BUYER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
We’re sometimes asked some pretty tough questions — and should be. Here are a few:
» WHY SHOULD I HIRE AN AGENT WHEN I CAN DO MY OWN SEARCH ON THE INTERNET?
Sorting through and finding the right market information is only the beginning of a complex process in which, as some point, nearly all buyers will engage the help of a real estate agent. The critical question is, which agent? One that you bump into on the Internet or one that you actively interview and choose to advise and represent you. The best agents will streamline the process and protect your interests from the very beginning.
» HOW CAN I DETERMINE THE RIGHT MARKET VALUE BEFORE I MAKE AN OFFER?
Each home is unique, so arriving at market value is more art than science. Don’t try to rely on the statistical sales information you’ll get from real estate web sites; very often that information does not apply to your prospective home. Work with an agent who has extensive experience with the type of home and the specific neighborhoods you’re considering. Ask for “comparables” and for non-statistical sale conditions that may have influenced those particular transactions.
» I CAN DO BETTER WITH A “FOR SALE BY OWNER,” RIGHT?
The odds here are really not in your favor. First, you don’t stand to buy for less. Realistic asking prices are based on market value, not market value plus commission, and people selling “By Owner,” it’s safe to say, are adamant about saving the commission for themselves, not sharing it with buyers. Second, there are many legal requirements and consumer protections in place that are very likely to be either unwittingly or intentionally excluded in “By Owner” transactions.
» ISN’T IT TRUE THAT ALL REAL ESTATE AGENTS PROVIDE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME SERVICE?
Absolutely not! This myth takes its toll in money, headaches, and heartaches. Agents vary widely in how they understand and approach their business, how seriously they take their responsibilities to their clients, and how skilled they are in advising, communicating, negotiating, and providing customer service. Trust your intuition on this. If something about the agent you hire seems lacking, it probably is.
» WHAT MAKES AN AGENT GOOD?
A good real estate agent will help you sort out all available market information, understand which of it pertains to your home search, and will show up on time to meetings. A great real estate agent will understand your needs to the extent that he or she can see the current market from your point of view, will find the relatively few homes that truly meet your needs, and will be able to advise and help you through to the very end of your purchase process.
It all comes down to experience, expertise, good communication, and diligent follow-up.
» HOW DO YOU SUGGEST I FIND A GOOD AGENT?
You’re hiring someone to assist you with a huge financial transaction and to provide what’s ultimately a very personal service, so interview! No matter where the contact comes from — family, your best friend, an agent at open house — or somebody with a web site — interview him or her and don’t hesitate to ask candid and direct questions. Your first question might be: “What questions should I be asking you?” You’re looking for someone you can trust to be honest, thoughtful, thorough, knowledgeable, and diligent.
» SHOULD I HAVE SEVERAL AGENTS WORKING TO FIND MY HOME?
When you do find an agent you feel good about working with, work exclusively with him or her for as long as the results are satisfactory. An agent who knows you’ll be loyal is far more inclined to work hard and be diligent on your behalf. That agent, knowing your needs and buying criteria, is the likeliest to find the right home for you.
» DOESN’T THE BEST DEAL COME FROM WORKING DIRECTLY WITH LISTING AGENTS?
The best deal comes from smart and uncompromised negotiation — through an agent — with the seller of a home that meets your needs. An ethical listing agent can represent you in this. But any listing agent who says or implies that he or she can get you a better deal because of having inside influence is already behaving unethically. That’s not who you want advising you!
» CAN YOU PROVIDE ASSISTANCE WITH MORE THAN JUST MY PURCHASE?
Absolutely. we will advise and help you with finding professionals for the appropriate inspections, the right lender, vendors for any move-in work, packing, and moving. And we can help you with the sale of your current home anywhere, either working with you myself, locally, or referring you to appropriate agents in other areas.
» DO I REALLY NEED TO GET A HOME INSPECTION?
Yes. Even if you have your own experience with construction, the trades, or home repairs, it’s still money well spent to have a specialist in home inspections do a thorough examination of your prospective home. That said, as with everything, some inspectors are more knowledgeable and careful than others. That’s one reason why your agent (as well as you, if possible) should be present at inspections and raise questions.
» CAN YOU HELP ME FIND A GOOD LENDER?
Yes. Lenders, like many professionals, tend to specialize in certain types of properties or certain types of loan situations. Sometimes going directly to a bank or other “institutional” lender is best; sometimes a mortgage broker can best serve your needs; sometimes seller financing is the answer. We can give you a good overview of your options and help you take appropriate steps.
» WHAT ABOUT SHORT-SALES, FORECLOSURES, AND AUCTIONS?
These types of purchases have become fewer recently, but they’ll always be a part of the market where deals can be found. These can be difficult, upside-down, inside-out transactions where conventional real estate practices and protections don’t exist, and both buyers and agents can end up bewildered. We can give you the current pros and cons of distress-sale buying.
» WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY A “FULL SERVICE” REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE?
— Direct access to the advanced training, licensing, and expertise of a real estate broker, not only the salesperson licensee.
— Full and personal attention given to you and your home search in every aspect of the purchase process. Our practice of real estate is relationship-based, which means our business model is centered entirely on providing comprehensive personal service to our clients.
— Experience with your type of residential property. We work extensively with single-family homes ranging from estates to condominiums to manufactured homes, and also with multi-family investment properties.
— Broad experience in probate, estate, and trust sales; interacting with related attorneys and other professionals; and experience in court confirmation processes.
» WHAT’S BETTER ABOUT A SMALL, INDEPENDENT REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE?
Complete confidentiality for your purchase coupled the same services and same access to the real estate market that the large companies have. And our company does not have any of the administrative fees, transaction fees, or late-closing fees that many of the big real estate companies charge.
» WHAT EXACTLY IS THE MLS?
The Multiple Listing Service is a database of properties for sale within a certain locale or region. It’s produced from within the real estate industry and is available to all real estate agents who are subscribers. In that respect, it’s a private Internet-based database, not available to the public. MLS listings typically are more extensive, more accurate, and more up to date than the public web sites. Agents can forward that information, with photos, to their buyers.
» WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AGENT, A BROKER, AND A REALTOR?
In California real estate, “agent” is a generic term applied to both a real estate salesperson and the broker who employs that person. A salesperson is an individual who’s passed certain minimum course requirements, some background screening, and the real estate salesperson exam. A salesperson can only do business under the supervision of a licensed broker. By far, most agents in California are licensed as salespersons.
A real estate broker is an individual who has specific advanced real estate education and experience, and has passed background screening and a rigorous state broker licensing exam. A broker can function as a salesperson and/or operate a real estate brokerage and employ salespersons.
A Realtor is a member of the California Association of Realtors. This is a trade organization which both salespersons and brokers can join, for an annual fee. Membership in the Association of Realtors is not required to practice as a real estate agent or broker in California, nor does it indicate a particular level of expertise. “Realtor” is a trademark term that, strictly speaking, should be applied only to members of the Association of Realtors, not to all real estate agents.