When to Contact a Realtor to Sell Your House — Now or Wait?

Joseph Alongi
By Joseph Alongi
Updated December 19th, 2023
When to contact a realtor to sell your house

You’ve been poring over home values online and doing drive-bys of houses for sale in your neighborhood. You’ve decided: It’s time to sell your home.

Maybe you know when you want to list your property, or perhaps you aren’t 100% sure — either way, it’s a bit overwhelming.

Getting in touch with the right real estate agent at the right time can give you the guidance you need to get your home sold quickly and for the highest price.

But when should you contact a realtor to sell your house

Let’s find out.

Considerations for when to contact a realtor

Several factors affect the timeline of when you’ll want to reach out to a real estate agent — from your home’s condition to the state of your local market.

Knowing what these are up front can help you determine the best time to reach out to an agent when selling your home.

Your asking price

You likely have a number swirling in your head of how much you’d like to sell for: This is your selling price. 

Your asking price will affect that figure.  

And because your asking price is impacted by your local real estate market, it can influence your decision on when you’ll want to start communicating with a realtor.

For example, in a housing market where mortgage rates are rapidly changing, your estimated selling price will fluctuate more than usual.

If you’re the type of person who prefers to stay on top of shifting market dynamics like this, it’s ideal to approach a real estate agent about two to three months before you want to list.  

Here’s why…

The listing agent you contact should be able to help you stay ahead of those price variations by providing you with updated list price recommendations — from the time you reach out until the time you put your house on the market. 

They’ll do this by monitoring comparable home sales and local real estate market trends. 

But maybe knowing your estimated selling price isn’t top of mind for you. 

If that’s the case, it’s best to connect with a realtor about one month before you’re ready to sell.

Repairs or upgrades 

The most significant factor when determining the best time to contact a real estate agent is whether you want advice from a professional about which home improvements or repairs you should make before selling. 

If that’s your intention, it’s a safe bet to contact a realtor about three months before you want to sell.

That should give you enough time to increase your home’s value with the right real estate agent by executing money-making improvements and repairs.

Here are a few examples of big-ticket improvements and repairs that could justify reaching out to an agent earlier in the process.

Examples of major home improvements/repairs:

  • New roof or windows
  • Foundation issues
  • Kitchen/bathroom renovations
  • Electrical problems
  • Plumbing issues
  • Exterior/interior repainting
  • HVAC repairs
  • New flooring

If your property needs minor repairs or upgrades, you can start to correspond with a real estate agent about six weeks prior. 

Examples of minor home updates:

  • Interior/exterior paint touch-ups
  • DIY landscape updates 
  • Flooring fixes, like cleaning carpets or refinishing hardwood floors
  • Lighting upgrades
  • Cleaning grout

If your plan is to not make any improvements or repairs and sell as-is, then you can wait to get in touch with a realtor about three to four weeks before you’d like to put your house up for sale.

Your unique selling situation  

Different selling scenarios require different levels of support and will influence when you’ll want to contact an agent.

For example, maybe you’re selling your parent’s house and want to avoid doing extensive work up front. Or, perhaps you’re selling a rental property with tenants and need an agent’s guidance before listing it.

In these scenarios, you’ll want to start the conversation ASAP so you can begin the process of selling with an agent.

If you need more of a runway compared to other home sellers — maybe you’re buying your next home after selling, for example — three to four months out is a good timeline to begin reaching out to potential listing agents.

What to do before contacting a realtor to sell 

There are a few things you’ll want to do before communicating with real estate agents to sell your home.

Each of these can help you be better prepared for those initial conversations and maximize the information you get when speaking to them.

Pinpoint a realistic selling price 

One of the most important things you’ll initially discuss with a realtor is what they think your listing price should be. 

The “asking” price you agree to with the realtor you pick to sell your house will affect the price your house ultimately sells for. 

Knowing up front what number your heart is set on can help you better prepare for that conversation.

But conveying that number is one of the things you should not tell your realtor when selling.

Here are a few things you can do in advance to help you estimate a rational selling price:

  • Research your local real estate market: Staying up to date on home sales in your area can give you a better understanding of your potential price range. Keep an eye on recently sold homes in your area, as well as active and pending listings that are somewhat close to your interior square footage.
  • Obtain your mortgage balance: Knowing how much you owe on your property can give you a glimpse of how much you’ll net from the sale. Check your most recent mortgage statement, then subtract that number from your desired sale price. 
  • Estimate your closing costs: Seller closing costs typically range from 5.5-7% of the home’s sale price (including realtor commissions). Deduct an estimated percentage from your coveted selling amount to obtain a more accurate idea of how much you’ll walk away with.

Having a basic understanding of these variables before you contact an agent can help you establish your optimal sales price.

Make a list of potential upgrades and repairs 

Identifying upgrades and repairs you think may be necessary can help you get solid advice from a local realtor. 

It can also help you determine whether you need to give yourself a longer runway when reaching out to prospective listing agents. 

Jot down any repairs or improvements you think are worth making; then have that list ready when you reach out. 

You can confirm if they’ll bring a return on your investment when you first get in touch with potential agents.

This initial conversation can include questions like:

  • Do you think I’ll recoup more than what it will cost to make these repairs and improvements?
  • Are there any that aren’t worth making?
  • Are there other things I should have done to make my property more attractive to potential buyers?

You can also ask if they have contacts for service professionals and whether they can help coordinate any work.

Having a list of potential upgrades and repairs doesn’t just help you know if you should contact a realtor earlier in the process  — it can also help you assess their expertise when hearing their feedback.

Determine what you’ll need help with

Recognizing what you’ll need assistance with up front can help you identify the skills and experience you require before reaching out to agents.

For instance…

Maybe you’re moving out of the area before selling your home and need a real estate agent you can hand over the keys to in order to handle tasks that need to be taken care of while the house is listed.

Or, you’re selling a parent’s home after they’ve passed away and need someone familiar with nuances like tax liabilities or a reverse mortgage payoff.

Identifying the needs your selling situation dictates before you connect with a real estate agent will help you hone in on an agent with the precise expertise and background you require.

When should I contact a realtor to sell my house?

You’ll want to get in touch with a real estate agent anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before you want your home listed on the market.

The timeframe for when you should start talking to an agent depends on several factors, such as:

  • Whether or not you want their advice about which improvements and repairs are worth making
  • How experienced you are with the home selling process
  • Your comfort level in dealing with anxiety about selling

Contact an agent 60-90 days in advance if…

  • You anticipate needing at least one major improvement or repair
  • You’re unsure what upgrades or maintenance you should make (if any)
  • You need guidance from an agent based on your selling situation (a parent’s home, investment property, etc.)
  • You need to sell before buying
  • You want to stay on top of your local real estate market or are concerned about its uncertainty
  • You’re overwhelmed or feeling anxious about selling your home 

Contact an agent 14-30 days in advance if…

  • Your home only requires minor repairs, touch-ups, or cleaning 
  • You plan on selling your home as-is
  • You won’t need much pre-listing support
  • You need to sell ASAP
  • Your local real estate market is stable, or you aren’t as concerned about market conditions
  • You feel comfortable with the home selling process

Knowing when you should reach out to an agent is important.

But so is ensuring you reach out to the right agents.

This means approaching real estate agents who have:

  • Relevant selling experience (similar property types in your area and near your price range)
  • A track record of primarily only representing the seller (and not the seller and buyer in the same sale)
  • Stellar feedback from seller clients
  • A commitment to prioritize your sale by not locking you into a contract

These are the agents who are best qualified to sell your house fast and for top dollar.

Get in touch with your network for referrals and qualify agents using the prerequisites above.

Or tap into our exclusive network of the best-performing listing agents for free.

We identify the best realtors in your area who meet the criteria listed above by analyzing home sales and online reviews before vetting them further during an interview.

What should you expect after contacting a realtor?

There are certain things you should anticipate once you’ve approached a real estate agent to start the process.

Keep in mind, these factors are table stakes — you should expect them from any agent worth their salt.

Good realtors will do much more to ensure a fast, profitable, and smooth home sale.

Here’s a quick run-down of what the process can look like after you reach out to a real estate agent:

  • Meet with agent
  • Get a list price recommendation and marketing plan
  • Receive advice about home improvements/repairs
  • Discuss listing agreement
  • Strategize timeframe
  • Have professional photos taken
  • Go over selling disclosures
  • Confirm the final listing price
  • Put your house on the market 
  • Schedule open houses and private showings
  • Discuss offer details
  • Get progress updates until closing

Understanding of your selling goals  

Expect a real estate agent to ask questions about your goals during your first conversation.

They should ask you about…

  • Your reason for selling your home
  • The sales price you hope to get
  • What you love about your house
  • Your biggest concerns 
  • Your plans after the home sale

This chat is also a good time to ask any initial questions you have about the selling process and learn the agent’s preferred communication method and standard business hours.

A meeting at your home

Any prospective real estate agent should set up a meeting to view your home in person. 

This is a crucial step when connecting with an agent because it will clue you into whether you’re associating with the right person.

Here are a few things that should happen during this first meeting with a realtor:

  • Home walk-through: Touring your property with an agent will give you a better idea of their expertise. The agent should go room by room and provide tangible feedback on selling features and necessary repairs or upgrades. Even more important, they should explain why they make those recommendations.
  • Q&A session: Asking a realtor the right questions when selling can help ensure they’re best qualified to get your home sold for the most money and in the least amount of time.
  • Pricing recommendation: Any good real estate professional will provide you an analysis of your home, which guides their pricing recommendation. Viewing your property in person provides prospective agents with the information they need to recommend the most accurate list price. An important note: A realtor’s pricing strategy should always be backed by data they can leverage when negotiating with potential buyers and their agents.

Good cadence of communication 

Any real estate agents you’re in contact with should be responsive. This applies to your initial outreach as well as ongoing communication. 

You should never feel like you’re being “ghosted” when talking to a realtor. 

That’s why clear and consistent communication is something you should expect from your realtor.

So as a rule of thumb, a great real estate agent will always get back to their clients within a few business hours when they’re not available.  

Motivated to get you the best results

Many sellers fear their real estate agent isn’t going to be motivated. 

And rightfully so…

For example, say you’re in communication with an agent who’s pressuring you to sign a listing agreement.

Or, they’re trying to persuade you to accept a lower listing price than you’re comfortable with.

In reality, the real estate agent could be trying to lock you into an agent listing agreement that “secures” their commission.

Agents get a bit of security when you sign an agreement with them (usually for ~6 months) because it doesn’t include a cancellation clause.

Unfortunately, having this sense of security about their commission can cause some agents to neglect to make your sale their top priority.

This is one reason why you see some homes sit on the market.

One of the things to know before signing a contract with a realtor to sell is to ask your agent to add a clause in your contract that lets you cancel if needed. 

This forces them to put in the maximum effort because they know they can be fired at any given moment and lose their commission. 

They’ll have your best interest at heart

There are key qualities to look for when contacting an agent to sell your home.

One of those is relevant selling experience:

  • In your local market
  • Near your price range
  • With your property type

But just because a real estate agent is experienced doesn’t mean they’ll have your best interest in mind.

One way to know if they can be trusted is to learn about the number of real estate transactions where they’ve represented both seller and buyer (also known as dual agency). 

Some agents prioritize this to double their commission from one transaction.

In many cases, these sales can sabotage sellers because the sale price ends up being less than it would have been if the agent hadn’t prioritized their commission above a higher price.

An agent who has a low percentage of these sales is someone with a track record of prioritizing their clients’ best interests.

This is one of the reasons why we analyze an agent’s transaction history before allowing them to be a part of our network.

The bottom line

The best time to contact a realtor to sell your house can depend on several different factors.

But between a few weeks to a few months before you’re ready to be on the market is a great place to start.

No matter your situation, this will give you and your realtor enough time to list after you complete the hiring process.

Connect with the right real estate agent at the right time and you’ll put yourself in a great position to quickly put up that sold sign with maximum profit. 

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Joseph Alongi
Joseph Alongi

Joseph is the CEO of SoldNest. He holds a real estate broker's license and has over eighteen years of experience in the real estate industry. He's married to his beautiful wife, Erin, and comes from a big Italian family. His biggest weakness is his mom's homemade pasta.