One morning last September I received a call from the Arlington, VA police department informing me that my aunt passed away. Although she was 82 it was pretty unexpected because I spoke with her only a few days before then and she seemed to be doing great.
My aunt was one of the earliest women to receive a law degree from Georgetown University and had a distinguished career working for the US Customs Office. Right until the end her mind was sharp as ever.
For years I had been encouraging her to sell her home and move into one of the independent living options nearby because in my opinion she would have benefited from being around more people. Understandably my aunt was set in her ways and wanted to remain on her own until the end.
Because the rest of my family lives in New York with travel restrictions at that time and because I am in the real estate business, I took on getting her home sold.
This was not going to be easy selling a home from so far away so I knew I needed the help of a great Broker to get the home sold for the best price. Whenever I talk with someone who has had a frustrating experience selling a home, I notice they often made a mistake in how they hired a Broker and I thought I would share the approach I took.
I Didn't Hire Anyone The Estate Attorney Recommended
The estate attorney for my aunt was overall very helpful. But, she is an expert in handling estates, not selling real estate. She gave me 3 recommendations and after researching them I did not talk to any of those agents.
One recommended agent was the leader of a huge team of 43 people in the office. One thing I know is if I hired that agent I would be passed on to a junior member of the team. This sale was too important for my family to let that happen. I am always willing to pay for expert advice but I am not going to pay the same amount for expert advice and deal with a beginner.
Two other recommendations were for a company with a bad reputation of selling homes off-market. What this means is not advertising the home to all the buyers and all the other agents in the neighborhood and only trying to sell the house to their own buyer or a buyer that another agent in their office is working with.
My aunt’s house is within walking distance of Crystal City in Arlington where Amazon is in process of building a huge campus. That area is experiencing a similar buyer frenzy as we are with Apple and all the other companies expanding in our area. To maximize the price, I did not trust an agent at that company that encourages sellers to sell off market to work in the best interests of my family.
I Didn’t Listen To Neighbors And Friends
Your friends and neighbors are also well meaning but they aren’t experts in real estate, either. I have friends in the Arlington area who could have given me a recommendation but I didn’t ask. What I know is when someone hires me to sell their home, they often are also considering hiring a someone who is a friend. With so many people entering the real estate business everyone has a friend in real estate. In fact, if you don’t have a friend in real estate, I’d be worried you don’t have any friends. What makes that dangerous is the average agent may only sell 2-3 homes per year. Chances are getting a recommendation from a friend means I would get set up with someone who has little experience in that area.
I Found The Area Experts
There were 2 important criteria I had. One was hiring a Broker who is an expert in that area. Agents who work in Arlington have a much harder job than I do. The homes are much older and all different floor plans and construction quality.
The agents I hired instantly knew there was something special about the bricks on my aunt’s house. This was something that turned out to be important because buyers in the area pay a premium for that feature.
The second criteria I had was hiring someone who would be more of a project manager. Because the Brokers I hired have sold so many homes in the area they were also helpful in giving me advice about getting the home ready to be sold. They also had contacts for a handyman, etc who they trusted and the Brokers helped manage that process for me which was important since all the family was so far away.
Hired Brokers And Then Talked Price
One of the biggest mistakes sellers make is hiring the agent who tells them the highest price. They will interview 3 agents and hire the agent who suggests the highest list price.
I didn’t want to hire the agent who would tell me the highest list price, I wanted to hire the agent who would get me the highest price. That’s an important distinction.
It’s human nature to hire who you think is the biggest cheerleader. You have to protect yourself against that bias. Unscrupulous agents also know you will be biased if they tell you a higher price you are more likely to hire them.
To protect myself against that bias I decided who I was going to hire first before talking about the price. I had a rough idea of price from following the market and then myself and the Broker I hired collaborated to settle on the best pricing strategy and list price.
Hired Brokers And Then Talked Make Ready
Another bias sellers have is hiring the agent who recommends the least amount of make ready. Agents know this, too and unscrupulous agents will give you bad advice if it helps them get hired. This is very dangerous for sellers because you only get 1 chance to make a first impression. With the current market it’s tempting just to slap your home on the market because it will sell. In reality we are starting to see homes not sell at all and being taken off the market.
To protect myself against that bias I first decided who I was going to hire based on their track record and then together we came up with a make-ready plan that made sense based on their experience in the market.
You may be surprised that I hired a Broker to sell the house. Many people have asked why I didn’t just sell it myself. Something I protect myself against is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is where people overestimate their abilities. I certainly have knowledge of the real estate market here but not in Arlington and many times a little knowledge can cause people to make terrible decisions.
In the end, my family got a great result with the Brokers that I hired. We sold the house quickly for a price that was hard to believe.
One last thing to mention…we have contacts with great Brokers around the county. Or, if we don’t already have a connection, we know how to identify a good agent to recommend. If you need a connection to someone out of our area feel free to reach out to us for a recommendation.
You can call me at 512-791-7473 if you have questions about the real estate market or you want our help buying or selling in the area.