Elegant Living room in luxury home.

Many homebuyers expect a well-staged home that helps show the property as a clean slate. (iStockPhoto)

Buying or selling a home seems like it should be fairly intuitive. A buyer and a seller agree on a price and voila – a deal is made. But of course, as any homebuyer or seller will tell you it’s much more complicated than that.

In many markets, buying residential real estate has become all but a contact sport, and selling seems just shy of a Stepfordian beauty pageant. Not only has technology changed the way properties are marketed and searched for, but the smoke-and-mirrors of home staging has raised the bar for sellers’ presentation, and therefore made it more difficult for buyers to spot that diamond in the rough. And, of course, a seasoned Realtor can advise even the most veteran or rookie client.

Many real estate professionals have begun to call themselves real estate advisors, and in many ways, the title is appropriate. For the average American homeowner, a home represents the largest asset they have. Therefore it is a wise move to hire someone to advise, regarding how and when to smartly buy or sell the asset.

[Read: How to Find a Real Estate Agent]

For many buyers and sellers, the real estate agent has become a trusted advisor, much like a portfolio manager. If someone is living in a robust real estate market, like a cosmopolitan city or affluent suburb, it makes sense to not only hire a smart and experienced agent to shepherd the often confusing process of buying or selling property, but also to follow his or her advice.

Chances are your real estate agent is going to echo other professionals in a few key topics when it comes to buying or selling. Here are a few notable examples of advice your agent may give, and why they'll help you buy or sell your home.

For Sellers:

Stage Your Home


These days, buyers have very little imagination, and they expect to see houses that look like clean slates, and the popularity of both newly developed properties as well as TV shows about interior design and real estate deals further the expectation. These professionally staged homes are selling a dream, and if your resale is going to compete, you also have to sell the dream of clean and bright. Anything too far from that can easily turn off many potential buyers.

If some of your furniture looks old or odd, bringing in some newer pieces instead might be a small investment that will net you more money – and more quickly – upon the sale. And if your agent asks you to put a bowl of lemons in the kitchen or flowers in the living room, just do it.

Clean Up and Declutter


Cleaning up means not only giving the bathrooms and kitchen a deep cleaning, but it also means decluttering. Remember: You’re moving. Think of this as step one of packing, including getting extra furniture, toys and out-of-season clothes out of your house. Closet space is paramount. Keep your closets as neat as possible while your home is on the market. The floors of the closets should also be clear – if there's clutter on closet floors, it telegraphs to buyers that this home doesn’t have enough closet space.

And for each showing or open house, make the beds, get dishes out of the sink and remove laundry from sight – and close those toilet seats.

Depersonalize


Personal effects can distract buyers from focusing on the space itself. All family photos, or other identifying decor pieces like awards and diplomas, should be moved into the new home or put into storage. They’re not going to help sell the property and your privacy is important. A good way to think about selling your house is that although the property is your home, once it’s on the market, it’s a product for sale. Depersonalizing also means neutralizing decor choices that are specific to you, like painting the chartreuse foyer white, storing your beer-soaked pleather recliner from college and taking down the bead curtain from the bedroom door frame.

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting.]

For Buyers:

Get Your Ducks in a Row


Before you begin to look at properties, decide if you’re going to take out a mortgage and get preapproved by a bank. It will give you an idea of what you can afford, and what you can’t. Many real estate agents are happy to help you reach out to lenders, but they won't want to show you homes until you know how you plan to pay for a house.

Make a Wish List


To best utilize the time and talents of your agent, give him or her your wish list. What are the things you must have versus what you’d like to have? An open kitchen? A view? Proximity to work? Outdoor space? A home office? The must-haves and want-to-haves help your agent narrow down potential properties, which shortens the time it takes for you to find a home that meets your needs.

[Read: The Guide to Buying a Home]

Let Your Agent Play Devil’s Advocate


When you tour properties together, tell your agent what you liked and disliked about each property, but ask him if you’re missing something. Is bad decor throwing you off from seeing the amazing bones of the house? Is a fabulous renovation distracting you from dark views or an unlivable layout? Your agent should be able to see a neglected gem, as well as through the smoke and mirrors of great staging.

Whether someone is new to the market or has bought and sold many properties over the years, one of the biggest mistakes that buyers or sellers make is to think they can outsmart the market or cut corners regarding their Realtor’s advice. As you would listen to the advice of your accountant, financial advisor or attorney, if you’ve bothered to hire a real estate agent whom you respect, listen to the advice he or she is imparting to you.

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, existing home sales, pending home sales, new home sales


Steven Gottlieb has been at Warburg Realty in New York City for seven years and is a well-respected industry expert. Born and raised in Manhattan, Gottlieb earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, his MBA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his Master of Science in Real Estate from New York University. Prior to joining Warburg, Gottlieb lived in Los Angeles and worked with some of the biggest Hollywood talent in the world at United Talent Agency and Paradigm Agency. His strong referral base is a testament to his success and reputation in the business, and in 2018, The Gottlieb Team was the No. 1 producing team at Warburg Realty, company-wide.

Recommended Articles

What You Should Know About Tenant Rights

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 23, 2020

Know what protections you have when you and your landlord get into a dispute.

How to Save on Hardwood Flooring Costs

Geoff Williams | Jan. 22, 2020

Consider these tips and tools to save on expensive hardwood costs.

9 Basement Renovations on a Budget

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 21, 2020

Make your underground space a little more welcoming without going beyond your budget.

What to Know About Moving to California

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 15, 2020

No other state offers such a variety of places to live and job opportunities, but expect to pay more.

Which Home Is the Best Layout for You?

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 10, 2020

Before you buy or build a home, consider how the footprint and floor plan fit with your lifestyle.

Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2020

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 8, 2020

The housing market may not be as hot as in previous years, but selling now could be your best bet.

What to Know Before Renovating a Garage

Deanna Haas | Jan. 6, 2020

A garage renovation can add value to your home – here's what you should keep in mind before starting the project.

Best Interior Design Instagram Accounts

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 3, 2020

These interior design Instagram accounts offer advice, inspiration and resources to elevate your home design.

Is an Open House Necessary?

Wendy Arriz | Jan. 3, 2020

The traditional open house format is still popular, but whether it's effective in helping sell your home may depend on the type of property.

Hygge Decor Ideas for Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 27, 2019

Achieve the cozy feeling that embodies Danish hygge in your home design.

What to Know About Moving to Dallas

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 26, 2019

Before you decide to move to Dallas, explore all your options in this expansive metro area.

Options When You Can't Pay Your Mortgage

Lisa Larson | Dec. 24, 2019

Financial difficulty can leave you unable to pay your mortgage, but that doesn't always mean you're facing foreclosure.

What to Know Before Moving to Colorado

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 20, 2019

Get your hiking boots – and your wallet – ready for a new life in Colorado.

What Is the Cost of Living in Boston?

Dima Williams | Dec. 20, 2019

Here is what it takes to afford to buy, rent and live in the capital of Massachusetts.

Best Places to Live With Climate Change

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 18, 2019

See which metro areas are more resilient to changing climate conditions.

Housing Market Expectations in 2020

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 13, 2019

Low mortgage rates will help homebuyers afford property, while sellers won't see much reason to move.

Best and Worst Design Trends of the '10s

Robin Kencel | Dec. 13, 2019

Take a look at the 2010s fads that have transformed into staples, and others that are best left in the past.

What Is the Cost of Living in Seattle?

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 11, 2019

Here's a breakdown of what you need to be able to afford living in and around Seattle.

Is a Condo, Townhouse or Co-Op Best?

Steven Gottlieb | Dec. 11, 2019

Different forms of ownership have pros and cons, depending on how you plan to use the property.

Design Trends to Look Out for in 2020

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 6, 2019

Which design trends are on their way in, and which ones should you ditch in 2020?