Updated: Nov 2
So you've chosen a real estate agent, prepared your real estate for sale, and are ready to sign the paperwork. Now what? A lot of the forms involved in listing your property are rather self-explanatory. In most cases, the seller is paying both the listing firm and the buyer’s agent's firm as you most likely already know.
Information for Sellers to Know:
The listing period I plan to put unless you tell me (or have told me) otherwise is for 6 months. While I don’t expect it to take that long, sometimes the price is too high without enough price reductions, something dissuades buyers that needs to be addressed, & sometimes there are multiple contracts on a property where buyers pull out for a wide variety of reasons, such as not agreeing with the seller on repairs that they’d like, having a closing scheduled out longer than the usual 30-45 days after contract ratification & then pulling out in breach of contract last minute (with you sometimes getting the EMD in that scenario), or otherwise. That said, some sellers have had bad experiences with listing agreements from deadbeat agents. If that is you, let me know, so that I can shorten the listing period. We can always extend it later by mutual agreement.
Technical Details: Agreed Up Front Closing Costs
I plan to put the agreed-upon closing cost assistance in the listing agreement to give to buyers at $0, although it’s important to note that while not typical in this market, in some cases, the best buyer will need closing cost. When that happens in this market, it's typically, but not always, between 1% and 3% for buyers. This way we are just not asking you to agree in advance to anything as far as the closing costs go, as it depends on the situation. Sometimes a home will go for above-asking price with no closing costs, whereas other times it will go for less than asking price with closing costs. It depends primarily on price, condition, and location.
Here is a video I've made guiding sellers like you through some of the listing paperwork. I'd be happy to answer any questions that the video might not cover, as it is a relatively brief overview despite its duration.
Here is an example form for the primary offer used in Hampton Roads, but keep in mind that these change, sometimes multiple times in a year. If you would like a more updated version, feel free to let me know. Also, offers can vary, such as the VAR offer which is different in a number of ways that is more common in places like the Richmond area and the Northern Neck.
Responsibilities & Inspector Options Spreadsheet
While not completely comprehensive (as the contract is), here is a spreadsheet of some of the seller & buyer responsibilities in a transaction. Those who have signed the Garrett Realty Partners Affiliated Business Disclosure may be provided a more updated version including hyperlinks to options for various service providers, most of whom in this case are unaffiliated with GRP where GRP gets no direct compensation for you doing business with them but where sellers often still want to know who to use.
Preparing Your Home for Listing
Here are some articles on preparing your home for listing & for photos:
Staging Your Home One place where I would disagree with the article is where it states "Power-wash your house". I recommend a soft wash. The problem with power washing your house, unlike your driveway, is that it's very easy to do more harm than good, especially around windows. I encounter broken window seals all the time as an agent, and I wonder how many have power washing as a contributing factor since it's such a common ingredient to broken window seals. I agree with the article though that power washing your sidewalk and driveway are a good idea. That said, 24-48 hrs after power washing your sidewalk or driveway, as long as dry throughout that period, consider sealing it.
The most important functional staging elements (that I can provide if you're doing a standard listing with me rather than a discount listing for properties under $400k, with me having it available even at discount listing levels at $400k+) include:
Shoe Covers & Bin w/ Sign
Hand Towels at Sinks
Interior & Exterior Floor Mats
Toilet Paper in Each Bathroom
Survey of Property (if available)
As long as you're not doing a discount listing (if under $600k), and as long as the property isn't as is or otherwise not suitable for snacks/drinks, I'll also be providing premium snacks/drinks with an emphasis on quality, selection, & not staining (i.e. all clear liquids). If possible, it's ideal to have a section of your refrigerator reserved for drinks, cheeses, etc. that I'll be bringing.
Maintaining Your Home During Listing
Ensure landscaping & exterior are in good order on a regular basis (grass cut, leaves removed, weeds pulled, bushes trimmed if applicable, pavement, patio, decks, walkways blown, etc.)
Ensure that no insects are visible on interior of property (Insect treatment as long before listing as possible is ideal since weeks/months after treatment some could still be alive and need additional treatment. including 24 hrs prior to listing going live, 24 hrs prior to open house (typically Sat after listing goes live on Thursday), 24 hrs prior to pictures, & after any storms).
Also look out for and seek to eliminate or move insects on the exterior if a nuisance. For instance, no need to touch a pollinating butterfly, aphid eating ladybug, or protected species that eats other bugs without causing a mess like a praying mantis. Conversely, if buyers would need to walk across an ant trail to enter the home or there's a wasp nest or mud dobber nest on the home or in the shed, take care of it.
Ensure that smells at home are positive/neutral without using air fresheners that mask smell. There should be no smell of air freshener at the home but there also shouldn't be a bad smell. If there's a strong smell, locate the source (i.e. carpet/soft furniture/pets/kitchen) and seek to eliminate it at the source.
Clean up trash on property, and if your neighbors aren't very clean, let them know that you'll be listing your property and mention the trash on their property, asking if they can clean it up. If they say no or if they say yes but do nothing, ask them if you can clean it up for them (within reason) before you list the property. In some cases, a fresh start will encourage them to keep it cleaner in the future.
If you are an owner-occupant or occasionally visit the property since you're located nearby, if you ever see the trashcans full or the snack/drink supply running low if your listing package offers that, please empty the trash into your dumpster and alert me of the need for more snacks/drinks.
Most of Adam's listing packages offer 1 or more open houses, excluding discount listings under $200k, land, certain commercial property, & certain as-is properties. The first Saturday after listing, Adam typically likes to perform one. See Adam's offerings per price point and commission offered for frequency details. If you'd prefer to not do any open houses, let Adam know.
Showings on Occupied Properties & Direct Communication with Prospective Buyers
ShowingTime is what I'll be using for agents to schedule showings with you. Here are more details about Showingtime including comparing it to other showing services (none of which I recommend, excluding Showingtime). Here are details about how to use it optimally. Even if it's easy to figure out, I highly recommend that latter article.
It is best if occupants can avoid being present on the premise during showings. If occupants can't, while it is completely fine to speak to buyers during showings, unless the buyer is unrepresented, we should avoid most contact besides simple greetings or sharing about the positive elements of the house. We should never discuss an offer with the buyer directly if their listing agent is not present & even for unrepresented buyers, please reach out to me if you would like to discuss an offer with them directly (which I don't typically recommend in favor of me discussing an offer with the buyer rather than you). If you acquire the buyer's contact information, please do not contact them directly until after sale. Any questions for them should go through the agents.
Aerials, Matterport 3d Tours, & professional still photography all come standard with my listings. I'll be coordinating with you on times in the event that those haven't occurred already.
If you'll be here in person, it's best to either take a video of the property with me remotely (interior & exterior) or meet 1-3 hrs prior to pictures (depending on size, occupancy, & condition) to ensure everything is good so we have time for finishing touches.
Lines of Credit
If you have a line of credit on the property, it's important to not pay it off unless the earliest closing time is a minimum of 90 days out due to reporting legally taking up to 90 days.
Self-Marketing via Email & Social Media
While Adam will be doing the primary marketing, some sellers want to help with some marketing of their own. For instance, once listed, it's not a bad idea to share it with anyone you know in the area (i.e. via email) &/or online groups in the area that are not possible for businesses to share on due to rules against businesses sharing directly in a number of groups, especially those businesses identified as such on Adam's spreadsheet on the subject that are in your area. Before you list, it's not a bad idea to start creating a list of those you will email and start adding yourself to groups that don't allow businesses to post themselves that are marked in red on Adam's spreadsheet on the subject that he can share with you if desired. It may take days or weeks in some cases for approval into the groups.
While Adam's FB sharing methods are effective, he's seen the most effectiveness when the seller and he operated in a coordinated effort in this regard, i.e. the below example, which as you can see, has no paid ad spend involved but is primarily the result of shares by Adam & his seller:
Image courtesy Facebook
For more details, go to Adam's article on the subject here.
Home Owners' Association & Condo Associations
If you're in an HOA or condo association, it's a good idea to go ahead and order your HOA or condo packet in advance of listing. In some cases getting an update after a buyer goes under contract with you is free, while in other cases it may be $100 or a few hundred dollars, but by doing so in advance, the buyer is less apt to walk due to the association. In some cases, buyers will walk using the association contingency clause after you may have already made repairs if you don't receive this document until later on. The buyer doesn't need to say what part of the HOA docs they don't like, so some buyers unethically use this clause to get out of the contract even though they don't have any problems with these documents.
What Your Listing Agent Needs:
Did you know that a thorough seller survey can save some sellers over $10k by offering superior marketing and reducing the likelihood of problems down the road? Most of the information I need beyond the property itself, previous listing, our discussion, and tax records will be found in your seller survey. You'll find that it's longer than previous seller surveys you may have filled out if your agent had a seller survey. I like to be more thorough than the vast majority of agents, mitigate the likelihood of problems up front, and market your home as accurately & as well as possible, thus the volume of content that has expanded over time. It's also larger due to me using more than 1 MLS in at least some cases. Also keep in mind that it's meant to be completed in order from top to bottom as best you can. Some items, once filled in, will answer multiple questions below it so you don't need to read them once the answer to them is automatically filled in by you answering a prior question. For more details, go to the following articles:
Google Sheets Basics (particularly the section "Edit Within Google Sheets")
If you are having any difficulty with the seller survey, keep in mind the notes section & hyperlinks present that should clarify a number of items, & feel free to ask any questions that may be helpful for it (I can provide or you can add a separate column for questions if needed) or we can go over it together orally, such as on Zoom.
Pictures of the Property Condition & Staging Before the Pictures
Did you know that some photo shoots for real estate go terribly wrong because the sellers didn't take enough preparations prior to listing? If the home isn't ready, in some cases, a photographer won't even be in a good position to shoot, and may need to come back another time.
I've even been heckled on at least one occasion by someone on Facebook when my sellers failed to take appropriate steps to get a home in good shape when the sellers (in this case, the heirs of the former seller) went against my recommendations regarding cleaning up the home before selling:
Image courtesy Facebook
In the above case I had a legitimate response, but I won't always be in such a good position to respond, & as you can see, that heckling comment got some attention. Also, if I had wanted a sure way to take that comment down, it would have meant removing the share and any positive feedback I received on that share, including comments from others that were not heckling the post.
Once you've taken Adam's recommendations that you'd like to take regarding getting the property ready for pictures, it's best to send him photos of each room (i.e. 1 from 2 opposite corners of the room) as well as each element of the exterior, i.e. 1 photo of each side of the house, a photo of the front of the house from a distance that shows the full front yard, a photo of the rear of the house from a distance that shows the full back yard, photos of the side yards, and 1 photo of each side of a detached garage or similar large feature if present. It's best to add these photos to a folder on cloud storage, such as free cloud storage via Google drive. It's best to send these at least 1 business day (& ideally more time) before photos are scheduled for.
If I haven't received keys yet from you, I will need 5 sets of copies. Typically 2-4 will go on lockboxes on the property, I will keep 1, and the MLS coordinator of Garrett Realty Partners will keep another. If you are not local and not in a good position for duplicates, I can make duplicates for you. The best option for me to get keys is at the property approximately 1 hr prior to scheduled photos with a photographer, that way if there are any finishing touches needed that weren't obvious in pictures, those can occur prior to the photographer's arrival. If that won't be possible, keys may be dropped off at 11864 Canon Blvd Suite 103, Newport News, VA 23606. It’s best to have them in an envelope with my name on it and the property address on it. Here are more details on that including pictures of the correct entrance (some get GRP confused with Property management) & drop off location of the door if after hours.