It is never too early to identify a good agent and start a relationship with that person. You can actually select an agent years BEFORE you are thinking about selling your home. A first reaction to this idea may be; "why would a listing agent spend their time on me, when I'm not even ready to sell? Some agents may agree with you and give you advice such as; "Call me when you're ready to sell". This is an easy way to differentiate between an average listing agent and a great one. A great listing agent is more than willing to give you advice and have conversations with you about selling or buying Santa Rosa real estate, even if you never do so. This is true because even if you personally never enter into a real estate transaction, as long the listing agent can provide value to you, there's always the possibility you might refer somebody to this listing agent. And who knows, even YOU might want to sell or buy a house someday! With most agents, once you tell an agent the areas you are interested in, that agent can provide you with periodic updates specific to the market segments you want to know more about. Finally, the earlier you start conversations with a listing agent, the more you know about that person when it comes time to actually using their services to sell a home.
Even if you decide you do not want to find a listing agent well before you need one, at least get one before you are at the point where you HAVE to sell your home in a short time frame. Sometimes people have a job re-location, retirement, or simply need to find a lower-cost home and wait until the last minute before they get serious about finding an agent. Because of this, they have to sell and move quickly. A last-minute sale will almost always cost you money. Often people do not realize how long it really takes to go through the entire real estate transaction. To help with this, I have created a “Timeline for Selling a Home in Sonoma County” LINQ which shows a typical real estate transaction and how long each phase typically takes. So, find your agent BEFORE the last minute.
Often, the amount of time that you have available to prepare your property for sale, will determine how many options you have available to improve the marketability of the property. A good listing agent will walk through the home with you, before you list the property, and help with suggestions about ways to make the home more marketable. Oftentimes minor changes can make a huge difference in how fast the home sells, or the price it sells for.
A good agent can help you stage the property to show its best attributes, or introduce you to a professional home stager. The concept of staging a home has gotten a ton of interest in the last few years, because it really works. A good agent will also have a better idea of what buyers are currently looking for and can make suggestions about how to show the home. Depending on the age of your home, another very smart investment is to have a professional inspection agency identify any problems with your home. Once these problems are identified, if you have the time available it is almost always less expensive for you to make the required repairs rather than to sell the property with these items "as is".
The point is, if you want top dollar for your property and you want to sell quickly, getting your home ready to sell provides great returns. With more time to do these repairs, the less they will cost and the more successful you will be reaching this goal. If you wait until the last minute to get professional advice from a listing agent you will be limiting the things that you can do to improve the marketability of your property.
A good agent can help you avoid spending money on things that buyers don’t really want to pay for. For example, “Remodeling Online” shows that in the Pacific Coast Region, remodeling a home office would cost you more than the increased sales price you might get from a typical buyer. In this case, spending money on this kind of project is a waste of time and money. However, their also research also shows that adding a wood deck or a minor kitchen remodel would actually add more money to your sales price than your cost to make the changes. A good agent knows the local market and can help you decide what changes or improvements to your home will add value to it, and which ones to avoid. Often, very minor changes like painting a wall or adding a picture can really make a difference at very low cost.