Should I Use a Real Estate Agent?

Should I Use a Real Estate Agent?


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When considering whether or not to use the services of a real estate agent to find your new home, you need to ask yourself if you have the time, information, experience, knowledge, and contacts to efficiently find your dream home by yourself. If you do and can, you also may want to consider how much better the task would be with some professional help.

Agent, Broker, and Realtor

Although the terms real estate broker, real estate agent, and Realtor are all used interchangeably for the most part, there is actually some difference among them.

  • Agent: A real estate agent a is working professional licensed in the state in which he or she provides services. Real estate laws vary by state, which is one of the reasons there are only state licenses and no national real estate licenses. An agent must be licensed before he or she can represent customers and conduct real estate transactions. Real estate agents are typically affiliated with a real estate broker and serve as an agent of the broker in real estate transactions.
  • Broker: A real estate broker is technically a professional who brokers the sale and purchase of real property for a fee. In a more commonly used definition, a broker is a real estate salesperson who has advanced professional experience and education and has, after some experience as an agent, taken and passed a licensing examination to become a broker.
  • Realtor: A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The NAR is a real estate trade association and its members agree to abide by its Code of Ethics, which is updated each year to remain current with the laws, customs, and practices. Brokers and agents are not required to belong to the NAR, or one of its state or local affiliates, but the vast majority of real estate professionals do.

Choosing an Agent

When selecting a real estate agent there are some qualities and abilities the agent should have. Probably the most important is that the agent should be someone with whom you are comfortable and whose company you enjoy. The agent should also be someone who listens to your desires and doesn’t limit the market to only the listed properties he or she has listed. The agent should also be someone you respect and trust, because you may have to share private financial and personal information. Your agent should listen to your needs and be able to help you identify the type of house for which you are looking, he/she should be available at times that are convenient to you; and he/she should be familiar with the parts of town or neighborhoods you desire.

What Your Agent Should Provide

The services that a licensed real estate agent can provide to a home seeker cover the full range of finding and buying a home.

Locating a Home

After you know the amount you can (the amount for which you have been prequalified) and want (the amount you have in mind) to pay for a house, you and your agent can begin to locate those properties that fit your needs and desires the best. Your agent should have access to the local area multiple listing service (MLS), which details all of the properties for sale that have been listed with real estate brokers and agents.

Selecting a Home

You and your agent can look through the information from the MLS to pre-screen the available properties before you strike out to view each house that has potential. Your agent has the ability to show you information about any house listed in the local MLS regardless of which agent or broker has the listing.

When you have narrowed down the selection of houses to one or two, this is when an experienced real estate agent can be very valuable. When you think you’ve found just the right house, it is common that you are excited, emotional, and ready-to-move; your real estate agent can remain objective and provide you with information that can be valuable to know before you finalize an offer on a house.

Negotiating a Purchase

Price isn’t the only thing that can be negotiated when buying a house. There are a number of factors involved in the purchase and sale that can be worked out between the buyer and seller, including: financing terms, date of possession, whether improvements or repairs are included or excluded from the price, what furnishings or equipment are included or excluded in the price, and more.

Your real estate agent can provide some guidance as to what is usual and customary in your area for the amount of earnest money you should pay in relationship to the amount of your offer.

Closing

The culmination of the sale is the process called closing or settlement (in different parts of the country). Depending on your area, all or part of the closing is performed by an escrow company, a title company, a lawyer, or a closing agent. Rely on your real estate agent for guidance through the closing process.

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