Guest post by Natalie Jones from

Buying or selling a home is a daunting prospect, even if it isn’t your first venture into the real estate market. There’s long been debate over how much and what exactly you should do before reaching out to a Realtor. Some people advise not doing anything until you find an agent, while others take a different perspective.

Whichever side of the debate you come down on, there are several things a home buyer or seller can definitely do to get the ball rolling before engaging a Realtor. Being prepared means knowing what you want and what you need to do to attain it. Being able to answer some critical questions will help your agent do a better, more targeted job on your behalf.

Know where you’re going

For buyers, the first issue to resolve is to decide where and in what kind of home you want to live. That gives you a starting point from which to base your other preparations. It means spending time assessing your finances and credit situation, visiting open houses, driving through neighborhoods and investigating home prices. Once you’ve found the right kind of home and neighborhood, you can talk to lenders to get an idea of how much you can afford. At that point, an agent can begin to narrow down your search and find good matches based on your financial circumstances and personal preferences.

Do your research

Understanding market conditions is essential whether you’re buying or selling. As a seller, determining a competitive asking price will affect whether you’ll earn a profit and get what you need out of the sale. Research similar homes in your neighborhood to get an idea of current home values and how others are listing their properties. An agent will aid you in settling on a final price based on his or her experience and knowledge of your area.

According to Bo Twerdowsky, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Greater Princeton, home buyers should have narrowed their search criteria as much as possible before contacting an agent. They should have addressed basic questions such as: Where do I want to live? What are my commuting requirements? What is my rough budget for purchasing a home? Do I have a preference for newer homes vs. older? What styles of homes appeal to me? In what areas am I willing to compromise if I can’t find my dream home? An agent can and should help home buyers narrow or broaden their search criteria, but having a starting point is important.

Home sellers should have identified basic requirements before contacting an agent: When do I want to or need to sell my home? Do I see obvious cosmetic or functional issues that should be addressed before listing it? Do I have an expectation of how much I need to net from the sale? Do I have any skeletons in the closet in the way of liens against my home or unresolved property incursion issues?

Home inspection

Selling a home means making sure it’s in good condition and there are no major problems that need to be corrected. The Greater Princeton area is a very competitive market, so it’s important to make sure your home is ready to sell. Bear in mind that hiring a home inspector may be a good idea before you get too far along, so you have time to make repairs.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to hire a home inspector is between $350 and $495 in Princeton. Potential buyers will take a very close look at your property, and until they’re satisfied, they are not buying a home with significant physical problems. However, talk to an agent before making any major discretionary renovations.

Bo Twerdowsky notes that if improvements are to repair existing conditions such as mending a deck or replacing cracked tile, the homeowners can do those prior to contacting an agent. But consult with your agent before whole-scale renovations such as upgrading an entire kitchen. Sometimes such costly renovations will not factor into the final price of the home and can be skipped or reduced in scope.

It’s important to be well prepared when you enter the housing market. A Realtor can advise you on many key points, but there are several things you can do beforehand so you’re prepared to act on an agent’s advice.

Bo Twerdowsky

Real estate agent, self-professed computer geek, grammar policeman, proud father of two. Opinionated, questioning, intolerant of stuffy sorts devoid of a sense of humor.