You’re ready to make a move. Maybe you’ve decided to take the plunge and purchase your first house or you’re newly retired, the kids have moved out and you’re thinking it’s time to downsize.Whatever the reason, you fire up your laptop and pull up some local home listings on the Web. This real estate thing is something you can totally figure out on your own, right?
While it’s true that the Internet does supply you with a ton of information on how to “do it yourself”, the home buying and selling process is a little more complicated. Just as you would call a plumber to clear a difficult clog or an electrician to rewire your house, when it comes to one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll likely make, it only makes sense to have a professional in your corner. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), more than 8 out of 10 real estate transactions take place with the help of an agent or broker and there’s a reason for that. Armed with a wealth of knowledge and expertise, an agent can help you navigate the process with ease and get the results you’re looking for.
- Better search access – Sure, real estate websites like Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow can show you recent home listings in your area, but agents have access to even more data. Some properties aren’t advertised publicly online, or maybe a seller just accepted an offer, but that information hasn’t been updated on the Web. Your agent or broker will be the best source of information – getting the most up-to-date info from a multiple listing service (often simply referred to as an MLS) as to what’s available, how it compares to other homes nearby, as well as a property’s sales history. Plus, it’s the agent’s job to know the particulars of every neighborhood so he or she can recommend a property that’s the best fit for your needs.
- Contract Expertise – Buying or selling a home comes with loads of paperwork: reports, disclosures, and technical forms to name a few. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. However, an expert will help you sort through all of that and prepare the best deal. And don’t forget, laws and regulations change fairly regularly. You may not be aware of them, but a good agent should be and will make sure any contracts protect you and your interests.
- Expert Negotiator – The buying and selling process can get competitive and stressful. You may find yourself in a bidding war for a hot property or encounter some cutthroat tactics from a seller. Your agent deals with negotiations on a daily basis and will be better equipped to draw up a strong, but objective offer that will give you a fair shot. Handling it yourself could easily result in you getting too emotional and perhaps turning off potential sellers or buyers.
- Strong Connections – A good real estate professional knows how to network. It’s imperative because so many other experts are often needed and consulted during the buying and selling process (lenders, mortgage brokers, home inspectors, professional organizers, designers, repairmen). Your agent may not know everything along the way, but they can recommend someone who can help.
- Time-saver – Even if you think you could master the above points yourself, real estate transactions require a considerable amount of time and effort. And if you already have a full-time job, time may not be something you have readily available. National statistics show the average home takes about four months to sell (up to 6 months in the slowest cities). During that time frame, there are countless hours spent researching properties, dozens of calls that need to be made discussing offers and counter-offers, and hundreds of pages of paperwork that need to be drawn up and signed. An agent will take the lead on all of that and help you sort through the details.
If you think enlisting the help of an agent is a smart move for you, how do you find a good one?
- Word of Mouth – Do you have any friends or neighbors who recently bought or sold a home? Who did they use? Were they happy with them? Personal recommendations are one of the easiest ways to find a good agent. In an annual survey conducted by the NAR, 88 percent of buyers would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others.
- Research and Interview – Online reviews can give you a head start in finding qualified professionals in your area. Once you find a few who you think might work, take the time to interview them in person. Remember, real estate transactions are a big financial and emotional undertaking, so you want to ensure that the agent you choose will communicate openly, follow your instructions and fight for your best interests.