Real estate transactions involve one of the biggest financial investments most people experience in their lifetime. Transactions today usually exceed $100,000, most are more than $200,000. If you had an income tax problem of that magnitude, would you try to deal with it without a CPA? It would be foolish to navigate the home buying process without the help of an experienced, trained real estate professional.
A licensed agent has access to the Multiple Listings Service, MLS, which generally offers the most comprehensive list of homes for sale. It may be important that your real estate agent understand how you could qualify for certain assistance programs. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal and avoid delays and costly mistakes. Here is how to find a real estate professional, one who will represent your interests and provide valuable insight and advice regarding what is likely your biggest investment…
Do your research
Drive around the neighborhood you’d like to live in, and make note of the active real estate agents in the area. Call local brokerages for agent recommendations, and specify whether you are buying or selling a home.
Visit REALTOR®.com to search for REALTORS® across the country. This site allows visitors to search for either a specific REALTOR®, or for those who specialize in specific neighborhoods or have specific certifications and designations.
Consider these Interview Checklist questions when comparing sales professionals.
Search for a list of REALTORS® in your area who have received specialized training on applying for loan programs and down payment help from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
Ask trusted friends and relatives for referrals
According to the 2008 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 81 percent of home buyers used a real estate professional and 43 percent of all recent buyers were referred to their real estate agent through a friend, neighbor, or relative.
Interview several agents
Ask each about their business approach and philosophy (do they offer full service, or will you have to assume some responsibilities in the transaction); experience; designations and advanced training; and referral network (home inspectors, lenders, contractors, etc.). Home sellers should also ask about the number of homes sold in the past year, length of time on market, average sales price in relation to asking price, and the agent’s marketing plan.
In a real estate transaction, sales professionals may represent the seller, the buyer, or both parties. This representation is called an “agency.”
- Seller’s Agent—A sales professional becomes a Seller’s Agent by entering into a listing agreement to represent the seller’s interests.
- Buyer’s Agent—A sales professional becomes a Buyer’s Agent by entering into an agreement to represent the buyer.
- Dual Agent—Dual agency occurs when a sales professional represents both the seller and the buyer. It also occurs when the Listing or Seller’s Agent works for the same firm as the Buyer’s Agent. In many states, the buyer, the seller, and the sales professional must agree to a dual agency in writing.
Make sure your agent is a REALTOR®
A REALTOR® is a licensed real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics, which obligates REALTORS® to be honest with all parties involved in a transaction, whether it is the buyer, seller, or cooperating agent.
REALTORS® also have access to educational opportunities and training in real estate specialties that are not available to other licensees. This includes accredited sub-specialties such as buyer’s representation (ABR), residential real estate expertise (CRS), or Internet readiness (e-PRO).
Through membership in affiliated institutes, societies, and councils, REALTORS® devote themselves to continuous study of the most recent trends in their fields to stay abreast of industry developments in their specialized areas and better address industry issues.
The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional as a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.
Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®.