The home buying (and home selling) process isn’t so easy. Real estate agents and other professionals can help you get the best deal and secure a happy house for a lifetime. Buyers and sellers have options if they want to use an agent, a flat fee listing service, or list a house on their own.
Ready to buy a home? Sell a home? You might have a few questions - including “where do I start?”
Real estate agents hear a lot of questions about buying, selling, renting, or building a home. We’ve narrowed the top questions down to just 15. If you are buying, selling, or both, you might find the answers you are looking for throughout this blog post.
Top 15 Real Estate Questions Answered By The Experts
How do I prepare my home before I sell it?
Buyers want to see a clean home with lots of potential and few repairs. Before you sell, consider giving your entire house a deep clean and hiring an inspector to look for possible problems.
Want more tips? Read our blog post on how to get your house ready to sell.
When is the best time to sell my home?
You may have heard the term “seller’s market” before. In a seller’s market, demand for homes rises and sellers can get a lot more money for their house. The following factors may contribute to a seller’s market:
- Low inventory
- Low interest rates
- The possibility of interest rates rising in the future
- Other economic factors may contribute to the market. Some cities may experience a seller’s market while other simultaneously experience a buyer’s market. Reach out to a local real estate agent for more information about the current state of the market.
How long will it take to sell my home?
No one wants their house to sit on the market for too long. A house may take anywhere between 30-45 days to sell depending on the market. If a market is hot enough, sellers could find their home off the market within a week. If the market is slow (or the house is overpriced,) the number could reach triple digits. Exposure, negotiations, and the condition of the home will also affect its ability to sell fast.
How can I figure out how much a home is worth?
Whether you are buying or selling, you may find yourself doing some Internet research to see the value of homes in the area. But before you accept the first number, know that not all online calculators are accurate. Everything from new appliances to construction down the street can affect your home’s value.
The best way to figure out your home’s current value is to reach out to local professionals. Real estate agents or professional appraisers can give you an estimate through a consultation or competitive market analysis.
Again, online calculators are just a rough estimate of your home’s value.
Why is my home’s assessed value different than the market value?
Since there are many different metrics that can predict a home’s value, you may see some differences. Homeowners pay property taxes based on their home’s assessed value. But this number is not always accurate compared to the market value. Market values fluctuate more than assessed values. When you are getting ready to buy or sell a house, pay attention to the market value. You will only need to worry about the assessed value when calculating how much you will pay in property taxes.
Are real estate prices negotiable?
Absolutely! There is usually a difference between a home’s list price (how much it is on the market for) and the sale price (how much it sells for.) In a seller’s market, buyers who want to negotiate should be careful. High demands leaves little wiggle room for negotiation. If you want to negotiate, talk to your real estate agent about what you should offer.
How much of the sale price do I get?
Selling a home comes with a handful of costs. Expect to give up at least 10% of your home’s sale price. These costs include:
- Inspections and repairs
- Staging the house (and keeping the utilities running during open houses)
- Closing costs
- Costs to pay off your mortgage
- Real estate agent commissions
- Of all these costs, the real estate commissions are the highest. They can eat up around 6% of the sale price.
Is paying 6% to sell a home required?
Traditionally, sellers will pay 6% to their real estate agent. The agent will split the difference between themselves and the buyer’s agent. This number has been the standard commission rate since the mid-20th century. But sellers don’t have to pay this 6% commission; they have other options.
Discount agents may take as little as 3% to sell a home. Flat fee services can connect sellers with real estate agents who will take over the process - all for a flat fee that saves sellers thousands of dollars. Sellers can also take on the job of being a real estate agent, listing their homes online or through multiple listing services (MLS.)
Do discount agents provide the same service as more expensive agents?
Not all real estate agents offer 6%...but sellers shouldn’t jump at the first discount agent they meet. Discount agents may offer fewer services or list their clients’ houses on fewer services. When sellers have more exposure, they generally get more offers (and more competitive offers.) Talk to a range of different discount and traditional agents before you decide what is best for you.
Or, better yet, reach out to a flat fee listing service that matches buyers and sellers with high-quality agents without high commission fees.
What is a home buyer rebate?
As we mentioned before, the seller’s real estate agent usually gives half of the 6% commission to the buyer’s agent. If you are a buyer and find an agent that offers a home buyer rebate, you could get some of that money back. After the sale is finalized, the buyer’s broker will issue a 1% rebate to the buyer. When the buyer knows they have a home buyer rebate coming, they can offer more money on the sale without paying more cash.
Learn more about home buyer rebates (and how to find an agent that offers these rebates!)
Should I sell my home before buying a new one?
Homeowners may have different reasons for selling their home. Maybe they are ready for something new or want to downsize. Other homeowners may just want to expand their portfolio or acquire an investment property. If you want to put up a high downpayment and secure good interest rates on your next mortgage, selling is encouraged. If you can afford the downpayment for your new home and want to wait until the market changes, you don’t have to sell your home. Talk to a real estate agents about your options (or a financial advisor about turning your current home into an investment property.)
What is the first step for buying a home?
Before you even start window shopping, get approved for a mortgage. Buyers may need to take a look at their credit scores and assess their current financial situation to make sure they qualify for a mortgage and can fit monthly payments into their overall budget.
Why do I need a mortgage before I buy a house?
The list price that you see online is wrapped up in one number, but the reality of buying a house comes with closing costs, a mortgage, and other considerations. Before you begin the searching process, apply for a pre-approved mortgage. This will give you an idea about how much you can afford and what you will have to pay in the next 15, 20, or 30 years. Plus, many sellers may require that buyers are already pre-approved for a mortgage. If you are fighting for the house of your dreams, you will need to do everything you can to get ahead.
Can I back out of buying a house?
The costs of buying a new house can be overwhelming and hit you all at once. But if you back out of buying a house, you’ll have to pay. Buyers with cold feet may have to forfeit around 1-2% of the home’s sale price if they want to rescind their offer.
How can a real estate agent help me buy or sell a home?
Real estate agents have the experience, connections, and knowledge to help you sell or buy a house for the right price. If you are selling, a real estate agent can:
- Help you choose the right price (and negotiate down the line)
- Put your house on multiple MLSs and give your listing more exposure
- Stage your house for open houses and answer buyers’ questions
If you are buying a house, a real estate agent can help you:
- Find houses in your price range (and negotiate with the seller)
- Recommend professionals that will help you appraise, inspect, and buy the house
- Offer useful advice about the current housing market and next steps
It is possible to buy or sell a house without an agent, but you can trust that a real estate agent will get you the best deal and save you money down the line.
Have more real estate questions? (We thought you might.) Reach out to a real estate agent in the area who can answer specific questions about the local market and what you should consider before you enter this next step in your life.