Shirley Pulawski is a freelance writer for MyBankTracker who bought a house on foreclosure in Buffalo, NY back in 2000 and has written about buying foreclosure properties. This multi-part series chronicles her experience with buying, fixing, renting, and eventually selling the house for three times her costs in 2003.

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Once I had the house I bought on foreclosure mostly fixed up, life was pretty good. I was living rent-free and collecting rent from my friends who were my tenants in the unit downstairs. However, wanderlust struck me again after just a few years, and for many reasons, I decided I wanted to sell the house I bought on foreclosure for $22,000.

At the time, the housing market in Buffalo was very depressed compared to other places, but it had grown in the three short years since I purchased my house, and it continued to gain steam in the years after I sold it. I made a lot of cosmetic repairs to the house, but I knew that getting top dollar for it on the market would require some additional work.

I had the time to work on the house, as I had been laid off from my job. I was collecting unemployment and looking for work, but the situation gave me the cushion of time I needed to get it into order. I knew I had to make additional investments of time and money into the house before my work would pay off, but I was confused about what to do next.

Picking my battles

I was unsure about which investments would bring the most bang for the buck, and back in 2003, the Internet wasn’t full of the simple-to-read knowledge shared by sites like MyBankTracker, so I decided to employ the help of an experienced real estate agent.

While the real estate agent who helped me find my house was fantastic, dedicated, and enthusiastic, she was young and new to the game; I wanted an agent with a lot of experience selling homes.

I thought I did my shopping for an agent very carefully, but when the day came when she was supposed to show up, she didn’t. I left a pretty angry message on her voicemail, thinking it was back to the drawing board with agent shopping. To my surprise, she returned my call very quickly and profusely apologized and said she had written down the appointment for the following day. She seemed very sincere, and it was the kind of mistake I have been known to make, and frankly, it could have been my mistake and not hers, so I decided to take a chance and work with her.

What makes an agent stand out

Nina turned out to be a great real estate agent. She came in and took a thorough look around and made honest suggestions about what I should fix and what might not be worthwhile. She gave me tips on what kinds of decor and personal belongings to put away to make the place feel more inviting and entice potential buyers.

A good agent should be honest and direct with the seller about what to expect, how to package their home carefully, and an understanding of who the potential buyers will be. A good agent wants to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time, so that person will suggest a realistic listing price, not necessarily the price you want to hear. They will tell you, tactfully, if your expectations are too high.

A smart seller will put their ego away and listen to what the experienced agent has to say and make decisions about what is realistic to accomplish before officially putting the home on the market.

Because I was willing to listen, Nina became everything I needed in a real estate agent: experienced, wise, honest, confident, and very experienced with dealing with different types of people. This became especially important when my first offers came in. Not all of them were equal, and not all of the buyer’s agents were as cool-minded and sharp as my agent was. There was drama ahead, and Nina was an excellent guide through all of it.

Related Stories:

How I Bought My First House on Foreclosure: Part One

My Foreclosure House: How I Began Fixing Up My Home

Finding My Dream Foreclosure House

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