Let’s Get Started

Let's Get Started

Most home sellers dream of a stress-free sale in which they simply list their house, quickly find a qualified buyer, collect the cash and hand over the keys. If only it were that simple! In reality, selling a home involves many moving parts — some that you can control, and some that are out of your hands.

For example, geography might influence how long your house lingers on the market or how high of a list price you can get away with. In locations where competition is hot and inventory is low, odds are you’ll sell faster and command a higher price. Conversely, in places where home sales have cooled, you will likely have to work harder to attract the right buyer.

The real estate market has shifted since the frenzied heights of the pandemic. Frantic bidding wars are (mostly) over, and both prices and mortgage rates remain high. With fears of a recession looming, many buyers are staying on the sidelines until either rates or prices (or both) come down. Ultimately, this has created a more balanced market: Sellers no longer have the clear upper hand.

So, as a seller, it’s smart to be prepared and control whatever factors you’re able to. Things like hiring a great real estate agent and maximizing your home’s online appeal can translate into a smoother closing — and more money in the bank. Here are nine steps to take to sell your home in 2023.

1. Set a timeline for selling your home

Selling a house is a major undertaking that can take several months from start to finish — or much longer, depending on local market conditions. So it makes sense to plan ahead and stay organized.

As soon as you decide to sell your house, jump right into researching real estate agents to find someone with the right experience for your situation (see Step 2). But don’t stop there.

At least two or three months before you plan to list, consider getting a pre-sale home inspection. This is optional but can be useful to identify any problem areas, especially if you suspect serious issues. Leave enough time to schedule necessary repairs.

About a month before listing your house, start working on deep cleaning in preparation for taking listing photos. Keep clutter to a minimum, and consider moving excess items to a storage unit to show your home in its best light.

2. Hire an agent who knows the market

The internet makes it easy to delve into a real estate agent’s professional experience, helping you choose the right person to work with. Look up agents’ online profiles to learn how long they’ve been in the industry, how many sales they’ve closed and what designations they may have earned. Pay attention to how and where they market their listings, and how professional their listings’ photos look.

“Any designation they’ve earned is a huge plus, because it’s a sign they’ve taken the time to learn about a particular niche,” says Jorge Guerra, president and CEO of Real Estate Sales Force and a former global liaison for the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Some homeowners might be tempted to save on paying a commission and instead sell their home themselves, without an agent. This is known as “for sale by owner,” or FSBO. The amount sellers stand to save on those fees can be thousands of dollars, usually 2.5 percent or 3 percent of the total sale price. However, as the seller, you’ll still need to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission — and an agent does a lot to earn their fee. For example, they can expose your house to the broadest audience and negotiate on your behalf to garner the best offers possible. If you go it alone, you’ll have to personally manage prepping your home, marketing it, reviewing buyers’ offers and handling all the negotiations and closing details. When working with an agent, keep in mind that real estate commissions are often negotiable. As a result, you might be able to get a break at the closing table.

3. Determine what to upgrade — and what not to

Before you spend money on costly upgrades, be sure the changes you make will have a high return on investment. It doesn’t make sense to install new granite countertops, for example, if you only stand to break even on them — or even lose money. Plus, these improvements may not be necessary to sell your home for top dollar, particularly if inventory levels are low in your area. A good real estate agent will know what people in your area expect and can help you decide what needs doing and what doesn’t.

In general, updates to the kitchen and bathrooms provide the highest return on investment. But inexpensive DIY projects can also go a long way: A fresh coat of neutral paint and spruced-up landscaping are low-cost ways to make a great first impression.

There’s also the option of getting a pre-sale home inspection. This is optional, but it can be a wise upfront investment, especially in an older home. For a few hundred dollars, you’ll get a detailed inspection report that identifies any major problems. This alerts you in advance to issues that buyers will likely flag when they do their own inspection later in the process. By being a few steps ahead of the buyer, you might be able to speed up the selling process by doing repairs in tandem with other home-prep work. Then, by the time your house hits the market, it should be ready to sell, drama-free and quickly.

4. Set a realistic price

Even in competitive markets, buyers don’t want to pay more than they have to, so it’s crucial to get the pricing right. Going too high can backfire, while underestimating a home’s value might leave money on the table. To price your home perfectly from the start, consult comps. This information about recently sold properties in your neighborhood gives you an idea of what comparable homes around you are selling for, thus helping you decide how much you might reasonably ask.

“A frequent mistake sellers make is pricing a home too high and then lowering it periodically,” says Grant Lopez, Realtor at Keller Williams Heritage and former chairman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors in Texas. “Some sellers think this practice will yield the highest return. But in reality, the opposite is often true: Homes that are priced too high will turn off potential buyers, who may not even consider looking at the property.”

In addition, homes with multiple price reductions may give buyers the impression there’s something wrong with a home. So it’s best to eliminate the need for multiple reductions by pricing your home to attract the widest pool of buyers from the start.

5. List your house with professional photos

This step will likely involve your real estate agent registering the listing with the local MLS (multiple listing service). Here are some tips to get your home market-ready:

Get professional photos:

Work with your real estate agent to schedule a photographer to capture marketing photos of your home. With the ubiquity of online house-hunting these days, high-quality photos are critical. A pro photographer knows how to make rooms appear bigger, brighter and more attractive. The same goes for your lawn and outdoor areas.

Focus on online appeal: 

You’ve probably heard of curb appeal, but professionals say online appeal is now even more important. In fact, nearly all homebuyers look at online listings — 96 percent, according to NAR. “Your home’s first showing is online,” Guerra says. “The quality of your web presentation will determine whether someone calls and makes an appointment or clicks on the next listing.”

Stage it and keep it clean: 

Staging a home entails removing excess furniture, personal belongings and unsightly items from the home while it’s on the market, and arranging rooms for optimal flow and purpose. If you’re in a slower market or selling a luxury home, investing in a professional stager could help you stand out. Nationally, professional home staging costs an average of around $1,770, according to HomeAdvisor, but prices range between about $778 and $2,839.

Clear out for showings: 

Make yourself scarce when potential buyers come to view your home. Let them imagine themselves in the space, free from the distraction of meeting and talking to you. “Seeing the current homeowner lurking can cause buyers to be hesitant to express their opinions,” says Lopez. “It could keep them from really considering your home as an option.” Generally, buyers are accompanied by their real estate agent to view your home. You can also ask your own agent to be present at showings.

6. Review and negotiate offers

Once buyers have seen your home, the offers will ideally start rolling in. This is where a real estate agent is your best advocate and go-to source for advice. If your local market favors sellers, buyers will likely offer very close to asking price, or possibly even above. On the other hand, if sales are slow in your area, you may have to be open to negotiating.

When you receive an offer, you have a few choices: accept it as-is, make a counter-offer or reject the offer. A counter-offer is a response to an offer in which you negotiate on terms and/or price. Counter-offers should always be made in writing and provide a short timeframe (ideally 48 hours or less) for the buyer to respond. You can offer a credit for paint and carpet, but insist on keeping your original asking price in place, for example. Or, you might offer to leave certain items behind to sweeten the deal.

If you’re lucky enough to get multiple offers, you might be tempted to simply go with the highest bid. But look closely at other aspects of the offer, too, such as:

  • Form of payment (cash versus financing)
  • Type of financing
  • Down payment amount
  • Contingencies
  • Concession requests
  • Proposed closing date

Be mindful that if a buyer is relying on lender financing, the property will have to be appraised. If there’s any shortfall between the purchase price and appraised value will have to be made up somewhere, or the deal could fall apart.

7. Weigh closing costs and tax implications

In any real estate transaction, both parties must pay at least some closing costs. The seller typically pays the real estate agents’ commissions, which usually total around 5 percent to 6 percent of the home’s sale price.

Some other closing costs commonly paid by the seller include transfer taxes, recording fees and outstanding liens. Additionally, if the buyer has negotiated any credits to be paid at closing — to cover repairs, for example — the seller will pay those, too. Your real estate agent or the closing agent should provide you with a complete list of costs you’ll be responsible for at the closing table.

The good news is that you may not owe the IRS taxes on your profits from the sale. It depends on whether it was your primary residence, how long you lived there and how much you make on the sale. If you’ve owned and lived in your home for at least two out of the previous five years before selling it, then you will not have to pay taxes on any profit up to $250,000. For married couples, the amount you can exclude from taxes increases to $500,000. If your profit from the home sale is greater than that, though, you’ll need to report it to the IRS as a capital gain.

8. Consider hiring a real estate attorney

Some states actually require sellers to have a real estate attorney to close on a home sale, but many don’t. Regardless of your state’s rule, the expense is worth it to protect such a large financial transaction. It may cost you a couple thousand dollars, but there’s a lot more money than that at stake, and it can never hurt to have a legal expert give everything the OK.

In addition, an attorney can help fill out paperwork correctly, review contracts and documents, identify potential issues and ensure the sale goes as smoothly as possible. An attorney would also be able to spot title issues that could hold up your sale for weeks or months — or even torpedo the deal — such as outstanding liens or encumbrances, trust or issues and encroachments.

9. Gather paperwork and close

Lots of paperwork is needed to properly document a home sale, so keep it organized all in one place to help things go more quickly. Your agent can help you make sure you’ve got everything you need. Some of the main documents you’ll need to compile include:

  • Original purchase contract
  • Mortgage documents
  • Tax records
  • Appraisal from your home purchase
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Home inspection report, if you had one

Finally, once everything is signed and handed over, your house is sold!

Rudy Rodriguez DRE: 01121396

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Suite:294            Redlands, CA 92373


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Adding Home Value

Adding Home Value

Adding value to a home doesn’t always have to be a major renovation project. There are several budget-conscious ways to enhance curb appeal and increase the value of your home. Here are some expert-recommended tips:

Landscaping: Improve your home’s exterior by maintaining a well-manicured lawn, planting colorful flowers, and adding shrubs or trees strategically. A visually appealing landscape can greatly enhance curb appeal.

Exterior Painting: Give your home a fresh look by repainting the exterior. Choose neutral or trending colors that complement the style of your house and the neighborhood.

Front Door Upgrade: Upgrade your front door to make a strong first impression. Consider a new door with a stylish design, or repaint the existing one to give it a pop of color.

Lighting: Install outdoor lighting fixtures to highlight your home’s architectural features and illuminate pathways. Well-placed lighting can create an inviting atmosphere and enhance safety.

Window Treatments: Install window shutters or add decorative trim around windows to enhance their appearance. It can make your home look more polished and aesthetically pleasing.

Clean and Declutter: A clean and clutter-free exterior creates a positive impression. Power wash the exterior walls, clean windows, and remove any unnecessary items or debris from the yard.

Upgrade Hardware: Replace outdated or worn-out hardware, such as doorknobs, handles, and house numbers. Choose modern styles that complement the overall design of your home.

Outdoor Living Spaces: Create an inviting outdoor space, such as a deck, patio, or seating area. Potential buyers appreciate outdoor living areas where they can relax and entertain.

Energy Efficiency: Consider energy-efficient upgrades like installing programmable thermostats, LED lighting, or adding insulation. These improvements can save money on utility bills and attract environmentally conscious buyers.

Maintenance: Regularly maintain your home’s exterior by fixing any damaged or worn-out elements. Repairing or replacing broken roof tiles, damaged gutters, or cracked walkways can improve the overall appearance and prevent further issues.

Remember, even small changes can have a significant impact on the value and appeal of your home. Prioritize improvements that align with your budget and the specific needs of your property.

Rudy Rodriguez DRE: 01121396

Visit Us

101 East Redlands Blvd Suite:294
Redlands, CA 92373


Monday – Friday
9:00 am -5:00 pm
Saturday – Sunday – By Appointment Only


Stay up to date with our latest news, receive exclusive deals, and more.

© All Rights Reserved 2020

Desert Landscaping Ideas

Desert Landscaping Ideas To Try

Desert landscapes are often stunning to behold: their unique coloration and native flora create a visual experience unique to their climate. People who live in desert locations often describe the serene beauty of their surroundings. And many desert dwellers are also avid gardeners! But the desert landscape does present some special gardening challenges. We’ve gathered some ideas to help you brainstorm some design projects for your desert landscape.

Desert Landscaping Considerations

Desert gardening may have some special considerations, but the basics still apply. You need to know your hardiness zones, get to know your soil, and spend some time studying where the light falls and where winds are strongest. The desert is also known for extreme temperatures: very hot during the day but chilly once the sun goes down. Consider ways to comfortably enjoy your space at different times of the day or evening (a shade pergola for sunny days, or a firepit for colder nights, for example). Getting the lay of the land in this way will help you choose the best plants and features for your desert garden.


Desert Palettes

pale blue agave and silvery blue foliage and grey pebbles in desert garden

Desert gardens may not have the lush greens of cottage or woodland gardens, but they have intriguing color palettes unique to their climate. Desert sunrise and sunset light illuminates a garden with gorgeous muted colors. There are plenty of ways to integrate bright or subtle colors. Explore the many different colors of succulents available, and be sure to consider the colors of stones and containers in your designs. The classic desert landscape palette has earthy colors ranging from warm terra cotta and sandy tones, to cool blues, grays, greens and purples found in succulents, cacti and desert wildflowers. You can add bright touches of yellow or red to draw the eye, perhaps cobalt-blue glazed pots for a vivid spot of color.

Cacti vs Succulents

Desert garden with pale gold gravel and a mix of cacti and succulent plants

@avid_landscaping_inc / Instagram

Most people think of cacti and succulents as the plants most commonly found in desert climates. A cactus is a succulent, but a succulent is not necessarily a cactus. Basically, a succulent is a plant that can store water in its stems and leaves, and can therefore survive a long time without water. Cacti also store water but tend to be identifiable by the “hairs” growing from their areoles (cushiony growths), and they do not grow leaves. Sometimes these hairs growing on cacti are sharp! Cacti also may produce flowers from the areoles. Cacti come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.


Drought-Tolerant Flowering Perennials

small white cottage in open landscape with clumps of lavender in bloom

@averie_lane / Instagram

There are many drought-tolerant plants that do well in desert gardens. These include Russian sage, sedums, agastache, fountain grass, Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and lavender, and many salvias.

Create Containers

small house with arbor and assorted planters with desert plants

@beartrapgarden / Instagram

If you have very sandy or dry or rocky desert soil, you may decide to forgo traditional gardening for container gardening. This can be an excellent choice for desert landscaping, and gives you a great deal of flexibility for creative designs. Terra cotta pots have warm tones that go well with the greens, grays and blues of succulents for a natural look; glazed ceramic pots provide more color possibilities and conserve water better than unglazed ones. Metal pots may hold too much heat in desert sun, or get too cold at night, so clay pots are recommended for keeping soil at a more consistent temperature. Water container plants in the late afternoon for maximum vitality and to conserve water.


Dry Stream Beds

Dry stream bed with cactus plantings in desert landscape

@fredericksonlandscapeinc / Instagram

Dry stream beds are not only an attractive feature, but they help prevent run off and help conserve water. They can be dug into the landscape but they can also work well for naturally occurring slopes or gullies.


Pale blue agave plants in mulched desert garden

@fredericksonlandscapeinc / Instagram

These fleshy blue leaved succulents make a dramatic statement with their large size and chunky leaves. Their pale blue and silvery hues are a classic choice for the desert garden. They’re extremely heat and drought tolerant.


To Mulch or Not to Mulch

Mulched garden bed with succulents and small tree by white walls

@fredricksonlandscapeinc / Instagram

Though using gravel or stone is a very common replacement for traditional mulch in desert gardens, sometimes natural mulch is a better choice. This is true if your garden includes small trees whose root systems would benefit from the insulating qualities of natural cedar or pine mulch. Mulch also preserves moisture in the soil for your plantings. Mulch is also less expensive than stone.

Desert Soil

Chartreuse flowering blue leaved plant near cactus in pebbly desert garden

@beartrapgarden / Instagram

Desert soils are sandy and often dry. You can add amendments, but you still have to deal with the dry climate. Do some research and find plants that are happy in sandy soil and have shallow root systems. The chartreuse and blue Euphorbia rigida, also known as gopher spurge, is a colorful sprawling ground cover that is drought and heat tolerant.

Gravel and Stone

Bed of succulents using rounded river rock instead of mulch with large trees in background

@avid_landscaping_inc / Instagram

Using gravel or stone for walking surfaces and in place of mulch in beds makes sense in the desert landscape. Gravel and stone allow rainwater to absorb into the soil, instead of creating runoff. Larger stone makes for an attractive look next to the pointed and spiky shapes of succulents; the rounded river rock in this bed provides an attractive textural contrast.

Artificial Turf

Garden with terraced beds and artificial turf by stone patio

@avid_landscaping_inc / Instagram

Traditional lawns are very hard to maintain in the desert climate, mainly because they need so much water. If you want a lush green lawn, consider artificial turf, a popular landscaping choice in desert climates. Many Southwest landscaping companies specialize in this feature.


Add Color with Native Wildflowers

Bright red flowers in bed with flowering palm trees

@avid_landscaping_inc / Instagram

There are a number of wildflowers that grow happily in the desert, and you can buy them to plant in your garden. The coral plant, also known as fountain bush or firecracker plant, puts out bright red lacy sprays of flowers for weeks. Other brightly-colored Southwest natives include Mexicans gold poppies, desert mallow and desert lupine. These all grow from seeds that are available from vendors who specialize in heirloom and native plants.


Dramatic Yet Simple Shapes

delicate trees with small round cacti and agave plants in a gravel bed in desert landscape

@avid_landscaping_inc / Instagram

Nothing says “drama” like a desert garden. The unusual shapes of cacti and succulents, the colors and angles of desert light, and the presence of stone and sand, are all inspiring design elements. This simple design utilizes only three kinds of plants with varying shapes and textures, and a harmonious blend of smooth river rock and small boulders to create a gorgeous landscape at this home in Palm Springs, California.

Plant Closely to Save Water

Colorful desert garden with flowers planted closely together, grey green foliage and purple flowers

@beartrapgarden / Instagram

Desert gardens should be designed to conserve water, since desert heat makes water evaporate quickly, and sandy desert soils don’t retain moisture very well. Choosing native plants is wise, as these tend to thrive with available rainfall. But another good trick is to plant things close together, so that plants shade each other and help prevent the evaporation of moisture from soil.


Mediterranean Flowers

Colorful warm and cool plants in desert garden

@beartrapgarden / Instagram

A mix of warm and cool colors works well in desert gardens, which have such dramatic light at dawn and dusk, and which often seem somewhat monochromatic to gardeners used to colorful temperate zone gardens. Many Mediterranean plants do well in desert gardens and can offer a wide variety of colors.


Raised Beds for Veggies

Vegetable gardening in the desert? Raised beds make it possible! They’ll need water, of course, but you can water as needed by hand and not bother with irrigation. These raised beds provide a lush array of delicious greens and provide a verdant oasis within this enclosed, somewhat shady garden mostly made with gravel and stone.



Wooden pergola with green vines in a garden enclosed by a wooden fence

@fredricksonlandscapeinc / Instagram

A pergola is an attractive way to have some shade in your garden. Most pergolas are built of lumber but can also be constructed of metal, bamboo, deadfall wood or driftwood. A pergola makes for a pleasant outdoor seating area and also gives structure to a patio or other open space. For desert climates you will want to choose drought tolerant vines such as crossvine, Carolina jessamine, pink trumpet vine, or a Lady Banks’ rose.

Fire Features

Stone fire bowl with four wooden chairs with green plants and accents in a desert garden

@fredricksonlandscapeinc / Instagram

A firepit or fire dish is nice to have when the temperatures dip on a cool evening in the desert. A firepit is a fair bit of work and a more permanent fixture, but there are many options for portable fire dishes these days. Some use wood, while others like this stone fire bowl use propane, which some prefer for a cleaner heat source.


pale blue cactus in front of a gold and green variegated yucca plant in desert garden

@beartrapgarden / Instagram

Though they only flower every few years, yucca has striking spiky foliage and comes in a variety of sizes and colors, making them a good choice for desert landscaping. Variegated varieties like the gold and green ‘Color Guard’ will add plenty of pizzazz to the desert garden.


Use the Landscape

Succulent garden in foreground of large boulder with rocks for edging

@thelavenderdowns / Instagram

If your desert landscape includes large boulders or sloping hills, use them in your design. Often the most dynamic desert garden designs arise from the land and are inspired by the immediate surroundings. Use found objects like rocks and desert driftwood for edging or sculptural accents.

Certified Probate & Trust Specialist 

As a Certified Probate & Trust Specialist you can rest assured that as a Real estate professional, I have the understanding of the Probate transaction and can represent sellers or buyers in probate transactions, as well as investors looking to purchase probate properties. 

Thinking of Selling or Buying Probate Properties?

Listing With Confidence

List With Confidence

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, finding a real estate agent you trust is one of your most important decisions. After all, they can make or break your home-buying or home-selling experience!

You can’t afford to hire an agent who’s winging it. You want a seasoned professional who will do the job right.

Now you may be thinking, But I don’t know how to find a real estate agent I’m excited to work with. That’s okay—we do! We’ll help you figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a real estate agent so you can hire the right person.

6 Tips to Find a Great Real Estate Agent

Here are our top tips for how to find a real estate agent who can help you rock the buying or selling process:

1. Learn the basics about real estate agents.

Buying or selling a home is probably the biggest financial transaction you’ll ever make. So before you rush out to find a real estate agent, you need to know what they should—and shouldn’t—do.

What Do Real Estate Agents Do?

Real estate agents do a lot. They help buyers search for and view houses. Sellers, your agent should help you stage, market, and set the right price for your home. And all agents help their clients negotiate to get the best deal.

Find a trusted real estate agent we recommend in your area.

So if you don’t have an agent and the other person does, you’ll get the short end of the stick. You need a world-class agent to set you up for success.  

REALTORS® Versus Real Estate Agents

Many people think REALTORS® and real estate agents are the same, but they aren’t. I’ve talked about the difference between real estate agents and REALTORS® before, but let’s recap.

Real estate agents hold state licenses saying they can help you buy or sell a home. REALTORS® are real estate agents who join a professional group called the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). NAR gives them extra training and tools to do their jobs.

Difference Between Buyer’s and Seller’s Agents

When buying a house, you’re looking for a real estate agent who listens to you and is good at finding homes that meet your needs. A great agent knows about tons of available homes—sometimes even before they hit the market. They should also be an expert negotiator to ensure you won’t overpay for your new place.

If you’re selling your house, find a real estate agent who can help you set a fair price, stage your home to appeal to buyers, and provide a marketing plan. A really kick-butt agent may even hire extra people—like a photographer or assistant—to help your home sale go smoothly.

Bad Real Estate Agents

Unfortunately, when you’re trying to find a real estate agent, you might meet some duds. You need to know how to recognize bad real estate agents so you don’t hire a schmuck.

Watch out for:

  • Inexperience
  • Poor marketing
  • Lack of leadership
  • Too much attitude
  • Failure to listen to you
  • Bad or no communication
  • No progress toward buying or selling a home
  • More focus on their commission than helping you

Okay, so now you know what you don’t want. The next step is to make sure you’re the kind of client a great agent wants to work with.

A couple is laughing together.

2. Make sure you’re ready to buy or sell a house.

We’ll be honest: Hiring a real estate agent is pointless if you’re not ready to buy or sell a home.

Sellers, we made a handy checklist to help you decide if you’re ready to sell. Basically, you’re good to go if selling improves your finances, you’re emotionally ready, and you have a new place to live. If you’re still working on the new-place-to-live thing, keep reading.

Buyers, before you’re ready to buy a house, you’ll have to take a few steps to line up your finances. 

Set a housing budget.

Meet Jim: Jim planned to spend $300,000 on a house. But then he realized the neighborhood he liked cost more than he expected. And his favorite house had features he hadn’t planned on—like a swimming pool and an attached garage.

The house cost $375,000. Jim loved it, and since Jim’s lender is an idiot, they let him borrow that much. Now Jim’s stuck in a house he can’t afford, and he has no money leftover to save for retirement, pay off his car, or give to his favorite charity.

Don’t be like Jim! Set a monthly housing budget that’s no more than 25% of your take-home pay—including the mortgage principal, insurance, property taxes and HOA fees. Then, use our free mortgage calculator to see which home prices and down payments fit your budget.

P.S. Make it clear to your real estate agent that this is the budget. Don’t work with someone who tries to talk you into a house you can’t afford so they can get a big commission.

Save for a down payment.

Saving for a down payment is super important! With a big down payment, you’ll have a lower monthly payment and pay less interest over time.

Save a down payment of at least 20% of the home price to avoid paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is insurance that covers your lender (not you) if you stop making mortgage payments.

If you’re a first-time home buyer, a smaller down payment of 5–10% is okay too—but then you will have to pay that PMI fee. No matter what, make sure your mortgage payment is no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. And beware of bad mortgages like VA, FHA and 30-year loans—otherwise, you’ll end up paying so much more money in extra interest and fees, and you’ll be stuck in debt for decades.

Want to up the ante? Save up to pay all cash for a house. That way, you’re not messing with lender restrictions or crazy interest rates. And you’ll gain major negotiating power: Lots of sellers would love to get an all-cash offer, since it’s quicker and easier for them too.

Get preapproved for a mortgage.

Okay, so if you do take out a mortgage, you should do one more thing before you hire a real estate agent: Get preapproved.

A mortgage preapproval speeds up the home-buying process. You can show sellers a letter from your lender saying how much money you can borrow. That lets the seller know you’re serious and that you really can afford their house.

Plus, real estate agents will be glad to see your mortgage preapproval too. It’s another tool they can use to help get you into your dream home!

3. Narrow down your requirements.

There are a ton of real estate professionals. So it’s smart to decide what kind of agent you’re willing to work with before you start looking. Consider things like:


According to NAR, more agents entered the field in 2021 than in recent years.1 And some new agents are doing a bang-up job. You may be thinking about giving them a chance—and that could work out. Or they could make a rookie mistake and cost you thousands of dollars. 

That’s a big risk! So we recommend looking for an agent with at least four years of experience. Good news: Even with all the newbies, the typical real estate agent has eight years of experience.

Familiarity With the Local Market

General real estate experience is good, but your agent also needs experience in your area. If you’re moving to Los Angeles, hiring someone who knows all about real estate in San Diego won’t do you much good.

A view of a neighborhood street.

Look for an agent who’s closed a lot of homes in your area and who’s involved in the local community. Do they live, volunteer, or send their kids to school there? These things let you know you’re getting an agent who cares about location in more ways than one.

Track Record

A real estate agent’s track record of helping other clients can give you an idea how well they’re likely to perform for you. Look at things like:

Closing Rate

Closing rates are where the experts shine. You want to find a real estate agent who closes at least 35 homes a year or more homes than 90% of the agents in their market. Getting that kind of business takes hard work and a good reputation!

Closing Time

No, not last call. We’re talking about how long an agent takes to help a client buy or sell a home. There’s no guarantee they can meet a certain timeframe, but you can at least get an idea of what to expect—which is helpful if you’re trying to sell your home fast.

Accurate Pricing

You’ll have to do some simple math for this one. Ask an agent the average asking price and final sales price of homes they’ve listed. Then divide the final price by the asking price to get the sale-to-list ratio. The closer an agent’s sale-to-list ratio is to 100%, the more accurate their pricing.

Sellers, you’re looking for a real estate agent whose ratio is at or over 100%. That means you’ve got a better chance of getting the asking price—or more—for your house.

Buyers, you want an agent with a sale-to-list ratio below 100%. That means they’re a good negotiator who can likely help you get a good deal.

Communication and Customer Service

Look, you shouldn’t have to wait five days for a real estate agent to return your call or reply to a text. Bad communication could cost you opportunities, and then you’re both missing out! You need a responsive agent.

And look for someone who will tell you the truth about a home or even your own expectations. The last thing you need is an agent who gives you false expectations about your home. Like it or not, it’s in your best interest for them to call it like they see it.

A real estate agent talks with two clients.


When you hire a real estate agent, you’ll have to sign a contract that lays out the terms for using their services and sets expectations for what they will—or won’t—do. A good contract helps protect the agent and you.

But be wary of agents who want to lock you into a lengthy contract you can’t get out of or charge you a cancellation penalty if they drop the ball. Also, know that some agents charge a termination fee to cover their marketing costs.


How much real estate agents get paid varies, but it’s usually around 3% of the sale price. (Usually, the seller pays the whole 6% for their agent and the buyer’s agent.) If an agent tries to charge way more, they could be trying to rip you off. And if they lowball the price, that may mean they don’t know what they’re doing.

4. Ask for referrals.

Okay, now you know who you’re looking for—time to start searching! To find a great real estate agent, you need to look in the right places:

  • Use a referral program you trust to vet agents for you—like our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program.
  • Research online to learn more about real estate agents in your area.
  • Talk to former clients about their experience with an agent to find out the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Visit open houses so you can meet potential agents and see how they work.

But there’s one place not to look: Don’t hire a friend or relative as your real estate agent. Sure, you may think you’d feel more comfortable with someone you know, but it gets uncomfortable real quick.

For example, you may not want them peeking into your personal finances (like how much money you make). And if they make a mistake, it could cost you both tens of thousands of dollars. Can you face that tension every time you see this person? Are you willing to fire a friend who does a bad job?

Heck no! So don’t make the mistake of hiring family or settling for a mediocre agent (especially if that’s the same person). You can find a top real estate agent who’s helped hundreds of people—and who you won’t see at Thanksgiving.

5. Interview at least three real estate agents.

So now that you’ve got some referrals (not your cousin Rebecca), how do you choose a real estate agent? You won’t pick the best one by flipping a coin, that’s for sure. You need to interview multiple agents. Yes—we said interview.

Remember, home purchases and sales are expensive legal transactions! If you want a true professional on your side, set the bar high.

Fortunately, separating the pros from the duds isn’t rocket science. You just need to ask the right questions. We’ve covered the 10 most important questions to ask your real estate agent, but here’s a quick recap:

  • How long have you been a full-time agent in my market?
  • How many homes do you close on per year?
  • How will you help me buy or sell a home in this market?
  • How will you communicate with me, and who’ll be my primary contact?

What sets you apart from other real estate agents?

What’s your commission fee?

Do I have to sign a contract with you, and can I cancel without penalty?

Who can I contact for a reference? (Be sure to get previous clients on this list.)

How do you set realistic expectations for your clients?

Asking questions like these sends the message that you’re serious about finding a real estate agent you trust. And the ones who aren’t worth your time will usually fire themselves before you even have a chance to hire them.

If you want to know anything else, now’s the time to speak up! A great agent will patiently and thoroughly answer your questions.

6. Hire someone you actually like.

Expertise matters, but so does chemistry! You’ll spend a ton of time with your real estate agent over the next couple months. So while you don’t have to be best friends—in fact, it’s better if you’re not—you do need to gel with them, so to speak.

Even if they’re checking all the right boxes, you still need to ask yourself: Do I like and trust this person? Do they help lower my stress? Do they answer my questions and have a clear plan? The right agent will do all these things—not run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

How to Find a Real Estate Agent You Can Trust

Chances are, you already know a few real estate agents who’d be happy to help buy or sell your home. But with so much money on the line, it’s important to find the best agent for you.

Don’t settle when you’re choosing a pro. Find the right real estate agent!

Certified Probate & Trust Specialist 

As a Certified Probate & Trust Specialist you can rest assured that as a Real estate professional, I have the understanding of the Probate transaction and can represent sellers or buyers in probate transactions, as well as investors looking to purchase probate properties. 

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