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Before Making That First Phone Call to an Agent, Consider These Tips The first things to do when selling or purchasing a home are the same as they would be for any other large purchase: research and planning.

By Chris D. Bentley Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Before you call in a real estate agent, it's on you to make your house look desirable. Keep in mind that if you don't get an offer, your real estate agent can't help you sell, and if your home isn't in good shape, it won't be in high demand.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Due to higher home mortgage loan interest rates, many homebuyers are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to purchase a home. The high-interest rates have also reduced the homebuyer's purchasing power making a once manageable monthly mortgage payment an unaffordable expense.

However, homes that show well, are priced well and are in a highly desirable part of town will sell very quickly with multiple offers. If not, your home may be on the market for 30-plus days before you receive an offer.

If you're thinking of calling an agent, like me, to purchase or sell a home, here are a few ways to prepare yourself for the journey ahead; have all of the money matters taken care of. What I mean by that is to be pre-approved for a mortgage loan if you're purchasing a home and know how much you're going to net off the sale of your current home if you're planning to sell it. Assuming the home is presentable, we'll be ready to show it within a few days.

You already know buying or selling is not an overnight task, but how much time it takes depends on the layout of your home and your budget. Don't take the chance of making a bad first impression in real estate.

Related: 7 Secrets Luxury Home Buyers Need to Know

To decide on an agent, first complete the following:

1. Get a mortgage pre-approval

To begin, research your mortgage choices before signing a contract with a real estate agent. The mortgage you can afford depends on several factors, including the length, price and interest rate of the mortgage you choose.

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same as getting pre-approved. Both pre-qualification and pre-approval need a thorough examination of your financial situation, but only the latter requires a formal mortgage application.

Related: The Property Line: What's With the Surge in Mortgage Rates?

2. Research the market

Your search for a new home should be limited to properties within the price range established by the mortgage for which you have been pre-approved. However, if you plan on selling simultaneously, you should research comparable homes in the neighborhood. Remember that the asking prices listed in real estate ads, whether online or in print, are all you will learn. A real estate agent can provide information on how long a home has been on the market, if there have been any price reductions and, most crucially, how much you may expect to pay at closing.

While studying the real estate market is crucial, avoiding falling in love with any particular property is essential. If you need to sell your current house before buying a new one, there's a good possibility the property won't still be available when you're ready to purchase. Offers contingent on selling another property, known in the real estate market as "yes, but..." offers, have a lower likelihood of being accepted by the seller than those with a stable financial background.

Related: Single Home Purchase Error Gives Woman Entire Neighborhood

3. Remove clutter

Many of us have seen "Trading Spaces" and feel confident in our home-staging abilities. You probably already know that making a good impression on your real estate agent is crucial. If you want your real estate agent to see the full potential in your home, you should have an open house before they come over.

  • Extra shoes and coats should be stored. Keeping these items in plain sight indicates a closet or storage area deficiency.
  • Take off your belongings. Potential buyers want to envision themselves living in your home, and seeing photos of your family reunion can soon dash any hopes.
  • Empty the fridge. The home's appearance of order and tranquility is ruined by the accumulation of alphabet magnets, postcards, and receipts.
  • Clear out the clutter. Larger homes with more open floor plans give visitors more room to move about and think creatively about how they may use the property.

Related: 5 Essential Tips for Networking in Real Estate

4. Clean

If you're trying to sell your property, a spotless look will get you far further than you think. A neat dwelling indicates a sense of ownership and pride. The entrance, for example, should be given as much care and attention as the rest of the building. Clean up the area around your entrance, mailbox, mat and trim. While you might not give much thought to dust and insects living in your light fixtures and shades daily, prospective purchasers who do their due diligence might be put off by such slovenly maintenance.

Window cleanliness is directly proportional to the amount of natural light let in and the degree to which one can take in the scenery outside. It's a good idea to change out the furnace filter once a month to keep the air flowing freely and to keep the air quality high in your home. Finally, make sure the restroom is spotless. The ancient rule of bathroom etiquette that states you shouldn't touch anything other than the toilet, the bathtub and the tiles suddenly becomes extremely important. Do not stand on the toilet seat.

Related: 5 Ways to Sell Your House Fast

5. Replace, restore or resurface

Many long-term residents have come to accept the need for constant maintenance and the presence of outdated or broken fixtures. Walls, for instance, need to be patched and painted. Neutral paint colors make it easier for potential buyers to picture themselves in your home (like a blank canvas), and a fresh coat of paint on an undamaged wall shows that you take pride in maintaining the property.

Consider the home's street charm as well. Are the weeds pulled and the grass cut? Most potential buyers will form their first impression of your home based on its outside, so give it its best face forward.

A pre-sale home inspection might be helpful if your property is older or you suspect there may be surprises that would cause potential buyers to back out of their offer. An estimate of the repairs needed will let potential purchasers know what they're getting into.

6. Search for prospective brokers

Try not to settle for the first agent that pops up in a web search. Find an agent who is a good fit for your needs by doing some research. Referrals from recent movers are an excellent place to begin, and there are also many online resources for researching and evaluating real estate agents. Also, it's important to find a real estate agent who has experience selling properties in your area since they will know how to set a fair price for your property.

A real estate agent with years of expertise will know how to market your home effectively and where to look for a new one. Remember that real estate brokers can take as much as 7% of your home's sale price at closing, so choose carefully.

Related: Signs You are in a Bad Relationship With Your Real Estate Broker

In conclusion

The first things to do when selling or purchasing a home are the same as they would be for any other large purchase: research and planning. Before you call in a real estate agent, you must make your house look desirable. Keep in mind that if you don't get an offer, your real estate agent can't help you sell, and if your home isn't in good shape, it won't be in high demand.

Chris D. Bentley

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Award Winning Dallas Real Estate Broker

Chris D. Bentley is an award-winning real-estate broker and owner of Bentley Fine Properties. He is a eight-time multi-million dollar producer, author of four eBooks, was voted D Magazine's "Best Realtor in Dallas" six times, and has been featured in multiple popular magazines.

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