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How can I find a good real estate agent when selling my home?

First, gather a list of names of candidates you will interview. Possible sources of such candidates include recommendations from colleagues, friends, and professionals, and names listed on posted "for sale" signsóespecially for houses that have been sold. Once you have at least three names, schedule a telephone or in-person interview with the agent.

Be sure to ask what problems she/he sees in marketing your home. The broker should be honest about potential problems, and able to think creatively about solutions. Ask for a plan to marketing the home. What can we (the homeowners) do to help you implement your plan? Listen to the answer to find out whether the agent exhibits a willingness to think creatively in approaching whatever problems might exist with the selling process, and whether she/he is co-operative. Ask if the broker will include any ideas she/he has for selling the home in a listing agreement. Make sure the broker knows the good and bad points about your area. Ask the broker for a list of comparable homes, which is essential in helping you arrive at an asking price for your home.

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Which type of listing agreement should I enter into with the real estate agent?

The listing agreement is a contract between the homeowners and the agent. It states how much the agent will be paid, what services will be provided.

You will generally have to enter into an exclusive listing, which gives the agent the exclusive right to sell your house for a limited period of time. The listing agent gets 100% of the commission if he or she sells the house, and part of the commission if another broker sells the house.

Tip Tip: Use an exclusive right to sell agreement, for a period of three months. This will give the broker an incentive to sell the home, and it will still give you an out if you feel the broker isnít doing enough for you. If you have a lot of confidence in the broker, and you have seen and approved his or her plans for marketing the home, you may wish to sign for six months.

Tip Tip: If, at any time during the marketing process, you feel that your broker is not as effective as he or she could be, switch brokers. Do not waste time with a broker about whom you have doubts.

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How can I speed up the sale of my home?

Here are some tips for making your home more attractive to buyers.

Make all the cosmetic improvements you can to get the house looking as good as possible. For instance, repaint, re-wallpaper, do some landscaping, replace broken shingles or shutters, and do anything else to make your house look good.

Increase the comfort of your home by repairing or replacing any part of it that is difficult to use. Change any overly unconventional aspects of your home to make them more conventional.

Make your home seem cozy and inviting when potentials buyers come by. Make sure the inside and outside are clean, neat, and well maintained, and have a fire burning in the fireplace, or a pot of coffee brewing. Be sure all toys, tools, and other items are put away. Keep pets out of sightóunless theyíre extremely well behaved--since buyers may be turned off. Try not to cook foods with lingering odors.

Here are some ideas for working with your broker to speed up the sale of your home.

Offer a warranty. Sometimes offering a warranty on the roof, electrical system, appliances, or other area that is causing the buyers to balk can speed up a sale or smooth the negotiating process.

Create a home sale kit with your broker. This consists of flyers to be distributed to potential home buyers. The flyer should contain photos of your homeís exterior, interior, and surroundings and should list major selling points. It should include information about utility costs, taxes, and a floor plan.

Do not help the broker show the home. Allow the broker to do his or her job, and make yourself available for questions, but do not try to help sell to potential buyers who are looking at your home.

Offer a bonus to your broker, and offer to pay half of the points on closing. Finally, if your house has been on the market for a long time, take it off and re-list it at a later time.

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How can I get the best price for my home?

Here are some tips for negotiating with buyers, once theyíve made their first offer:

  • Find out as much as possible about the potential buyerís situation. Knowing whether the buyer needs to buy a home quickly or is in a position to take plenty of time to negotiate will help you in deciding what type of negotiating stance to take. Knowing about the buyerís family will help you to point out selling points of your home. And knowing whether the buyer needs to equip him- or herself with all new appliances and furniture enables you to throw in deal-sweetenersóe.g., refrigerators, washer and dryers, and furnishings.

  • Reveal as little as possible about your own situation.

Overall, itís important to avoid having the negotiations become confrontational, which can kill a potential deal. The offers you receive will be 10 to 15% below your asking price. Do not be offended by this or by any "low-balling" techniques engaged in by buyers. Be willing to make some concessions. Make counter-offers to try to bring the offer closer to your asking price. If you feel that an offer is unreasonable, however, thereís no reason to entertain it.

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