22 Secrets Your Real Estate Agent Isn’t Telling You

From hosting an open house to getting an estimate of your property's value, these real estate tips from the experts ought to help in today's tough market.

Your open house helps me more than it helps you. 

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The majority of visitors aren’t buyers—they’re nosy neighbors—and that gives me an opportunity to hand out my card and possibly gain new clients. Try out these genius tips for taking the best photos of your home to get it ready to sell.

Scents matter

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Plug-in air fresheners are a turnoff to a lot of people.  If you want your house to smell good, bake cookies right before a showing. Don't have cookie mix on hand? You can also try out these simple deodorizer ideas to make your home smell fresh.

 Don't turn people away because of a mess

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If you get a call saying that some buyers want to see your house in 15 minutes, let them in even if it’s a bit messy. Those last-minute types typically make impulsive decisions, and they just might decide to buy a house that day. Try out these 12 storage hacks to banish clutter.

 Don't push away a low offer

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In this kind of market, don’t be offended by a low-ball offer. You have a better chance of getting that person to pay than finding someone new. Finally sold the house? Here are some tips for packing that will make your life much easier.

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 Ask to get what you paid for

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If I’m hugely successful, you may not get the benefit of my experience. A well-known agent may pass you off to a junior agent after you sign the contract. Ask me exactly who will be handling your phone calls, marketing your house, and taking you to look at homes before you sign to ensure you get exactly what you’re paying for. Watch out for these 15 ways that moving companies scam you.

 Read before you sign

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Make sure you read my listing or buyer’s contract carefully before signing it. There may be an extra “administrative fee” ranging from $250 to $1,500 on top of my standard commission, intended to cover my brokerage’s administrative costs. Similar to my commission, this fee is negotiable.

 Don’t skip the final walk-through

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It’s your last chance to make sure that repairs were done properly, that the owner’s personal items have been removed, and that the items you agreed should stay are still there. I’ve seen stoves, washers and dryers, and beautiful chandeliers walk right out the door.

 Beware of seller’s agents who overestimate your house’s selling price.

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They’re hoping you’ll choose them over other agents who will price it more realistically. We call that “buying your listing,” and it guarantees your house will sit on the market for a very long time.

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 Houses without furniture don’t look larger.

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Empty rooms may actually appear smaller because the buyers can’t get a sense of how much furniture will fit. These are the personal details that your home can reveal about you.

 Clear the counters

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My No. 1 selling tip: Clear off counter tops in the bathrooms and kitchen.  Americans love that wide-open counter space. Here are some other simple upgrades that add value to your home.

 Don't trust realty websites to price your home

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For an estimate of property values in certain states, check zillow.com, but don’t lock on to that number. Desktop appraisal systems assess how nearby homes with similar square footage have sold; they don’t consider home interior.

 Watch out for my references

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If I’m new in the business, my references are likely to be relatives or good friends. So when you call, always ask how they found me.

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I can't tell you everything, but you can find out yourself

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I can’t share the economic standing or predominant ethnic background of the people in the area or the local crime rate. If I did, I would violate Fair Housing laws. So look them up yourself!

 The commission is always negotiable upfront, before you sign a contract

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You can even make it part of the transaction. If you and your buyer are $4,000 apart, for example, ask the agents if they are willing to reduce their commissions by $2,000 each to bring the deal together.

 Staging your home can help

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Yes, staging your home by getting rid of clutter and bringing in furniture or accessories can help it sell. But music, champagne glasses next to the bed and fake pies on the countertop? That’s going overboard, and it will turn some buyers off. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to staging your home. 

 That big commission check doesn’t go straight into my pocket

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First I divide it with my brokerage, and then most of us have to pay our own expenses, including the sign we put outside your house, your lockbox, access to the MLS, association membership and more. At the end of the day, out of that $6,000, I may really just be getting $2,500.

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 Ask about my history

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Even if I’ve had my license a few years, I may be a soccer coach moonlighting as a real estate agent, and yours may be the first home I’ve tried to sell in years. Ask how many transactions I completed last year, and Google my name to see if it comes up on real estate forums and websites.

 It might make more sense for you to rent

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It often costs less, gives you the flexibility to move at a moment’s notice and you won’t have to shell out a lot of cash for unexpected repairs.

 Your neighbors make you look good

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If your house is for sale and the lawn next door is starting to look overgrown, cut the dang grass for your neighbors. It’s a small thing, but it can make a huge difference. Refreshing the exterior paint on your home can also increase it's value.

 We don't like agents who rush

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As a rule, we don’t like people who roll out of bed, do a two-week course and all of a sudden they’re an agent. If I have an agent I have to teach on the other end of the table and someone else brings me an offer at the same time, I will encourage my clients to take the other offer.

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 I've walked in on a lot

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I’ve walked in on homeless people squatting, on couples having sex and more. As a real estate agent, our safety is compromised every time we walk into an empty house.

 You have to know today's market

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I know it’s heart-breaking, but the fact that your house was worth a lot more a few years ago is simply not relevant. You’ve got to be realistic about today’s market.

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