Beyond the sign in the ground – What listing agents actually do….(Part I of 2)

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Beyond the sign in the ground – What listing agents actually do…(Part 2 of 2)
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With the coming of spring, home sellers start putting their homes on the market.  A goodly percentage of sellers have a very dim view of an agent’s value and a some do try to sell their homes on their own.

Unfortunately, listing a home on your own tends to end badly.  Until I was in the field for a while, I have to admit that I was very confused as to why the statistics were so grim.  About 90% of FSBO’s fail and nationwide, it is thought that the percentage of successful FSBO’s is in the 10-20% range, depending on market conditions and the general location of the home.

But why is it so tough to sell your own home?  I think there are several points of confusion.  The main one being that the public has no idea exactly what it is that we do to sell your home.

Traditionally, it is thought that we fill out a few forms,  stick a sign in the ground, throw a listing onto the MLS and disappear. Then we reappear magically at closing to collect a ginormous check  because that sign in the ground is worth real money.  If it were that simple, homes would fly off the shelf and agents would have disappeared as soon as the internet opened the door to online listing information. That didn’t happen and it really shows no signs of happening despite the best attempts of numerous Silicon Valley  giants to commoditize or  eliminate the role of the agent.

So let’s talk a bit about what agents actually do.  This is the first of two podcasts on this subject.  Today I will deal specifically with what an agent does prior to putting a home on the market.

Making sure its all legal:

Before we list a home, we make sure that everything that has been done to the home is legally recorded by the municipality.   To do this, we pull the property card and make sure that everything that is in the house is on the card.  Did you add a bathroom or a new deck without getting permits and a CO?  If you did, you are going to have to have it legalized prior to sale. Doing this from the get-go prevents major problems down the road that could easily derail the sale.

Maximizing the positives while minimizing the negatives:

A good agent will go through a home and work hard to present it in its best possible light.  Most agents have worked with many buyers over the years.  As such we can assess a home’s assets and potential pitfalls and how turn potential negatives into positives.   A good agent can position  the home to its best possible advantage.

Setting the price:

Pricing the home to sell is very important.  This requires time and research as well as local knowledge and buyer preferences.  Many underestimate the importance of NOT over-pricing a home. Most buyers look within  a fairly tight price range because they have strict  limits with respect to lending and cost-of-living.  If you are trying to sell an $800,000  home for $850,000, the relevant buyer pool won’t even have your home on their radar.

Pin-pointing needed repairs:

Sometimes minor changes can make a big difference.  Taking down wallpaper, fixing a bad facet or repairing a minor leak is all money in the bank.  Other changes may not be so worthwhile.  We help you identify what will give you the biggest bang for you buck.  Although we can’t put on our overalls and help you take down wallpaper, agents do have built-in networks with those who can.  This helps home sellers hire the right people for the right project.


Sellers are often put off by the idea of staging.  But  I find that in most cases, homes sell faster and for more money when I bring in a stager.  Often, the stager can work with the seller’s own effects and change things dramatically without spending an arm and leg.  In my case, depending on the price of the home and my marketing costs, I will sometimes be able to return a fixed amount for staging to the home seller at closing.

Photography & Video:

Some agents are great in this department, and others like to live in the land of “good enough”.  Having said that, one should never underestimate the importance of photography.  Bad photography can literally eliminate swaths of potential buyers because they generally make their first “cut” by thumbing through photos  and watching videos.  I’ve dragged buyers kicking and screaming to houses that were victims of bad photography because I knew the home was perfect for them. Not all agents will do that, so a poor presentation will hurt the listing.

In my case, the question about professional photography is a no-brainer since I am a professional photographer who is frequently hired by my colleagues.  All of my clients get a full photo-shoot with images  and video spread around the internet and in print as well as video and twilight shoots when appropriate.


The best pictures in the world won’t do anyone any good if the home is not marketed.  Agents do load their listings onto the MLS  and the lions share of sales comes through other agents who use the MLS as a database.  But I find that an agent who has their own website (like the Westchester View) and who spreads the wealth on sites like YouTube and FB gets a wider audience.  Don’t get me wrong, the MLS is still where the vast majority of sales come from. But having the listing photos “out there” where fence-sitters are lurking is also important.

The point of all of this is to position the home to maximize buyer traffic.  More traffic is likely to produce more offers and more offers can lead to a better sales price.

And yes, after all that positioning and marketing are in place…. we stick a sign in the ground!

© 2015 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – – All rights reserved.

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Please feel free to contact me anytime to request additional information or to set up an appointment so we can explore your listing or purchasing needs. I am easy to reach by phone, text or email. Or, if you just want to continue your search online, the links below will help you get started.

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