Real-estate agent (© © Inti St Clair/Photodisc Red/Getty Imagestion')

© Inti St Clair/Photodisc Red/Getty Images

With the housing slump not looking to end soon, real-estate agents, brokers and licensees continue to look for ways to remain competitive in a slow market. These extra efforts often include offering services beyond simply helping someone buy or sell a home.

"A lot of these services, people don't know to ask for," says Justine Smith, a principal agent at Moxie Realty Group in Austin, Texas. Smith says knowing what services that others are offering for free can help consumers differentiate among agents in their area.

MainStreet talked to real-estate experts to find out what services agents are willing to provide in an effort to keep your business. (Bing: How to interview a real-estate agent)

Home staging
Since first impressions can be key in swiftly selling a home, Austin Allison, a former real-estate agent and current CEO of DotLoop, a company that specializes in helping real-estate agents expand their technological offerings, says many real-estate agencies now provide home staging as part of their listing package.

"Most proactive companies actually have a staging team or partner with a staging team," he says. These representatives do more than just provide a few suggestions for making your home more attractive to potential buyers. In many instances, they will come and overhaul your home before they start showing it to potential buyers.

Many real-estate companies will also put together, for no extra charge, a virtual tour of the house that can be viewed online. Allison says this service has becoming increasingly popular as more and more homebuyers start their home search by looking at Internet listings.

Property-value analysis
Smith explains that most real-estate agents will conduct an in-depth analysis of a property's value for a homeowner, using the data the agency has on record for recent sales in the area to determine its worth.

"Property values are like stocks; they go up and down," Smith says. They're also heavily influenced not just by state but by neighborhood, so direct access to the most recent data can be much more helpful than just relying on online estimates.

This sounds like a service that most real-estate agencies should provide to clients, but Anthony Nitz, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based real-estate agent with New Century Realty, says many agencies will do this even for someone who isn't looking to buy or sell a home.

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"Some homeowners are trying to fight their current tax assessment due to the values dropping significantly," he says. "We do this generally for anyone who asks. It's a long-term project. Provide value now, maintain the relationship and ultimately they become a client.

"I'll do this for anybody who calls me and asks me what their property is worth," Smith says. "This could be a past client or someone who has the potential to be a client in the future."

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Neighborhood analysis
Smith says she also provides her clients with an in-depth analysis of the neighborhoods they are looking to move into. While laws prohibit agents from directly disclosing demographic information, they can direct buyers to where they can find pertinent information, and they can speak directly about schools in the area.

"People always find information about schools very useful," Smith says.

Discounts on local services
Allison says that many real-estate agencies are engaging in "affiliate marketing" by arranging partnerships with other businesses in the area. This means they provide contact information to reputable movers, utility providers and cable companies so they can help people settle into their new home.

Many times, Allison says, agencies will also be able to provide discounts that can be used at nearby hardware stores, such as Home Depot or Lowe's, or even with contractors in the area.

However, as with an in-depth property value analysis, many real-estate professionals will offer these referrals to people who aren't looking to buy or sell a house.

"People call regularly years after they have bought a home," Smith says, adding that she has provided recommendations for services such as roofing and relocation to nonclients who have called her agency.

Home affordability calculator

Basic property maintenance
Nitz says that while real-estate agents may be getting paid for a particular listing, their fee doesn't generally cover maintenance on a home. But some agencies will do a few housekeeping duties here and there for homeowners who are renting a vacation property or have already relocated and can't always get to their home.

"I have on several occasions watered the flowers, dusted, repaired and cleaned dishes," he says.

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