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According to the National Association of Realtors, there are approximately 2 million active real estate professionals in the United States. Real estate is a multi-billion dollar business, and buying a home is an important transaction. The pressure understandably gives pause to both buyers and sellers. In fact, a reported 68% of Americans surveyed do not trust their realtor, according to a 2013 survey by Choice Home Warranty. Why? The average buyer or seller has been led to believe that there are things your realtor won’t tell you.
While this is somewhat true – for example, there are certain things that your realtor cannot legally tell you – your typical realtor is an honest, hard-working individual who is trained and committed to look out for their client’s best interests. In fact, in any real estate transaction, a realtor is responsible to provide superior service by following the Code of Ethics. The Code, as it is often called, requires the following:
- Realtors must promote their clients’ interests while treating all parties fairly
- Realtors must not discriminate based upon race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation
- Realtors must remain truthful in all advertising and marketing, including when listing a home for sale
SPILLING THE TRUTH – The Top 9 Things Your Realtor Won’t Tell You
The Code has done wonders to tame the previous Wild-Wild-West nature of real estate, but as previous statistics showed, people still have their doubts. Can you really trust your realtor? Or is he or she just looking to collect a commission check and head for the hills?
As a part-time realtor who loves serving buyers, sellers, and renters, I will outline 9 things your realtor won’t tell you – but I will!
1. You Should Interview Your Realtor
Before you choose a realtor, whether as a buyer or seller, It is important to know the following about a realtor:
- How many buyers and sellers with which they typically work at a given time
- Whether they work as a part of a team
- How well they personally know and understand the areas you have targeted (if you’re a buyer)
To be transparent, no realtor wants to be interviewed by their potential clients! It can be intimidating and even feel a bit unnatural, but it is vital to ask the right questions. The purchase or sale of a home is one of the largest financial transactions you will ever make, and it is important to have a knowledgeable, committed, and available adviser in your corner.
2. Zillow Is Actually Useful
Inevitably, if you gather a group of realtors together, it’s only a matter of time before they start complaining about clients who rely on Zillow as if it were The Gospel. Truthfully, though most realtors tend to pour out hate on Zillow, it can be helpful.
For example, when I begin working with a buyer who has spent time searching on Zillow, I know that they have likely developed an idea of what they are looking for in a new home. By looking at hundreds of homes and thousands of pictures, it becomes easier to create a wish list, even if it may not be 100% realistic at this stage.
Zillow is also a good tool for casual buyers who are just interested in window shopping. However, Zillow data should not be trusted in most cases. It is often outdated (in some cases by nearly two weeks), inaccurate, and sometimes hilarious, as any realtor who has viewed an absurd “Zestimate” can tell you.
So keep using Zillow for window shopping, but when you get serious about buying, don’t bother. The data your agent pulls from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the only data you can trust.
3. Pre-approval Is Everything
If you’re a buyer and one of the first questions your agent asks is “Do you have pre-approval?” you have found yourself a winner! By asking this question, your agent is protecting his time and best interests, but he is also doing the same for you.
Written and signed notice of pre-approval from your lender is must if you want to be taken seriously, especially in a hot market. Without pre-approval in place, you could waste your time viewing homes which you cannot afford, find a home only to have another buyer’s offer accepted because they were pre-approved and you were not, or worse – you could discover that your credit history or debt to income ratio makes you ineligible for a mortgage!
Before you seek pre-approval, it is important to review your credit history. I recommend that you pull a free credit report to be sure no surprises or errors ruin your chances for a timely pre-approval. I recommend MyFreeScoreNow.com for this purpose, and they are – you guessed it – FREE!
When you are ready to seek pre-approval, it is advisable to gather multiple quotes from a variety of lenders. Don’t worry – this will not damage your credit! I recommend Lending Tree as an option for my buyers because they provide personalized rates with a variety of options to meet a buyer’s lending needs. They have facilitated over 55 million loan requests, and they work quickly to get buyers pre-approved.
I have also had buyers who had good luck with SoFi. If you have good credit (700+ credit score), you may be able to save money with them. Contrary to what many realtors will tell you, SoFi works with buyers who have down payments as small as 10%.
4. This isn’t HGTV – it’s Real Life!
Touring a home like people do on HGTV doesn’t cut it. Most of those people are actors! Even if they’re not pros, they are being coached to say certain things and ask certain questions.
I like HGTV as much as anyone, but you must remember that it is all about entertainment value. When you are a serious buyer, you aren’t looking at houses to be entertained – this is important, so act like it!
Open closets and cupboards, check out the unfinished basement and look for cracks, and go walk around the yard. You’re not a professional home inspector, but you can save yourself a lot of stress, heartache, and money if you perform a DIY mini-home inspection prior to the true inspection.
5. You Can Request Multiple Showings of a Home
Yes, it is true: you can ask to see a home a second, third, or fourth, time. And, yes, it is equally true: your agent won’t like this. But you should do it if you’re at all on the fence. The additional 15-30 minutes of time are worthwhile for everyone, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and tell your realtor what you want.
Among the things your realtor won’t tell you, this item is fairly inconsequential, but it is good to know that you’re not out of line in this request.
6. There Are No Stupid Questions
In real estate and in life, there are no stupid questions – other than the ones you don’t ask.
In short: ASK QUESTIONS! Your realtor is an expert on the home buying and selling processes. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t receive the best possible service.
No, realtors don’t always have all of the answers. If you are asking good questions, most of the time we will have to get back to you.
7. You Will Learn As You Go
The process of buying a home is a learning experience. While you should determine needs vs. wants before your first home tour, we know that you will probably still be feeling out this process during the first several tours. It is a good practice to keep a check list of features that you desire and review it while touring homes.
8. It’s OK to Buy the First House You See – Sometimes
A good buyer agent shouldn’t push you into a quick offer, but if the home meets your expectations, is priced right, and is in a hot market with lots of competition, you should move fast.
Our team hates to see clients walk into the house of their dreams and decide to “wait it out” for more options because it often leads to disappointment. It happens far too often all because buyers haven’t reached a point of emotional readiness needed to buy.
9. Your Attorney is More Important Than Your Realtor
In most states, your attorney is more important than your realtor. While your realtor is there to advise your search process, complete offers using fillable form contracts provided by their local professional associations, and negotiate on your behalf, your attorney holds far more power. He or she is your last line of defense in protecting your legal options, modifying transaction documents, and in some cases, facilitating the closing process.
Your realtor is always happy to recommend a quality attorney who will facilitate a smooth closing, but virtually any experienced real estate attorney would be a wise choice.
YOUR NEXT MOVE
If you’re planning to buy or sell a home, you need a committed, available, and connected realtor on your side. With nearly 2 million real estate professionals currently working in the United States, you’re sure to have your choice among many quality realtors. With pre-approval in hand and in the guidance of a good realtor, the home search can be a pleasant process.
Throughout the process of hiring a realtor and buying or selling, put your trust in your realtor. Though there are things your realtor won’t tell you, he or she has your best interests in mind and wants to make the process as smooth as possible.