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Your Selling Team

Your Selling Team

The Team and the Players

You don't have to become an expert in property values, mortgages, tax and real estate law, title insurance, escrow, pest-control work, and construction techniques in order to play the house-selling game well. Instead, you can hire people who've already mastered the skills that you lack. House selling is a team sport. Your job is to lead and coach the team, not play every position. After you assemble a winning team, your players should give you solid advice so you can make brilliant decisions.

Because you probably don't have an unlimited budget, you need to determine which experts are absolutely necessary and which tasks you can handle yourself. You are the one who must determine how competent or challenged you feel with the various aspects of the house-selling process.

The Players

Here's an overview of the possible players on your team:

You: You are the most important player on your team. Sooner or later, another player is bound to drop the ball or fail to satisfy your needs. You have every right to politely, yet forcefully, insist that this person make things right. Remember that you hire the players on your team; they work for you.

Real estate agent: Because the house that you're getting ready to sell is probably one of your largest investments, you want to protect your interests by having someone on your team who knows property values. Your agent's primary mission is to accurately tell you what your house is worth and then negotiate on your behalf to sell it for top dollar.

Real estate brokerage: All states issue two different real estate licenses: one for salespeople (agents) and one for brokers. Real estate brokers must satisfy more stringent educational and experience standards than agents do. If your real estate agent is not an independent broker or the broker for a real estate office, the agent must be supervised by a broker who's responsible for everything that your agent does or fails to do within the course and scope of the duties of a real estate sales professional. In a crisis, your transaction's success may depend on back-up support from your agent's broker.

Property inspectors: Your house's physical condition greatly affects its value. Smart buyers will insist on having your house thoroughly inspected from roof to foundation as a condition of the purchase. We recommend that you get your house thoroughly inspected before putting it on the market so you know what to expect during any subsequent corrective-work negotiations with the buyer.

Financial and tax advisors: Before selling your house, make sure that you understand how the sale (and the purchase of another home, if applicable) fits into your overall financial situation.

Lawyer: Whether or not you need a lawyer on your team depends on three things: the complexity of your contract, the location of your house, and your personal comfort level. If you decide to sell your house without an agent, you definitely need a lawyer who specializes in real estate law on your team. Remember, the purchase agreement you sign to sell your house is a legally binding contract. If you have any questions about your contract's legality, put a real estate lawyer on your team.

Each player brings a different skill into the game. Assemble a great team, and they will guide you through any situation that may arise during your transaction. Keep in mind that good players act as advisors - not decision makers. Decision making is your job. After all, it's your money on the line.

The Perfect Listing Agent

The real estate agent you hire to sell your house, known as the listing agent, must be able to accurately answer your most important question: "What's it worth?" Houses sell for fair market value, which is whatever buyers are willing to offer and sellers are willing to accept.

A good agent can be the foundation of your real estate team. An agent helps you price your property, orchestrates the marketing and showing activities, negotiates with buyers on your behalf, supervises property inspections, and coordinates the closing. A good agent's negotiating skills and knowledge of property values can add 5 to 10 percent to your house's sale price.

All the best listing agents have certain important qualities in common:

Understanding Agency

Single Agency

In this form of representation, a Broker/Licensee represents one of the two parties (seller or buyer) in the transaction and will play one of two roles:

Seller's Agent: In this type of agency, a Broker/Licensee works solely for the seller.

Buyer's Agent: In this type of agency, a Broker/Licensee works solely for the buyer. A Buyer's Agent represents only the buyer even if the seller pays a portion or all of the commission.

Dual Agency

Dual Agency is the most confusing and least understood form of agency. In this form of representation, the Broker/Licensee represents both the seller and buyer equally. Although this is allowed by law, the confusion begins because logically, a Licensee can't represent your best interests as a seller (for instance, getting the highest price possible) while representing the buyer's best interests (getting the lowest price possible) at the same time.

The most common type of Dual Agency involves two different Licensees who both work for the same Broker. For example, you list your home with Sarah, a Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach licensee who agrees to be your exclusive agent. Unknown to you and Sarah, Betty Buyer met Bob, who is also a licensee from Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach. Betty liked Bob's style and asked him to represent her exclusively as a buyer's agent. Bob enthusiastically accepted. So far, so good! You have Sarah, your exclusive agent, and Betty has Bob, her exclusive agent. Everything is fine, until Bob shows Betty your house. Betty loves it and instructs Bob to write up an offer on it immediately.

At the moment Betty decides to look at your house, the agency relationships that you and Betty have with your respective agents change. Like it or not, Sarah suddenly represents both you and Betty. Similarly, Bob becomes your agent as well as Betty's agent.

Why? Even though two different agents are involved in the transaction, both agents work for the same real estate broker - Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach. Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach and the licensees represent the seller and the buyer as soon as the property is shown. That's dual agency. Because Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach is a large brokerage operation with many offices and licensees, your odds of experiencing dual agency are high.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware all permit dual agency relationships as long as the agency status is disclosed in advance, and confirmed by both parties, in writing. Undisclosed dual agency occurs if the seller and buyer have not been advised about or consented to Dual Agency and can be used as grounds to have a purchase agreement revoked and may permit the injured parties to seek recovery against (that is, sue) the Broker.

Designated Agency (available in Pennsylvania only)

Designated Agency allows individual licensees to maintain their exclusive status of representation with a seller and buyer, even when both parties are represented by the same Broker.

In this type of relationship, the individual Licensees each represent one of the two parties to the transaction, work for the same Broker and each plays one of the following roles:

Seller's Agent: In this type of agency, a Broker/Licensee works solely for the seller

Buyer's Agent: In this type of agency, a Broker/Licensee works solely for the buyer. A Buyer's Agent represents only the buyer even if the seller pays a portion or all of the commission

While the licensees remain in the exclusive relationships with you, the Broker will act as the dual agent in this type of relationship, and is responsible to oversee the activities of the Licensees involved in the transaction. Again, consent in writing is required.

In the event a single licensee represents both the seller and the buyer in a transaction,the agency relationship will change and the Licensee will act as a dual agent as described above. Written consent of the parties is required for this change to occur.

Selecting an Agent

Showing off your house

Start the selection process by inviting agents to tour your house to prepare a comparable market analysis (CMA) for your property. The CMA establishes your house's value by comparing it to other houses in your neighborhood that are approximately the same size, age, and condition as your house.

If you intend to interview multiple agents, tell the agent during that first meeting. Schedule second meetings with each agent a few days later to review their CMAs, their marketing plans for your property, and their activity lists.

Conducting agent interviews

Begin each interview by analyzing the agent's CMA, marketing proposal, and activity list. After you review the written material.

Checking agent references

Be sure to get activity lists with names and phone numbers of every seller and buyer the agents represented during the past 12 months. With a complete activity list, you can pick and choose whomever you want to call. You can get a pretty accurate picture of the agents you're considering by making just six calls per agent. Here's how:

Picking the Best Agent

By analyzing agents' CMAs, marketing plans, and activity lists; interviewing the agents; and talking to their clients, you can gather the facts you need to make an intelligent decision. Here are three final considerations to help you select the paragon of virtue that you need on your real estate team:

Who is the Broker?

When you select an agent, your agent's broker is part of the package. If your purchase rolls merrily along, you may never meet the broker. But if a problem occurs, guess who you can turn to for a quick fix? Brokers are the invisible grease in problematic transactions.

All states issue two markedly different types of real estate licenses: one for salespeople (agents) and one for brokers. Agents who have broker's licenses have to satisfy much more stringent educational and experience standards than agents with a salesperson's license do.

Your agent may have either type of license. Broker's licensees have the option either to operate independently or to work for another broker. An agent who has a salesperson's license, on the other hand, must work under a broker's direct supervision, ensuring that you have access to the broker's higher lever of expertise if you need it.

Good brokers develop and maintain relationships with the people with whom their office deals—other brokers, lenders, title officers, city officials, and the like. This reservoir of good will is yours to use if the going gets rough. Brokers with strong business relationships can work near-miracles for you in a crisis.

House sales sometimes get highly emotional. If your life savings are on the line, you may lash out at the other players. Someone must handle the resulting quarrels and misunderstandings. That someone is the broker.

Because the broker participates directly or indirectly in every deal the office handles, your broker's practical experience is directly related to the number of agents in the office. A broker who manages a 25-agent office, for example, gets 25 years of real estate experience per calendar year. Any broker who can survive five years of handling all the office's gut-wrenching messes becomes a superb problem solver out of sheer necessity.

Call your broker into the game if your agent is stymied by a tough problem or if you're having problems with the agent. Everything an agent does or fails to do is ultimately the broker's responsibility. After all, the broker's job is to help make your problems go away.

Other Key Advisors

Houses in good physical condition sell for top dollar. Fixer-uppers sell at greatly reduced prices because whoever buys them must spend money on repairs to get them back into pristine condition.

Even if you've lived in your house for the past 20 years, it may have hidden problems you know nothing about. You probably can't see, for example, whether your house's electrical system is shot or whether dry rot is turning the woodwork into sawdust.

Invisible defects can be deal breakers because they cost major money to repair. The more you know about your house's hidden problems, the better able you are to deal with those problems effectively. For this reason, we recommend that you have your property thoroughly inspected before putting it on the market.

Finding Financial and Tax Advisors

If you want to hire a financial or tax advisor, interview several before you select one. Check with your agent, banker, lawyer, business associates, and friends for referrals. As is the case with selecting your agent, you should get client references from each tax advisor and call the references.

Here are the qualities to look for in a good financial or tax advisor: