Do Your Part

By Chandra Orr

March 19, 2010 5 min read

Your real estate agent is busy. That's not to say he isn't amazing, but when he's juggling a full client roster, multi-tasking is the name of the game.

From drafting listings and touring homes to open houses and closings, he has a lot of responsibilities. Help him help you by doing your part.

"Brokers and clients need to work together as a team. Making things easier for the broker will benefit the customer," says Drew Glick, a senior vice president at Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales.

Whether you're buying or selling, there are plenty of things you can do to help make the experience a success. At the top of the list? Be prepared. Get your finances in shape; have your home ready to show; and know what you want before you sign on with an agent.

"A Realtor can come in and help with everything, but a well-prepared client, both financially and with a home ready for the market, is ahead of the game," says real estate expert Michele Lerner, author of "Homebuying -- Tough Times, First Time, Any Time: Smart Ways to Make a Sound Investment."

*Figure Out Your Finances

Before you start shopping, know where you stand financially. Get a copy of your credit report. Determine how much you can afford to spend on a monthly house payment, and meet with a mortgage broker.

"Get preapproved, and have a relationship with a local bank or mortgage broker," says Realtor Brendon DeSimone with the Paragon Real Estate Group. "Having a solid understanding of your finances before you engage with a Realtor will be a tremendous help and timesaver."

Have your down payment set aside and easily accessible. If you need to borrow from your 401(k) or cash out long-term investments, start the process early so the funds are available when you need them.

"Nothing wastes more time than not having a deposit ready and down payment money easily accessible," Lerner says.

As you navigate the buying and borrowing process, collect all pertinent paperwork in a central file -- and take it with you when meeting with your agent.

*Know What You Want

"As a buyer, you can help your agent most by knowing what you want before you sign on," Lerner says. "Carefully weigh your needs and desires so that you know which features are must-haves and which are want-to-haves."

Come prepared with a list of preferred neighborhoods and school districts, your desired bedroom count and square footage, your must-haves and a realistic budget.

"Even if inventory is tight, there are thousands of properties on the market at any given time. If buyers give me all their criteria and a wish list, I might know the right property for them immediately," Glick says.

Paint a picture of your dream home, and be flexible.

"Being open to properties that do not fit into the initial criteria can be important. I advise buyers to focus on what they are looking for in an ideal world. If it is not available, then expanding horizons is the way to go," Glick says.

*Be Ready To Show

Before your home hits the listings, be sure it's in tiptop shape. Fix minor problems; freshen up the landscaping; organize the closets; clear the clutter; stash nonessentials in storage.

"Chances are you know that you plan on selling your home months in advance," DeSimone says. "Start planning for it. Get a storage unit. Get stuff out of your house, and start organizing now. The faster the Realtor can get in and do his thing the faster you can get your house sold."

While your home is on the market, stay on top of household chores and yardwork so the property looks showroom-ready at a moment's notice.

"Homes take longer to sell nowadays. That means regular upkeep," DeSimone explains. "If I could just show up and know that the place shows impeccably, that would be a lifesaver."

Let your agent know upfront the best times for showing your home -- but be prepared for impromptu visits.

"Flexibility in allowing the broker to show a property at various times is key," Glick says. "Requests for showings are often made last minute with relatively short notice. Turning buyers down for a showing may lead them to just move on."

The same holds true for buyers; not all sellers are going to be flexible, so you might need to adjust your schedule if you want to see the hot new listings as they hit the market.

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