I found a house on Zillow. Why do I need a realtor?
A few days ago, a friend of mine in another state called to ask this question. It opened my eyes to the many misconceptions buyers have about realtors. My first response was, "Well, first of all, as a buyer? It is FREE for you." * Yes, that's right. The seller pays the fees to the real estate agents. Not the buyer. In most cases, that's about 6-7 percent of the cost of the house. As a buyer, if you don't bring a realtor to assist you, the seller's agent gets the whole pie, and they'll be QUITE happy about that! (*The only time this may not hold true is if you fall in love with a For Sale By Owner and the seller is unwilling to pay your realtor but you still want the home. You may have a contractual agreement to pay your realtor a commission in that unusual case.)
2. "Who is representing YOU?" Unless you are a skilled negotiator, well versed in the world of real estate transactions, who is telling you all the things you could request? Do you know that "As Is" doesn't necessarily mean that? Do you know that you can ask for things not included in the contract as a negotiating tool?
3. "Who is doing the work of the buyer's agent?" Who will represent you at the inspection? Generally the buyer's agent suggests a reputable inspector and meets them at the property and stays there for the duration of the inspection. The seller is supposed to vacate the property during inspection. Who will suggest reputable contractors to fix what is broken? Do you really want the seller and their brother fixing major things? Do you know how to negotiate that licensed and bonded contractors are used?
4. "Who is keeping track of the legal milestones?" Who is watching the due diligence period? Keeping up with termite letters, contractors, inspectors, appraisers? Who will do the final walk through with you, a few hours before closing?
5. "Who is telling you what isn't being said?" Last week, I had a client fall in love with a house on what seemed a great lot. However, I had a hunch about a road widening in the future and after many calls, felt it likely would happen and she could lose her front yard at some point. As her realtor, I can give her my opinion and advise her on what has happened in our area over time. Only a realtor with whom you have a contract can give you their expert opinion. Non-contracted realtors can only stick to the facts. No professional guidance is allowed at that level.
6. " Who is sitting at the closing table with you?" Yes, your attorney will be there, and sometimes your lender will be there, but your agent is supposed to be there to assist with any last minute "fires". A good agent is in control of the process from beginning to end, is often in contact with your lender, answering questions, getting back to the selling agent, working carefully through negotiations daily.
In the new world of real estate, there are many legal and contractual points that skilled agents maneuver with ease. And they also have the ability to call their brokers and attorneys that are on hand at their agencies when unusual things pop up. This is one of the biggest expenses of your life. And, as a buyer, someone ELSE is going to pay for you to have legal representation at every step of the way. Don't decline this expertise. Hire a realtor to be your representation and ensure that YOU are getting the best property at the MOST reasonable price.
Laurie Easterlin is a realtor with Keller Williams Augusta Partners, a home stager with Staged2aTee, and a golf rental preparation specialist. She can be reached below: