What you need to do before the For Sale sign goes up

By Geoff Kirbyson

You might think there’s not much more to selling a house than putting up a “for sale” sign and touring people through, but you’d be wrong.

While those are the most public duties performed by REALTORS®, the vast majority of the work takes place behind the scenes.

Kenneth Clark, president of WinnipegREALTORS®, said Realtors take a hands-on role well before the sign appears on the front lawn.

It starts with providing a detailed market evaluation of the property, including details of comparable active listings, houses that sold in the last 90 days and ones that didn’t sell over that period. The latter piece of information is often the most important.

“If you put a property on the market and it doesn’t sell for 90 days, it’s usually because of the price,” he said.

Next is providing the ratio of list price to selling price. For example, if a two-storey house in a popular neighbourhood is listed at $400,000, how many houses at that level are getting 100 per cent of the list price?

“Then you can manage the owner’s expectations. Not every Realtor goes to the trouble of using all of this information. It’s very useful for the owner of the property,” he said.

A key step at this point is crafting a written marketing plan so homeowners know what they’ve got to do to their home before they put it on the market. A staging consultation, for example, can pinpoint items to improve, change or rearrange.

Once the improvements have been completed, it’s time to bring in the cameras. Still photographs are great but video produces 400 per cent more views on the Internet.

“It’s huge. It’s more expensive but it gets you the eyeballs on the listing,” he said.

“If you don’t do video, you’re competing with properties that have it and you’re going to suffer as a result. The attention span of people on the Internet is a nanosecond. If they don’t get the information they want right away, they click (on something else).”

For the last 10 years or so, of course, you’ve had to have a social media plan, too. Clark said Realtors should tell their clients how they’re going to advertise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Kijiji and other sites, and how much they’re going to budget each month. Unlike traditional newspaper display ads, their online counterparts can be geared towards very specific markets — such as professionals living in condominiums who earn between $150,000 and $200,000 in annual salary.

“It’s a very targeted approach to marketing,” he said.

When somebody responds to an ad of any kind, Clark said the Realtor’s first job is to qualify the would-be buyer.

“I don’t want you to leave your home and go to the local pub for a beer if I bring a client by who can’t afford your property,” he said.

It’s also very helpful to create a colour brochure of the house that can be left for other Realtors to give to would-be buyers that they bring through. Agents should also provide examples of the advertising they’ve done for similar properties and which publications they’ve used, he said.

Once a would-be buyer indicates their serious interest, the Realtor is responsible for preparing the offer to purchase and delivering it to the client.

“The Realtor represents you in the negotiations and negotiates the best deal that they can. We’re a partner throughout the entire process. It’s our job to market your home so it’s positioned to sell fast and for fair market value. We’re trying to make this as stress-free as possible — we absorb the stress for the vendor — so you can move on with your life,” he said.

Once the negotiations are over and the offer has been accepted, the Realtor needs to make sure that the offer closes. That could involve an appraisal, home inspection and a financing condition.

“We’re holding the buyer’s hand from start to finish. If we miss one of the steps, it can be catastrophic and kill the deal,” he said.