Selling Manhattan Apartments: 10 Tips for Choosing a Real Estate Agent
Chances are, your home represents the largest purchase you have ever made. What’s more, your home is not just a financial investment, but an emotional investment as well. When you decide to sell your Manhattan apartment, be sure to enlist the services of a real estate agent who has the knowledge, experience, and understanding that will be necessary to navigate you safely and securely through every aspect of the selling process.
Before you sell, it’s a good idea to interview at least two or three different real estate agents. Meet with them individually, and handle each meeting as if you were conducting a job interview (selling your home is an important job, after all!). This checklist will help you evaluate and compare the agents you meet:
Once you’ve established the basics (licensing status, etc.), look for other indications that the agent will handle your apartment sale professionally. Does he or she belong to any local real estate organizations? In Manhattan, for example, The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) tracks credentials and continuing education of its members, and provides many valuable resources for members, sellers, and home purchasers.
What sort of training did the sales agent receive? You’ll find that this may range from the minimum required for licensing, to a full-time company training program of six weeks or more. Also ask if the agent has done any advanced training. Perhaps he or she has taken extra courses and exams to become a licensed broker, an accredited home-staging specialist, an appraiser, etc.
Do a bit of research, too, in order to learn as much as you can about the company the agent works for. Is it a company with a strong reputation in Manhattan? Does it specialize in your neighborhood, or your type of property? Does the company provide its sales agents with the most up-to-date technology?
2 — Knows the Market
In order to price and market your home effectively, your real estate agent will need to have a thorough understanding of your neighborhood in particular, and state of the real estate market in general. Expect to see “comps” (comparable properties) of similar homes that have sold recently, as well as those that are currently on the market. And find out what other techniques the agent will use to determine the best price — and best marketing strategies — for your home.
Does the agent specialize in sales of Manhattan apartments? Has the agent sold in your neighborhood? Or has he or she sold similar apartments in another Manhattan neighborhood? Has the agent ever lived in your area? Is he or she familiar with the neighborhood schools? Restaurants? Museums? Ask lots of questions to find out how well the agent will be able to represent you, and your home, to prospective purchasers.
3 — Accessible
Buyers will want to see your property at all times of day — daytimes, evenings, and weekends. So be sure you hire an agent who is available full time, and accessible to you virtually around the clock to handle any questions you may have, or issues that may arise.
And remember, accessibility is a two-way street! Be sure to support your agent by making your apartment as accessible as possible for showings — even when it feels a bit inconvenient to you.
4 — Good Listener
When you interview Manhattan real estate agents, give extra points to those who ask as many questions as you do. Did the agent arrive with a ‘standard’ presentation, or is he or she able to make — or adjust — his or her recommendations based on what comes up in your conversation?
How interested is the agent in learning your point of view? How many questions does he or she ask about your personal goals and needs? After all, pricing and sales strategies could vary substantially based on what you’re looking to accomplish (for example, you may need to sell quickly to meet a job relocation deadline, need to work around an existing tenant, or simply want to make the most profit no matter what the timeline).
5 — Tells the Truth (even when you don’t want to hear it!)
Expect that a good real estate agent will challenge you once in a while, ask the tough questions, and yes, even disagree with you occasionally. When he or she makes a recommendation that seems off-base, give your agent the opportunity to give you the facts — and share his or her knowledge and experience — before making a final decision. Learn to trust your agent’s intuition, insights, and perspectives; they’ll often lead you in the right direction.
6 –Team Player
Your real estate agent should be able to recommend a great team of professionals to support your sale — from mortgage brokers and appraisers, to cleaning services and real estate attorneys.
Be sure, also, that your real estate agent enlists the help of other agents in order to bring you the best buyer. More than 95 percent of Manhattan apartments that are sold are co-broked (one sales agent representing the seller, another the buyer), so it’s especially important to work with someone who actively markets to other agents, and other real estate companies.
7 — Helps Prepare Your Home for the Sale
There are entire books written on how to get your home ready for a sale, so we won’t go into great detail here. Be sure to ask your real estate agent whether renovations — particularly to the kitchen or bathrooms — make sense. Decide if any re-painting — or paint touch-ups — may be necessary to make your home more attractive to buyers.
However you decide to proceed, be sure to follow these four basic steps before inviting buyers in to see your home: 1) de-clutter, to make your rooms seem larger; 2) de-personalize, to keep prospective buyers’ attention on your home, rather than on your ‘stuff;’ 3) repair everything that’s not in good working order, from re-caulking to replacing light bulbs; and 4) clean, clean, clean — until your home literally shines!
8 — Buyer to Closing
Remember that finding an interested buyer is only the beginning. Be sure your real estate agent is well prepared to qualify the buyer, negotiate aggressively on your behalf, and assist the buyer in finding financing, if necessary. Your agent should be ready to follow through with banks and mortgage brokers, any other agents involved in the deal, and with the real estate attorneys, until the sale is complete.
Also be sure you have a real estate agent who is adept at preparing the materials necessary for the board application package, following through with the management company, and if it’s a co-op sale, preparing the buyer for the board interview.
9 — Gives Timely Updates
Throughout the sales process, ask that your real estate agent stay in touch with you regularly, in the way that’s most comfortable to you (in person, or by phone, email, or text messages). He or she should give you regular progress updates, and timely notice of any issues that may arise — along with potential solutions, of course.
It’s also likely that a good real estate agent will suggest changes to sales and marketing strategies along the way. These minor course corrections will help eliminate any less effective efforts, and capitalize on what’s working best. The result? Finding the buyer you’re looking for, more quickly.
10 — The Relationship
Don’t underestimate the importance of your real estate agent’s personality when you choose your selling partner. You’ll be spending a lot of time together — and entrusting him or her with one of the most important transactions of your life. So be sure to find someone you not only trust and respect, but also look forward to working with.
Kathy knows firsthand the frustrations – and joys – that purchasing or selling Manhattan apartments can bring, and shares a wealth of practical experience and knowledge with her buyers and sellers. Kathy is as comfortable with “the numbers” of making a real estate deal as she is helping clients with the “softer” side of home ownership. No surprise, actually. She holds a bachelor’s of art in Music from Rutgers University, and a M.Ed. in Mathematics from West Chester College in Pennsylvania. Kathy is also a best-selling author (Build Your Business with Testimonials was released and she is a fine artist, with paintings in private and museum collections worldwide. A New York licensed Associate Real Estate Broker and an Accredited Home-Staging Specialist (AHS), Kathy brings an interesting combination of logic and creativity to everything she does.