Do you Really need an agent

“The market is so hot in Toronto right now, houses practically sell themselves.” That sentiment (or a version of it) seems to be on a lot of people’s lips right now, and it begs the question: do you really need a real estate agent to help you sell your home (or buy a new one?) What do agents actually do that smart, motivated people can’t do themselves?

The answer is: a lot. And I’m not just saying that because it’s what I do; a quick Google search will unearth a website that lists 184 things – that’s right, 184! – that an agent does in every single transaction. I don’t have the space (or the inclination) to list them all here, but here are some of the most important ones.

Knows the market: Good agents do their research, and are constantly analyzing the markets in which they operate. They have access, through MLS, to tons of information not available to the general public:  the selling history of a home, what other homes in the area have sold for, immediate notification of new listings, and much more. This knowledge is incredibly powerful; for buyers, it can help locate the perfect home as soon as it becomes available, and ensure they don’t overpay for it. For sellers, it allows the agent to price the property properly. That’s both an art and a science – you want to get the most money possible for your client, of course, but if you price it too high and it doesn’t sell immediately, it may end up on the market for longer than you want. And that’s not a good thing.

Helps prepare your home for sale: This is probably the part of an agent’s job that provides the greatest return on investment for the client. Staging can make an enormous difference in the selling price of your home; the key is to know which fixes will provide a great return, and which aren’t worth doing. After 30 years in this business, I can walk into a home and know immediately what needs to be done to allow it to show to its full potential.  Experienced agents also have a trusted list of suppliers and service providers – from painters and landscapers, to handymen and inspectors  – who they can count on to do the work quickly, properly and cost effectively. (This can also come in very handy for buyers who need work done on their new home!)

Markets your home: Once a home is ready to be put on the market, agents do more than just throw a listing on MLS and put a For Sale sign on the lawn. They have myriad avenues for marketing, from their own websites to their vast networks of real estate professionals and interested buyers. More eyeballs means more interest, which usually means more offers. (And, in the end, more money.) Once it’s listed, the agent handles all open houses and viewings, and is available to answer questions and point out all the wonderful selling features of your home. (Or take you to view homes, if you are a buyer.) Do you really want to be constantly trolling MLS, tracking down agents and trying to set up convenient times to look at houses? Or worse, do you want some stranger who saw your listing on Craigslist traipsing through your own home? Welcome to life without a real estate agent.

Negotiates the deal: Whether you’re buying or selling, your agent is your advocate and trusted advisor at the bargaining table. For most people, buying or selling a home is the biggest financial transaction they will ever make. It’s often done at a pivotal time in their lives – new marriage? New baby? New job? New city? – and even when it’s not, it’s almost always highly emotional. Your agent will be your calm voice of reason when negotiating the deal, and will know when to push and when to back off. This skill alone can translate into tens of thousands of dollars in savings or payout for their clients.

Does all the paperwork: Then there’s the paperwork. Contracts, purchasing agreements, comparative market analyses… there is a lot of paperwork, and it’s complicated. A good agent is intimately familiar with these documents and can spot red flags or highlight specific things that a layperson would never see. Attempting to navigate it yourself can be pretty overwhelming. The alternative is having a lawyer handle it all (and then dealing with the hefty bill afterward.)

These are just a few of the things I do every day for my clients. I encourage them all to do their research, of course – the more informed the client is, the better. But I bring something that no amount of online research and reading of how-to guides can provide: experience. That translates into peace of mind for my clients … and you can’t put a price on that.