Even if you aren’t planning to move for another six months or even longer, you should think about talking to a real estate agent (or sending them an email) now. Sellers should call much earlier than buyers, often even a year or even more before actually moving.
For Home Buyers
- If you don’t want to buy yet, you needn’t hire an agent. You can go to open houses alone, just be honest with the agent and tell them you’re only looking. It’s actually better to only look at homes online until you’re seriously in the market for a house.
- 93% of buyers start looking for homes on the Internet. An easy way is to drive by properties that interest you in different neighborhoods to start defining location and then make the shift from dream to reality. It’s crucial to find the right location for your home because that is something you cannot change and could have a significant impact on how happy you are in your new home.
After you’ve done your research, it’s a good idea to contact a real estate agent, even if you’re not yet ready to buy. Instruct them to run an automated MLS search (multiple listing service) of different neighborhoods you’re interested in to get a sense of what types of properties are available for what prices.
A mortgage lender can assist in helping you figure out a price range at this point. There may be ways you can improve your credit score or correct errors on your credit report so you get the best interest rate.
Once you are about 4-6 months from your target closing date it is time to meet with your agent to more clearly define what you are looking for and start actively looking. It’s also time to get your financing pre-approval. Average time to find a home is about 3 months, plus another 1-2 months from purchase agreement to closing.
For Home Sellers
As you prepare to sell your property, you start creating a to-do list. There’s a lot to do — you realize you’ll need to reach out for some professional services. When is the best time to contact a real estate agent to sell your house?
Experts recommend contacting an agent around three months in advance if they intend to do some updates on the home. Any earlier than six months is too early because market conditions change rapidly.
Let’s talk about how you can prepare your home before meeting with an agent.
Before contacting an agent, begin with a few home preparations
When you’re starting to feel the urge to sell your home, there are a few steps you can take to get the process started before you contact a real estate agent.
Check your finances
Selling your home requires you to commit some financial resources. Your sale price should be enough to cover these additional expenses and pay off your remaining mortgage.
- Repairs and renovations: These costs are determined by your home’s condition. Examples include painting a room a neutral color for $200 and replacing your HVAC for $4,820 – $9,350.
- Closing costs: Closing costs range from 6-10% of the home sale price, including real estate commission fees.
- Moving costs: Moving costs a median of $1,250 for a local move to $4,890 for a long-distance move.
If you’re downsizing, you might want to start the process of decluttering before you contact an agent. Decluttering could mean a 3-5% boost in the asking price. Take care of your clutter one room at a time.
Start deep cleaning
A deep clean adds marketability and value to your home, similar to decluttering. Make your house smell new.
Attend to necessary repairs
Before you contact a real estate agent, fix anything broken or in major disrepair, but hold off on renovations. Your agent will have suggestions on any other improvements that will help your home compare favorably with others in your neighborhood.
Interview multiple candidates before you commit
The choice of a real estate agent directly impacts the speed and price of your home sale, so take time to interview multiple agents. Reach out to at least three real estate agents for initial screenings three or four months before your anticipated home listing.
Discuss your objectives with each agent and ask questions including:
- How many homes did you sell in my area?
- How many clients do you currently handle and how many will you handle at one time?
- What kinds of properties are you mostly selling—single-family homes, condos, townhouses?
- Who else will your team assist with our home sale?
- How would you describe your typical marketing plan? How does your team use social media to reach buyers?
- How much experience have you with new sellers?
- What are three things that make you different from your competition?
- Can you provide any guarantees?
- If I pick you, what’s the first thing we do?
Choose a real estate agent you can trust
After conducting the interviews, you can compare the top real estate agents on the basis of their experience, relevant network, and personal connection. Whether it means letting down a referral or a friend in your network, follow your gut.
When you contact real estate agents about three to four months before you want to list, there’s plenty of time to find the best agent, make key renovations, and market your home effectively — all of which are essential steps in selling your home for a great price.
The Bottom Line
As with any major sale or purchase, your first steps to selling or buying a home involve homework and preparation. It’s up to you to make your home appealing before you hire an agent. Remember, even the most skilled and experienced real estate agent can’t help you sell unless they receive an offer, and demand won’t be high for your home if you fail to follow this list.