Ask an expert - Agent profile - Julie Sutton, Compass Realty

When Julie Sutton decided to enter the world of real estate eight years ago, she thought she had found the perfect part-time career for a busy mom of three.

She was wrong.

"It is in no way a part-time job," said Sutton, leader of The Julie Sutton Group of Compass Realty in Hinsdale. But although the job of the real estate broker involves busy days, weekend showings and late-night phone calls, Sutton said she loves it all.

Homes in Chicago's western suburbs are moving fast, often selling for more than the asking price. Sutton said that means buyers and sellers alike need to be ready for a quick sale.

"Be ready to buy when your house goes up," Sutton said. That means having a pre-approval letter in hand and a clear idea of what you would like to buy.

Today's buyers often find themselves in bidding wars for their dream home. To prepare for such a situation, Sutton suggests an escalation clause. Written as an attachment to the purchase contract, the clause states the buyer will increase their offer to a set level above the best offer, up to a pre-established maximum.

"That's a strategy we've used successfully several times in multiple-buyer situations," Sutton said.

Though the market is hot for sellers, Sutton said it's still important for homes to look their best when potential buyers open the door. As part of her group's concierge service, she and her team provide sellers with advice on how to stage their homes for sale and suggestions for what improvements are likely to increase the selling price.

Because most buyers will see a home on their phone or computer before deciding whether it's worth seeing in person, high-quality photos presented correctly can be the seller's most powerful tool, Sutton said.

"They decide within the first five clicks," Sutton said. Those first five photos need to catch the buyer's attention and showcase the very best parts of the home.

Photography, videography, staging and even shopping are all part of the job for Sutton and her team.

"We're making lighting selections and picking out tile. Buyers and sellers expect that today," Sutton said. In short, today's real estate brokers do a lot more than write contracts and guide buyers through an open house.

Even in today's market, pricing is key to a quick and painless sale, said Sutton, who noted setting a price that's too high or making an offer that's too low are the most common mistakes among buyers and sellers.

Five years into her real estate career, Sutton was joined by her husband, Will. Today, The Julie Sutton Group consists of nine full-time brokers and two administrators.

"I've surrounded myself with an incredible team of smart, really hard-working people," Sutton said, all of whom are at the ready to help buyers buy and sellers sell.

These days, the team is busier than ever, and Sutton sees no end in sight. She expects the spring market to bring more listings and even more buyers hunting for their next home. That means more long days, late nights and busy weekends. And Sutton wouldn't have it any other way.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch