Coldwell Banker Pat Shultz Real Estate

Coldwell Banker Pat Shultz Real Estate
406 Commercial Street, Provincetown
MA 02657

Phone: (508) 487-9550

Fax:     (508) 487-6472

Home Sellers Toolkit

Introduction: Why choose a Realtor®?

Selling a home is a complex transaction requiring time, effort, patience and know-how. Selling it quickly at its full value requires the expertise and experience of a real estate professional – especially a broker or agent who is a REALTOR®.

That said, ‘For Sale by Owner’ may be the four most tempting words in the world to a homeowner who feels the need to earn every penny from the sale of his or her property, but rarely do such solo ventures yield the results a professional can help you achieve.

There are numerous advantages to working with a licensed real estate agent:

  • REALTORS® have unique access to widespread local market information and will rely upon comparative market analysis data to establish a fair market price for your property.
  • REALTORS® have professional sales training and understand how to merchandise your home.
  • REALTORS® also can maintain objectivity in responding to buyer objections, and in presenting offers and counter offers until an agreement is reached.
  • REALTORS® have the capacity and resources to advertise and market your home to other agents, as well as the public, which will help bring a far wider range of qualified buyers to your front door. In addition, they will handle inquiries and arrange showings with your convenience in mind, devoting as much time as it takes to market your property until a buyer is found.
  • A REALTOR® can offer valuable suggestions, hints and tips on preparing your home so it looks its best when shown to prospective buyers.
  • A REALTOR® will negotiate a higher cost for your home than if you sold it on your own. Typically, the incentive for doing it yourself is to save the commission, however, the home buyer will recognize that you are trying to save the commission and will negotiate the cost down. The National Association of REALTORS® has determined that the typical home sells for 3 to 9 ½ percent more when it is sold through a real estate agent.
  • Significantly, REALTORS® can assist you in understanding and adhering to complicated legal and regulatory requirements, thus limiting your exposure to liability during the home selling process.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has enacted some of the strictest environmental laws in the nation; and myriad legal stipulations regarding zoning, fair housing, property disclosure, consumer protection, and building codes require sellers to be more careful about their responsibilities than ever before. Today’s sellers need the professional assistance and advice only a REALTOR® can provide.

Notably, consumers should understand that there are approximately 65,000 real estate licensees in Massachusetts, but only about 22,000 of them are REALTOR® members. The REALTOR® trademark is your guarantee that the real estate professional you have chosen to work with has surpassed the minimum state requirements for holding a real estate license. REALTORS® are committed to higher standards in education, business practices, and to a binding code of ethics administered by local and state REALTOR® associations. Put the REALTOR® experience to work for you to safeguard the biggest investment you may ever make.

Here are some tips on choosing a REALTOR®

  • Make a thorough search, as you would before hiring a contractor or attorney. Attend real estate open houses to see how agents work and to meet them first-hand.
  • Use directories and the Internet, or visit the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® web site at to locate area REATORS®.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective agent or broker how long they have been licensed, how long they have been working in this market, or how many sales they have closed in recent months? Always ask if they are a REALTOR® member.

And as with any important hiring decision, check references, asking friends and family about their experiences with a REALTOR® you are considering.

I. Assessing the Market: Reasons to Sell and Making the Decision

People sell their homes because they have been transferred to a new job, a new location, or because they are trading up to accommodate a growing family, or trading down when children move out on their own. Whatever the reason, there are at least a few facts worth remembering if you are thinking about selling your home.

a. Familiarize yourself with the market

Sellers need to understand the current real estate market, because housing is a commodity, and the value of real estate properties fluctuates according to many factors including supply/demand, interest rates, and the general economy. Your home is worth only what a qualified buyer is willing to pay for it at the time it is put up for sale.

A professional real estate agent can educate you about what homes in your area are selling for at the current time.

b. Learn what your property is worth

Sellers should consider a professionally prepared comparative market analysis (CMA), which allows them to see what similar properties, in the same market, already have sold for in the recent past. Your REALTOR® will be able to help you with this process and may provide you with a CMA.

For example, if you live in a ranch-style home, make sure your CMA tracks the price of other, similar ranch-style homes. If you live in a rural community, make sure your property is compared to properties that also have been sold in a rural community.

While it may seem logical to compare the asking price of others who are selling their homes, it is the closing price – the price actually paid to the seller – that ultimately determines relative worth in the real estate market.

c. Make the decision

People who must move to relocate for a new job don’t have the luxury of asking, “Why should I put my home on the market when I haven’t yet found the property I want to purchase?” They know they must move and so they do. In fact, it is very rare that a seller fails to find a suitable new property once an active and committed search is underway.

Selling one’s current property is the most common way to finance the purchase of a new property. You won’t know what you can afford to buy, if you don’t know what price you can expect to get for your current home.

Sellers who don’t want to list their property first risk finding the home of their dreams, only to realize another buyer (with financing and flexibility) has stepped in to make the purchase ahead of them. If you are reluctant to put your current property up for sale, perhaps you have not made the decision to move just yet.

II. Finding a New Location and a Realtor®

First determine why, and then where you want to move. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the selling market in your current location, sellers must educate themselves about key factors in the areas they intend to consider for relocation.

Schools, tax rates, property prices, commuting distances, and availability of public transit and/or health care facilities may all be factors for the seller who also will be a buyer. A qualified REALTOR® can be of enormous assistance here.

III. Preparing Your Home for Sale

Sellers should try to take a fresh, impartial look at their property prior to putting it on the market. Enhance your home’s curb appeal. You have just one chance to make a good first impression, so don’t under-estimate the importance of a fresh coat of paint, a well-tended yard and entryway, and the need to eliminate clutter.

Although sellers often concede that new carpeting or wall paint is warranted, they are sometimes too willing to let prospective buyers worry about such improvements. In reality, buyers tend to make mental deductions from the sale price for each new “job” they will have to take care of, and they are inclined to inflate the cost of new carpeting or other simple repairs. Your listing agent will give you specific advice, but here are several suggestions for you to consider:



fertilize, seed, cut lawn and clip shrubs and purchase fresh mulch

plant new shrubs or trees

clean, wash, deodorize indoor carpets and floors

select vivid colors for new paint or carpeting – stay neutral

consider applying fresh paint to interior walls

purchase new wallpaper or light fixtures

thoroughly scrub inside of appliances

purchase new appliances

use accents (like fresh bath towels, decorative soaps, light air scents)

clutter shelf tops with personal photos, etc.

make sure all closets and cabinets are clean to the point of looking empty – they also will look larger

fill closets with items removed from the rooms

consider repairing/replacing damaged roof shingles

replace entire windows

reseal asphalt driveway

pave a gravel drive


install new siding

IV. Listing Agreements and Contracts

a. Exclusive listings and the listing agent

When a seller chooses a real estate agent to market and sell a property, the seller engages in a relationship with that agent to accomplish their mutual goal – to sell the property. While it is the seller’s right, exclusively, to set the asking price, it is the listing agent who will assist in the process by educating the buyer about similar properties and their sale prices.

Often, a seller and a REALTOR® choose to arrange an exclusive right to sell listing. Under an exclusive right to sell agreement, the listing broker is given the right to earn a fee for professional services if the property is sold by anyone, including to a buyer located solely through the efforts of the owner.

A listing agent engaged to help you sell your home works with you in a number of capacities, including determining the asking price. It is the listing agent who researches the sale prices of similar homes in your area to show you what you might reasonably expect to garner from the sale of your property.

A listing agent also will assist you in making your home presentable for sale, offering suggestions about how to best show the property and what, if any, improvements ought to be made.

The listing agent will inform the seller about laws and regulations such as fair housing requirements, septic regulations and lead paint laws. Any forms or disclosure documents required by law can be obtained through the listing agent.

The listing agent may provide you with a yard sign, and advertising – at no extra cost. Often, the listing agent will conduct an open house, and utilize the REALTOR® multiple listing service and the Internet in an effort to market your property to qualified buyers.

The listing agent is the seller’s advocate during sale negotiations, presenting offers to the seller and counseling the seller about the qualifications of potential buyers. The listing agent, in fact, is required to present all offers to the seller.

It is the listing agent who will assist in coordinating deadlines and closing dates, making sure all documents are signed, sealed and delivered on time.

b. Other agents and their role in selling your property

In addition to exclusive listings by the seller’s agents, there also are buyer’s agents (exclusively), and disclosed dual agents, who represent both buyers and sellers, though they are required to make that disclosure.

The seller may authorize his or her listing agent to cooperate with agents from other firms to help sell the property. These are cooperating agents, and the seller may obtain broader exposure for a property by authorizing a listing broker to compensate a cooperating agent, or co-broke, who successfully procures a buyer.

Any of these professionals can help buyers determine how much they can afford to spend, research properties available on the market within their price range, and provide important disclosures about the property being shown.

They can provide prospective buyers with standard forms, including the purchase and sale contract, and the offer. They can provide information about schools, zoning and taxes, as well as provide information to both buyer and seller concerning services offered by home inspectors, septic inspectors, lenders, insurance companies and the like.

Additionally, any of these agents may provide information on financing and legal representation, and may accompany buyers to the home inspection. However, only the buyer’s agent can assist in formal price negotiations on behalf of prospective home buyers.

All real estate licensees must act fairly with all parties, including those to whom they are not contractually obliged.

For example, a seller’s agent who is aware of a material defect in the property must disclose the fact to buyers, although he or she is not required to conduct his/her own search to determine such problems.

Likewise, a buyer’s agent may disclose to buyers (if he/she knows) how long a property has been on the market, the willingness of the seller to accept a price below the asking price, or the seller’s motivation for selling (i.e. bankruptcy, divorce, etc.).

A disclosed dual agent can, in some cases, work with both buyer and seller – even in the same transaction. A disclosed dual agent cannot offer undivided loyalty to the seller or the buyer but must treat all parties honestly and fairly.

c. Offer to Purchase

By law, real estate agents are required to present all offers to a seller. When answering questions about their property, every seller has the duty to respond fully and accurately to any request for information about a property. This is true whether the information is requested directly by a prospective buyer, or by a real estate agent who, in turn, may pass along the information to a prospective buyer. Answers that are misleading or are half-truths are improper and the seller may be liable for them. If the seller doesn’t know the answer he or she should not guess, but should qualify the answer with this acknowledgment.

Once a seller receives an offer to purchase, he or she may counter offer, by accepting the offer with additional stipulations, including but not limited to a renegotiation in price. For example, the seller may accept the offer to purchase price, but require 30 days to find suitable new housing. Buyers and sellers should be careful when making offers and counteroffers to ensure that they understand all the terms and conditions in the offer and any contingencies included therein. Common contingencies in an offer to purchase can include home inspection, financing approval and lead paint inspection.

The seller’s agent will assist in finalizing the terms of the sale between buyer and seller in the form of a written purchase and sale agreement. This agreement once signed is a binding contract to which the seller and buyer will be obligated.

V. Legal Obligations of Seller

a. Title 5

Massachusetts law requires that a property that is serviced by a septic system, cesspool or other private waste disposal system be inspected within two years before the sale or within six months after the sale (if weather conditions prevent a pre-sale inspection).

Only licensed inspectors and soil evaluators may conduct such inspections. While costs can vary depending upon geographic area and difficulty of an inspection, the average cost is often between $300-$500. The Title 5 regulations do not specify who must pay for the inspection. The buyer and seller should discuss this matter and determine who will pick the inspection and pay for the test. Should the system fail an inspection, the buyer and seller may negotiate who will pay to repair or replace the system, or if the agreement for sale contains a contingency the buyer may choose to withdraw.

b. Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Massachusetts state law also requires that all residential structures be equipped with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and it is the owner’s obligation to receive a compliance certificate from the local fire department.

c. Fair Housing

The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to deny or restrict a choice of housing to any person on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status (children), or national origin. Furthermore, state law prohibits practices that deny access to housing based on age, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, status as a veteran or member of a military service or recipient of public or rental assistance.

d. Lead Paint

The Commonwealth’s lead paint statute requires lead abatement in residential dwellings built before 1978 when a child under the age of six resides on the property. Specifically, the law stipulates that property owners must remove or cover (encapsulate) dangerous levels of lead on surfaces measuring five feet from the floor or below. Property owners are required to disclose to homebuyers and tenants known information about the presence of lead-based paint and the hazards of lead paint prior to a sale or lease being executed. Your REALTOR® is aware of all of this state and federal rules and the required disclosure documents that are mandated by law. Be sure to read and complete these documents carefully and ask questions if you are unclear about your responsibilities.

Last updated: June 2, 2010