Help! I Want To Sell My House!

And I have absolutely no experience whatsoever when it comes to real estate! Sure, I’ve talked with people who have bought/sold, I’m always looking for stuff online, etc., but me, personally? :blank look:

The house in question has been mine since the early 2000s when my mother signed it over to me. She and I lived here for nearly all my life. When Mr. Kiz and I married he moved in. We figured we’d be here for a couple of years until we’d saved enough to move to our own place. That fell through when my mother became ill. She has since passed. We’re still here because 1) it’s paid for, and 2) Mr. Kiz has had no luck securing FT employment (he was laid off a few months after the wedding), so everything financial rides on me. His name isn’t on the house, btw.

Reasons for selling? 1) Taxes (I can barely afford them); 2) Can’t afford to update anything (I’m figuring it would be sold as-is and I’d take the hit); 3) Downsizing (the house was too big for my mother and me; it’s still too big for us.)

I’m planning to interview a few agents this week, so here are my questions:

  1. Is it better to go with a nationally-recognized brokerage vs. a local agent? I’ve read pros/cons of this all over the place, and it makes me dizzy. The #1 agent in my area works for a national brokerage but has been in this area for years. A lot of people list with her. She gets results, but again…I don’t know, I have the feeling of “little goldfish in a big pond” whenever I see her ads.

  2. Besides rapport, what else do you look for in a potential agent? Knowledge of the area, certainly. Ditto credentials. But what else?

  3. I know the market is still crappy, but I’m also wondering if there’s something else I should consider to make the house sell faster besides lowering the price to reflect the work needed…would it be prudent to sell to a property management company, for instance? The house kitty-corner to me did that last summer. It was torn down, rebuilt, and rented. Would property management fall until commericial vs. residential? I have no idea.

Anyway, any stories, soundbites, what-have-you – I’m interested!

My completely unsubstantiated opinion is that, all other things being equal, you’re better off with a local realtor. A national organization is going to be working on the volume of their sales - they’re looking to make as many sales as possible not maximize the profit on individual sales. A local agent is not going to make a lot of sales, so he or she will be looking to make as much money as possible on each sale. And being as the realtor gets a percentage of what you get, you want the realtor to make as much as possible from your sale.

That is my way of thinking – perhaps the reason why everyone seems to be going with the national brokerage agent (who’s been around for ages, btw) is because she’s liable to sell it faster than the local agents. But then again…

See, if I knew anyone local who has recently sold, I’d ask. Unfortunately I don’t.



Wrong and wrong.

Right, but I don’t see what that has to do with the question.

Realtor here. Perhaps you are not aware that all real estate agents are local. Some are affiliated with regional or national firms, but all licenses are issued by the state.

If the broker is affiliated with a larger group, he gets access to a larger pile of advertising money and an association with other brokers outside of his local territory. That may be good, or of no consequence. In any case, he is paying a franchise fee that non-affiliated firms are not.

One reason national affiliation isn’t as important as it used to be is the Internet. Most people start a home search that way, and small, local firms can have just as much presence as large ones on the Internet. Almost all firms feed their listings into as well as hundreds of other Internet sites.

I don’t think it matters much if you work with an affiliated firm. The agent is what does the work and who sells your house; the firm mostly stands behind it.


It doesn’t cost anything to put your house up for sale and see what happens. At least that’s been my experience.

What’s missing from your OP is how much money you’ll need to move. Will you make enough from the sale to buy another house?

Selling can be a pain. Most buyers aren’t looking for something that needs work, and if they’re okay with a fixer-upper, they’ll expect the price to reflect that. The house will need to be clean and uncluttered and ready to be shown at any time. And if it sells, you’ll need a place to live.

Here’s an idea: Get an agent. Start looking for another house, the right size, with taxes you can afford. Make an offer on the new house, contingent on the sale of your current house. The agent will be looking hard for a buyer for your old house because he/she will want to make both sales.

Just don’t buy anything until you’ve sold your current house.

Will you deliver?

Another Realtor checking in here. IMO (and coming from someone who works at a national brokerage) there isn’t any major advantage or disadvantage to the consumer from working with an agent at a brand name brokerage. I’m at a major brokerage because I want the national advertising to work for me in my business. But in the internet age, listings are getting exposed nine ways to Sunday, regardless of the name on the yard sign.

If you’re looking for a good agent to work with, get a referral. I know you said that you don’t know anybody who has sold recently, but I’d still ask around. Maybe ask other professionals in your area that you like and trust - accountants, attorneys, etc. When it comes to choosing your agent, be careful not to fall for the “I sell more houses than anybody in our area” line. One of the things that you might get out of those agents is someone who is really, really good at getting you to do something that may not be in your best interests because it helps his/her bottom line. I’m not saying that being a big producer is bad. But top producing agents are top producers not so much because they are good at selling houses. What they are really good at is selling themselves. You definitely want somebody who does enough business to know what he/she is doing. But if you start getting the “list with me right now” pressure during an appointment, you might want to take a step back.

As for selling the house, my experience is that selling a house comes down to pretty much two big key things: Price & exposure to agents. All that other stuff - advertising, virtual tours, open houses, etc. might help a little bit, but mostly those kinds of things are about getting more phone calls and leads to the agent. Price it right for the market, make sure that your agent is offering market appropriate compensation to selling agents and does things to get the property in front of other agents (broker tours, announcement at MLS meetings, email campaigns).

Good luck!

I’ve been a commercial RE agent for over 24 years. All agents are effectively local. National office or franchise vs local boutique is generally far less meaningful than the individual agents sales performance. It is generally true that larger offices with more agents can bring more marketing and networking tools to the table, but in many cases these larger offices are successful local boutique agencies vs national franchise offices in the market with only a few agents. It varies area to area.

In real world terms a listing will more often have a better chance of being fully exposed to the market in a larger office with lots of agents onsite, whether local or national, than a smaller (in terms of number of agents on site) office. Despite all offices large or small in a market having access to multiple list and local advertising, many properties are sold via the intra-office networking between agents who push their listings to each other. Having said this a lazy agent in a large office is not as good as a focused hustler in a small office. It’s a balance.

Over time many agents will tend to specialize in various niches. If you want to identify the best agent for your house look at who the most successful agents are WITHIN your price category. Top dollar volume selling agents may, in many cases, be concentrating their efforts and networking on high end properties, and will not be as focused on a marketing a mid level property as the successful agent one or two steps down in selling volume.

Be very, very, very realistic about selling price in this market. An agent who wants to swing for the fences re recommended listing price or is willing to reduce their commission to the bone is often just trying to get the listing and will flounder around in marketing it. Desperate agents are usually not the best agents.

You have to commit to spending some dollars to fixing all the basic stuff or be prepared to kiss off a lot of value if a buyer is forced to do this work themselves. Don’t market the property until it is fixed up and ready to show.

Unless your property is ideally located for a rental, the value of your house to an investor seeking to lease it is usually going to be substantially less than it would be to a purely residential buyer. And even if well located for a rental it will still probably be worth less to an investor vs a user in most cases.

Assuming the price is right, you want to list with the agent who provides the best food for the other agents when she shows them the house and all the other agents come because they know. What you want is for a lot of agents to think “Yeah, I could sell this” and they don’t think that if they haven’t seen it. Buyer’s eyes will follow agent’s eyes.

As far as the price is concerned, you should educate yourself about what comparable properties have sold for in your area (and I mean sold, not the asking price). Look on Zillow and be honest with yourself about what constitutes a comparable. Don’t go with the agent who promises you the most money, go with (or at least consider) the agent who gives you the most reasoned analysis about what your house will bring.

Agreed. You’ve said you can’t afford to update it, but you will be leaving A LOT of money on the table if you don’t do cheap, easy things like a fresh coat of paint, updating electrical fixtures, and fixing the obvious, glaring problems with the place. If you’d like to list what needs to be done with your house, we could give you an idea about what things are probably within your reach, and which ones are truly not worth going for.

There are all kinds of costs associated with buying and selling a house, too (lawyer fees, appraisal fees, inspection fees, moving costs, closing costs, financing costs, cleaning costs, etc.). Not to discourage you from selling, but these need to be taken into account in the price you get from your house and what you can afford for the next place. If you get, say, $200,000 from your sale, you won’t get $200,000 available for the purchase in your bank account, and you won’t get it instantly - it takes time for the money from one sale to become available to pay for the next purchase. Between your agent and your lawyer (and I STRONGLY recommend having a lawyer for real estate sales and purchases), they should be able to set things up so the money goes from one house to the next.

Starting to look now is a great idea - you need to know the market around you for what you buy as well as what you’re selling - the more informed you are, the better your choices will be. Your agent will guide you, but they won’t make choices for you. I wouldn’t (and didn’t) make any offers until my old house was sold, though, and if you’re real estate market is still depressed, I wouldn’t do that if I were you, either. You need to get one sale out of the way before you start making conditional purchases on another house. Plus, if the market is slow there, you will have plenty of options for purchasing once your sale is a done deal and you don’t have to worry about your purchase being contingent on your sale.

Very good advice. You want an agent who works in your neighbourhood, on your kind of house.

Yup. We sold our house a year and a half ago, and it sold in weeks because we had tidied up every last detail - every switch plate, every paint job that it needed, every loose tile, it was all taken care of.

We chose our real estate agent because when we were still in the preliminary stages of selling, she came over to our house with a folder full of information on houses in our neighbourhood that had sold, all the information on our house’s previous sales, all kinds of information like that - in other words, she had done her homework and she showed that she was willing to do the work to sell our house for us. She always answered her phone when we called, and was always available to us; she listened to us, and found us exactly what we told her we wanted. She was reliable and did the job we needed her to do - when you’re shopping for an agent, you need these qualities from them.

Oh yeah, start talking to your banks now, too (or once the place is fixed up if you decide to slap a coat of paint on). The time to find out how much mortgage you qualify for is not after you’ve found your dream house.

I second that. The first thing I ask buyers is, “Are you pre-approved?” Any offer written by such a buyer is better than one where there is a contingency – possibly lengthy – to acquire a suitable loan. If there are multiple offers on one property, the best one usually wins.

Cash buyers, not to worry.

That might be difficult in many circumstances. Where are you going to live in between homes?

It is possible to write an offer contingent upon a sale of another property. This makes the offer less desirable, but in some markets, it may be all a seller can get. A seller may require a “bump clause,” which means that if they (the sellers of the house you are buying) get a better offer, they will ask you to put up or shut up – basically, come thru with the cash in 72 hours or lose the deal.

An alternative is a bridge loan, which “bridges” the purchase of your new home and the sale of your old one. If your credit is good enough, consider this option. Some banks will provide a bridge loan for interest only until the old home is sold.

Oh yeah, I think we had a very short bridge loan, too (again, our lawyer and banks took care of all that stuff - our lawyer does real estate, and it was business as usual for him).

I think buying a house with contingencies for selling your old one or not is kind of a personal choice, but I’m fairly set against doing that, especially in a depressed market.

That happened with my SIL/BIL – when the finally sold their house, they still hadn’t decided where to move. They’re in an apartment now, and may be there for some time because they still haven’t decided.

I’d definitely would need the $ from the sale of the house to put a downpayment on another one. No question about that.

That’s what I’m a bit leery about. Looking at all the houses up for sale in my area, for instance – most of them are very high-end (I happen to live in the lower-class part of a fairly wealthy town). Most of them are either with the national brokerage or with the well-established local agency. I feel as though I’d either be lost in the shuffle or they’d laugh me off. Silly, I know, but…gah.

:nodding: I’ve got one huge clean-out job ahead of me and a recalcitrant husband. Give me strength.

A good agent will do this for you and will try to talk you down from an unreasonable asking price. When you interview your agent, ask pertinent questions such as these. Your agent should be someone who is experienced in your type of property, i.e., somebody who deals primarily in selling undeveloped land would probably not be the best choice for you. Check your paper’s real estate ads. Most companies are proud to tout their top sellers. They’re top sellers because they do all of those things mentioned by the realtors in this thread.

I’m not a Realtor but I’ve worked with a Realtor who has been my client for about 10 years now. She and her parents had a family realty business for a long time, and she took over when they died, but eventually closed up shop and bought a Re/Max franchise. Then that went under and now she works for someone else’s Re/Max franchise.

So she’s worked in 3 different types of situations and I can guarantee none of it made any difference in her ability as a Realtor. She is just a kickass Realtor, because she has been doing it for 30+ years now. When she sold my house she was in the middle of transitioning from her small shop to the franchise and she never missed a beat. I’ve recommended her to all my friends and the ones smart enough to take my advice have been thrilled with her.

Anyway please do not let your misconceptions about small realty businesses vs. large national businesses sway your decision about which Realtor to choose. Who the Realtor sells under has almost no bearing on their ability to serve you. You need to look at their history as a Realtor and nothing else.

(But don’t go with Howard Hannah if they are in you area because they suck donkey balls)

I am a Realtor and this is my opinion:

Put your house up for sale with a Realtor who gets your house in the local MLS . Buyers who have a Realtor will find out about your house through the MLS because their Realtor will tell them about it.

All the other real estate sites like Yahoo and Zillow feed off the MLS. So people looking on the internet will see your house.

For buyers who don’t have a Realtor, have an occasional open house if these are popular in your area. I’m shocked at the number of people in my area who only look for houses in the open house directory. Put your house on Craigslist or ask your Realtor to do it.

Around here newspaper advertising is fairly useless except for the open house guide so don’t be sidetracked by flashy ads.

When your Realtor comes to you with active listings, and sold comps to help price your home pay more attention to the recent solds. Look at the active listings and price your house to sell, not compare. If there are 5 houses similar to yours listed for $200,000 you don’t want to list for $200,000. You want to list for enough less that people will choose to see your house over everyone else’s.

Big company or small company it doesn’t matter, pick who you like and seems to have time for you and is professional. Pick one who has similar ideas of what you want in the end and you won’t spend a lot of time explaining what you want. Like others have said before all Realtors are local…When the big company agent tries to tell you that you’ll be better off with him because he has access to more relocation buyers it’s not true. He might have more relocation buyers but here’s how relocation works: An agent in distant place calls an agent in your town, passes off the buyer to local agent and local agent looks in the MLS, where your house is, for homes for them.

Do not choose the place that, for a flat fee, will stick a sign in your yard and put your house in the MLS then leave everything else up to you. I don’t actively avoid showing these houses but some agents do. Once there’s a contract signed the buyer’s agent usually ends up doing all the work of both agents because you really don’t have an agent.

Have your house be squeaky clean and price it to sell and it doesn’t matter what company you choose.

If you don’t owe anything on the house and never actually paid anything for it then you’re not “taking a hit” by selling it for a low price in these times. In your situation I would say price it rock bottom, sell it “as is” and move on. Get a bunch of offers right away and just be done with it.

This isn’t so much pertinent to “picking a realtor” but one thing I noticed was that you said your mother signed the house over to you.

This means your tax basis on the place is the same as hers was - which (depending on your situation) might mean a big tax bill when you sell, if it’s worth enough. If she paid 100,000 for it 30 years ago and it’s now worth 700,000, for example, your gain is 600,000. 100K of that is taxable (or maybe 350,000). You can exclude the first 250,000 (single) or 500,000 (married) of gains. Check with a tax advisor; not sure if your husband not being on the deed makes any difference.