KIRO Radio's Tom Kelly digs deep into the Puget Sound real estate market
Real Estate

Best agents suggest a realistic asking price

Spring is just around the corner. Historically, it remains the best time of year to sell a home.

While it's true more buyers are chasing the perfect family home and investment bargains regardless of the season, just check the home sales recordings. In most communities, recorded residence transfers are at a peak during May, June and July. Most of those sales were actually made 30 to 60 days earlier, but it takes time to complete the transaction.

Home sales in 2014, both resale and new, are expected to exceed the volume of 2013. That's what economists from Fannie Mae, the National Association of Home Builders, and Standard and Poor's told attendees at the recent National Association of Home Builders' convention in Las Vegas.

In other words, it's a great time to be a home seller. So, what's the best way to proceed?

According to Brenda Holmes of Windermere Real Estate in Puyallup, take the time to interview several agents. Ask friends and associates at work for recommendations. The best agents will include a written brochure showing their accomplishments, with names and addresses of their recent home sales and information about their education and realty experience.

Several years ago, a friend of mind made a business of flipping homes. He used one agent to help him find properties that fit his guidelines (which always included school districts) and another agent to sell his properties once they were refurbished and back on the market.

"At first, I'd ask the office manager for the top-selling agent in the building," Bobby recalled recently. "I figured the person with the most sales under his belt would be the best person for me. That method turned out to be a train wreck on more than one occasion. The conflict in personalities made the relationship not worth it for me."

After finding an agent that fits your style, what's next on the list?

"I'd choose a full-time agent, one that is on top of his or her market every day," Holmes said. "Choose one who truly knows your neighborhood and has worked there for years. Whether it's a foreclosure, short sale or special circumstance, make sure your agent is a specialist in the home you want to buy or sell."

As part of the interview process, expect each agent to give you a comparative market analysis (CMA) of your home. This form shows recent sales prices of comparable nearby residences, asking prices of competitive homes now listed for sale and asking prices of recently expired neighborhood homes. The CMA should also include each agent's opinion of your home's market value and probable sales price.

The most important service a professional agent provides is setting an asking price that the market will bear. It's human nature for a seller to think his or her home is worth more than every other home on the block. However, rolling out a home with a too high tag in any neighborhood can scare homebuyers during the critical first 14 days on the market.

"A lot of information goes into the asking price," Holmes said. "The comparable sales within the surrounding blocks are key and it comes down to the condition of the house at the time it goes on the market. You have to disregard what the market was like years before or what it will be in the future. Other agents in our office will also give their opinions."

Beware of any agent who estimates an abnormally high or low valuation for your residence. An agent with a high estimate might be trying to "buy" your listing, only to drive down your asking price if it doesn't sell within 30 to 60 days. If an agent estimates a very low valuation for your home, he or she might be trying to get a listing for a quick, easy sale. That's why it's wise to interview more than one agent - even if that person has represented you in a previous transaction - before signing any listing agreement.

Be sure each agent gives you the names and phone numbers of their most recent customers. Follow up and contact those persons and ask, "Would you hire the same agent again, and were you in any way unhappy with your listing agent?"

The answers will help you select the best person for your deal.

Tom Kelly's new novel "Cold Crossover" is now available in print at bookstores everywhere and in both print and Ebook form from a variety of digital outlets. Follow real estate agent and former basketball coach Ernie Creekmore as investigates the disappearance of his star player on a late-night boat. Check out the national reviews and put "Cold Crossover" on your list.

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