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Better Access/More Convenience
Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A real estate agent can help you find opportunities not listed on home search sites and can help you avoid out-of-date listings that might be showing up as available online but are no longer on the market.
A real estate agent’s full-time job is to act as a liaison between buyers and sellers. This means that he or she will have easy access to all other properties listed by other agents. Both the buyer’s and seller’s agent work full time as real estate agents and they know what needs to be done to work together. For example, if you are looking to buy a home, a real estate agent will track down homes that meet your criteria, get in touch with sellers’ agents, and make appointments for you to view the homes. If you are buying on your own, you will have to this yourself. This may be especially difficult if you’re shopping for homes that are for sale by owner.
Similarly, if you are looking to sell your home yourself, you will have to solicit calls from interested parties, answer questions and make appointments. Keep in mind that potential buyers are likely to move on if you tend to be busy or don’t respond quickly enough. Alternatively, you may find yourself making an appointment and rushing home, only to find that no one shows up.
Objective information and opinions
Real estate agents can provide local information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They also have objective information about each property. Agent’s can use data to help you determine if the property has what you need. By understanding both your needs and search area, they can also point out neighborhoods you don’t know much about but that might suit your needs better than you thought.
Most people buy very few homes in their lifetime, usually with several years in between each purchase. Even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. Real estate agent’s handle hundreds of transactions over the course of their career.
Negotiating Can Be Tricky
Many people don’t like the idea of doing a real estate deal through an agent and feel that direct negotiation between buyers and sellers is more transparent and allows the parties to better look after their own best interests. This can be true–assuming that both the buyer and seller in a given transaction are reasonable people who are able to “mesh well”. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an easy relationship to manage.
However, if you are working with an agent, you can express your dislike for the current owner’s decorating skills/tastes and freely talk about how much it will cost you to upgrade the home without insulting the owner. Acting as a messenger, the agent may be in a better position to negotiate a lower price without ruffling the homeowner’s feathers.
There are many factors up for discussion in a deal. A Real Estate Agent will look at every angle from your perspective, including crafting a purchase agreement that allows enough time for you to complete inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase.
Contracts Can Be Difficult
Buying a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes. Also, there’s a lot of jargon involved, so you want to work with a professional who can speak the language.
If you decide to buy or sell a home, the offer to purchase contract is there to protect you and ensure that you are able to withdraw from the deal if certain conditions aren’t met. For example, if you plan to buy a home with a mortgage but you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale–and you aren’t approved for the mortgage–you can lose your deposit on the home and could even be sued by the seller for failing to fulfill your end of the contract.
An experienced real estate agent deals with the same contracts and conditions on a regular basis, and is familiar with which conditions should be used, when they can safely be removed and how to use the contract to protect you, whether you’re buying or selling your home.
Quality Real Estate Agents Are Honest
Every real estate Agent must adhere to a strict code of ethics, which is based on professionalism and protection of the public. As a client, you can expect honest and ethical treatment in all transaction-related matters. The first obligation is to you.
They are licensed professionals and there are more repercussions for failing to be honest about something than for a private buyer or seller. If you are working with a licensed real estate agent under an agency agreement, (i.e., a conventional, full-service commission agreement in which the agent agrees to represent you), your agent will be bound by common law (in most states) to a fiduciary relationship. In other words, the agent is bound by license law to act in their clients’ best interest (not his or her own).
In addition, most realtors rely on referrals and repeat business to build the kind of customer base needed to survive in the business. This means that doing what’s best for their clients should be as important to them as any individual sale.
Finally, when a buyer and seller work together directly, they can (and should) seek legal counsel, but because each is expected to act in his or her best interest, there isn’t much you can do if you find out later that you’ve been duped about multiple offers or the home’s condition. And having a lawyer on retainer any time you want to talk about potentially buying or selling a house could cost far more than an agent’s commissions by the time the transaction is complete.
Not Everyone Can Save Money
Many people forgo using a real estate agent as a way to save money, but keep in mind that it is unlikely that both the buyer and seller will reap the benefits of not having to pay commissions. For example, if you are selling your home on your own, you will price it based on the sale prices of other comparable properties in your area. Many of these properties will be sold with the help of an agent. This means that the seller gets the keep the percentage of the home’s sale price that might otherwise be paid to the real estate agent.
However, buyers who are looking to purchase a home sold by owners may also believe they can save some money on the home by not having an agent involved. They might even expect it and make an offer accordingly. However, unless buyer and seller agree to split the savings, they can’t both save the commission.
The Bottom Line
While there are certainly people who are qualified to sell their own homes, taking a quick look at the list of frequently asked questions on most “for sale by owner” websites suggests the process isn’t as simple as many people assume. And when you get into a difficult situation, it can really pay to have a professional on your side.