(Guest post by Tali Wee of Zillow)
In this age of information accessibility, house hunters have countless home details at their fingertips, allowing them to easily shop without the assistance of a real estate agent. Folks looking to buy can spend hours locating homes that fit their wish lists within their markets, and competitive home information is available to the general public on Zillow at no cost.
So, why do buyers need real estate agents now that they can shop on their own?
Buyers are fortunate to have such a plethora of information to launch their home buying processes. They can see how long homes sit on the market and compare recent sales in their ideal neighborhoods. This access allows buyers to set realistic expectations of home values before making offers.
Before this content was available online, first-time home buyers sometimes missed out on great deals because they didn’t understand the market well enough to recognize a great buy. After visiting several open houses they began to grasp their market’s value. These days, spending time researching information online can jump start that learning curve, as well as limit the searching a real estate agent used to do.
Searching for a home can be so exciting that online house hunting becomes addicting. After days or weeks of searching, home details begin to blur together until the brain reaches a saturation point. Buyer’s agents alleviate that information overload. Agents are market experts; their profession requires them to know the history of homes in the area and be aware of the best deals available. They can also recognize when a deal is too good to be true. Buyer’s agents have access to properties that may not offer open houses and can schedule showings outside the standard weekend afternoons. Buyers who spend time shopping online may feel like they are doing all of the work, but quality agents interpret the home details, highlight potential pitfalls in “dream homes” and suggest additional properties that the buyers may have overlooked.
Purchasing a Home:
If the whirlwind of shopping for properties doesn’t spark the need for an agent, the negotiation process might. Buyers should focus their energy on finding an affordable and comfortable home in a safe neighborhood. If buyers are purchasing without the assistance of agents, they also need to focus on protecting their investments. To do so, they should hire a real estate attorney for legal advice and guidance with their paperwork, including their offers and purchase contracts. Offers from unrepresented buyers may not be taken seriously by listing agents.
Reputable, ethical real estate agents keep their buyers’ best interests the priority. In most cases, buyer’s agents are paid a percentage of the total transaction by the listing agent of the property. Although agents receive a larger commission check for more expensive transactions, quality agents will work to satisfy their clients’ needs. If a buyer wants to ask for a reduced purchase price from the seller and the agent believes it’s attainable, then the agent should actively negotiate for that reduction.
It’s important for buyers to select a trustworthy agent with a persistent work ethic. The agent should be available throughout the shopping process, structuring of the offer, property inspection, term negotiation and closing.
Experienced agents will go to bat for their clients, negotiating timely transactions that are legally sound to protect their buyers’ investments. Buyer’s agents can identify when a home is going to be sold for more or less than its asking price. They’re educated on legal terms and can encourage their clients to make offers that are competitive and within their comfort zone. The purchasing process can become emotional for buyers, at which time they can turn to their trusted agents to lead and inform them while alleviating the stress of purchasing formalities.
Selling a Home:
When agent-resistant folks are ready to sell their homes, they may choose to represent their listings on their own. For sale by owner (FSBO) properties represented approximately 10 percent of the homes sold in 2011, according to The National Association of Realtors®. Generally, owners choose to list their properties without professional representation to avoid paying commission fees. These owners, however, should still have legal representation in order to protect their investment, which also costs a fee.
Another drawback is that some buyer’s agents avoid showing their clients FSBO properties to circumvent the buyers having to pay the commission fees. FSBO listings can be an exciting challenge for owners who have a lot a free time, a large knowledge base of their markets and of real estate procedures.
The benefit of using listing agents is to ensure that sellers receive a fair return on their investments. Listing agents know how to price homes to sell and target the best markets for each home They highlight selling points that will appeal to the market’s buyers. These agents take a lot of pressure off the sellers by marketing their listings through numerous outlets. They have access to the Multiple Listing Service in addition to the public listing services an FSBO would be posted on.
A listing agent’s job is to promote the sale, find buyers, show and sell the home. Utilizing a listing agent frees up time for the homeowner to keep their home organized and uncluttered. The agents do all of the scheduling to show the properties, and they remain constantly available to answer questions for interested buyers. In the end, the listing agent makes sure all of the documents are legally correct and the deal is in the best interest of their client.
In conclusion, real estate agents are experts in their field. They know the markets inside and out in order to comprehensively assist their clients in finding, buying or selling a home. Real estate agents don’t work for free, but their expertise is often well worth the cost. Those who decide to buy or sell without the representation of an agent should pay for legal advice and still risk negotiating against a seasoned agent. Real estate agents alleviate the time-consuming pressures and formalities of buying or selling a home and make a professional first impression on the other party.
Regardless of how much preparation a buyer or seller researches in advance, real estate agents provide experienced and educated advice throughout the buying or selling process to guide their clients in protecting their investments.