home that will net you a higher amount on the sale of your home, we also have a network of reliable contractors who we can recommend. We regularly get feedback from sellers about the contractors we recommend and continually ensure that the list we provide are highly regarded.

Staging at no cost:

Not only do we suggest various things to be done around the home to present the home to the buyers in the best way possible, but we offer staging at no charge. We have members on our team whose sole responsibility is to stage the homes that we bring on the market. This can range from minor accent pieces and relocating some pieces of furniture to complement different features of the home all the way to bringing in a house full of furniture and staging the home completely. Other agents will say that they can stage your home but in reality they may bring in only 1 or 2 items. Nothing looks more pitiful in a home than a solitary chair in a corner yet this is some agent's idea of staging. If the home is vacant, some agents require you to pay the cost of a professional staging company and those costs can be from $3000 per month and up. Some agents will tell you that staging doesn't benefit the sales price and it's not necessary. They are saying this because they don't have the capability to stage, and are trying to minimize the value of it. National statistics show that homes that are staged will sell in an average of 29 days versus 145 days for unstaged homes. Statistically the longer a home is on the market the lower the price obtained, so just from that perspective a staged home will sell for more money because it will sell quicker.

3. How many homes have you sold in the last 12 months?

Many agents will tell you that it doesn't matter how many homes they have sold. It does! It is a key metric that you should be asking for. Ask the agent not only how many homes have they helped a seller sell, but how many homes they have helped a buyer buy. The more transactions (sales or buys) an agent does the more they know what is happening with the market, but the key metric is how many homes they have listed and sold in the last 12 months. To sell a home for the highest price there are many steps that are necessary to market a home. An agent who does this rarely will miss, or poorly execute many of the necessary marketing components because they just don't have the processes or people lined up to do these things. If they only sell 1 home a year they won't have access to a great photographer, or know who to call to do a floorplan, or find a printer to print high quality brochures. Only when an agent has listed 10 or more homes a year do they actually know what they are doing, and again, this is your largest asset that is being sold. In 2016 we listed 34 homes in Lexington and surrounding towns. We are ranked #1 for Lexington based agents for listings in 2016.

4. How do I know what price to bring my home on the market for?

Your agent should provide you with a market analysis that does 2 things.

  1. it provides a series of comparable, or relevant, homes to bracket a price range that we estimate your home should sell in. Once you have that range then the decision that you need to make is the type of pricing strategy you are comfortable with. You can bring your home on the market for over the price range recommended and sit on the market and negotiate a lower price or reduce the price a couple of times to try to stimulate an offer, or price realistically and have buyers compete for your home and sell it for over the asking price.
  2. A market analysis is a great opportunity to educate the seller into what is happening in the market in the town. By providing commentary on each home included in the market analysis the seller is informed why the home was on the market for a long period of time, versus why the home sold for competing offers and obtained the price it did.

Some agents don't provide much information with regard to relevant homes that have sold and will just 'throw out a number'. Often that number is higher than what market value is because the agent is 'buying the listing'. If we come in and tell you that your home should sell for around $1.1M and another agent tells you they can get $1.2M for your home then you are more than likely to bring your home on the market with them. BUT, as soon as your home is on the market they will start working on you to reduce the price because they know they overpriced the home to get you to list the home with them. So, if the agent can't justify the price they have told you then you need to question how, and why, they came up with that price.

It's also worth noting that the longer a sign is outside your home the more this is advertising the listing agent to your neighbors. Some agents LOVE their sign out in front of a home for as long as possible because it markets them, but by overpricing it ultimately sells the home for less money.

5. How successful are you in selling homes for the asking price or more?

Not only are we the #1 ranked Lexington based agent/team for the number of listings, at 105% we have the highest sales price to list price ratio of the Top 10 Lexington based listing agents. This is really, really important. Let's say you bring your home on the market for $1,000,000 (remembering that this is below the average sales price in Lexington so most homes sell for over this price) and you are working with an agent in the Top 10 who has a sales to list price ratio of 95% then you would, on average, sell your home for $950,000. If you listed your home with us, who have the highest sales to list price ratio at 105% then you would, on average, sell your home for $1,050,000. That is a $100,000 difference due to the agent you choose to sell your home, on a below average sale price home! Remember too that we don't decide on the price a home comes on the market for - the seller does. The difference is the preparation/staging and marketing that we do for a home, and the fact that we don't 'buy' listings because this ultimately get less for the seller. Our focus is to get the highest price possible for our sellers because our sellers bottom line is of utmost importance to us.

If you would like an estimate of what your home would sell for in today's market I would be more than happy to come by, have a look at your home, and then provide a CMA (comparative market analysis) which will provide you with an estimate of what your home should sell for, along with a marketing plan to get maximum exposure for your home.

If you'd like to chat more about the topic presented here, or the Real Estate market in general, then please call me on (617) 997 9145, or email me at

Lexington Statistics

MLS data is provided by MLSPIN. While MLS data is believed to be accurate, it cannot be guaranteed. MLS data is constantly being updated, making any analysis a snapshot at a particular time. All raw data remains the intellectual property of MLSPIN.
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