Working with Real Estate Agents
Do You Need a Real Estate Agent?
Purchasing a home is likely the single largest investment you will make in your lifetime. A contract to purchase is a legally binding contract with some pretty stiff penalties if either party defaults. Values in neighborhoods are dependent upon closed comparable sales, competition and market trends. A good agent can provide valuable insight, information and interpretation of the information.
When you step out into the market, it is a good idea to have someone on your side who knows the market and knows how to protect your interests. Not only can your real estate agent locate prospective properties that fit your criteria, they can:
- Evaluate the price based on comparables, condition and competition
- Help you determine your offer and terms
- Negotiate with the seller on your behalf
- Recommend several good inspectors to help determine the condition of the property
- Re-negotiate repairs with the seller that are needed
- Oversee the entire closing process
What does a Real Estate Agent do?
Representation. Your agent represents your interests. They have been through the process many times before, and know what to watch out for and how to avoid potential problems.
Needs Analysis. Share your needs and wants in a home with your real estate agent. They have seen the available homes in the surrounding neighborhoods, and know how much of your list can be reasonably obtained. They can, based on market knowledge, help you prioritize that list and show you homes that fit your needs.
Neighborhood Information and Interpretation. The web is filled with information on homes for sale. Check out realtor.com for listings of homes all over the US. You can see pictures, prices and room sizes. Your real estate agent can interpret that information for you. He or she will know which areas hold value, which areas might be declining in condition or value, and what recent sales have been. Their knowledge of new home upgrades, locations that might be problems in the future (is there a new, busy street in the future at the back of your lot?), and overall real estate trends can make the difference between a good buying decision and one you will regret when you must sell.
Market Analysis. Once you have found the home that fits your needs, has some of your wants and even a few of your desires, you need to know how much you should pay for that home. Your agent will provide a written market analysis of the property, comparing it to recent sales and competing properties that are on the market. With this information in hand, you will be prepared to make a reasonable offer and will know the limitations on what you should spend on that particular home.
Negotiation/Offer and Counter Offer. Once you have formulated an offer, your agent will present that offer to the seller and the seller's agent. Your real estate agent is skilled in presenting the offer in the best light, as well as explaining the factors that were used in determining a fair offer. When making an offer, there’s a lot more to negotiate than just a sales price – such as time to close, terms, move in dates and who is paying what closing costs. It is your agent's job to "sell" your offer effectively, and, if the seller counters your offer, to make recommendations to you on how you should respond.
Inspections. Once an offer is accepted and escrowed, there is still work to do. You should have the home inspected by a competent, recommended and licensed inspector. Even if the home is new construction, you need someone looking out for your interests checking the functionality of the home you are purchasing. If substantial repairs are needed, it is time to re-negotiate with the seller on those costs. Decisions need to be made about who will make those repairs and when they should be made. Your real estate agent can make recommendations on qualified inspectors, and will follow up to make sure all inspections have been completed by the deadline dates specified in the contract.
Appraisal. An appraisal will be done on the home on behalf of your lender. The true purpose of the appraisal is to verify to the lender that there is enough value in the home to justify the loan.
Title Insurance. Title insurance will be issued to protect you in the future from any title claims against the property. This is normally a seller’s expense.
Survey. A survey will be done to show just where the home sits on the property, where the property lines are, and what electrical, telephone, and utility easements exist and where they are. The seller can provide for you (if they have it) a previous survey and certify that nothing has changed since that time.
Closing. Prior to closing, the title company will issue a settlement statement. It outlines the buyer’s and the seller’s costs, and shows how much money you will need to bring to closing. Your credit union loan officer and real estate agent will review this, correct any discrepancies, and advise you of the amount of money (in certified funds which means a cashier’s check made payable to the title company) you will need to bring to the closing. If you are the seller, the settlement statement will show the net proceeds you will receive from the sale.
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