It’s official: having a real estate agent help you sell or buy a house carries numerous advantages. This opinion does not come from the books we’ve read that extol the 101 virtues of real estate agents. It’s from the experience of our sister and a gamut of other friends and colleagues who spoke glowingly of the agents they hired.
Our sister lived in Washington, DC but was getting ready with her family to move to Florida. They bought a fixer-upper close to 15 years ago in an excellent district of DC for some $200,000. The renovations cost another $100,000. Fifteen years later, a real estate agent sold it for $850,000.00. They knew that prices had gone up judging from the ads they read for the same area, but they didn’t have the foggiest on how to price their house and market it.
One of their friends recommended a real estate agent. Our sister was impressed. The agent did a quick tour of the house, banged on her calculator, and five minutes later, then looked at them straight in the eye. “I can sell this house for $850,000.00, but there’s just one problem.”
Our sister asked, “what’s the problem?”
The real estate agent looked up the ceiling. “That’s the problem. Your lighting is the pits. Those chandeliers ought to go to the junk yard. Change your lamps, shades and flourescents and then call me when you’ve replaced them.”
To make a long story short, our sister and husband did go about the business of changing their lighting, and their house was sold in three weeks. In fact only three prospects came to visit, and the agent managed to close with the second. There were numerous calls from other interested parties, but after doing some checking, the real estate agent knew that the second visitor was their best bet. Her advice: close now or you’ll wait another two weeks before another good prospect comes along.
That’s not the complete story. Our sister told us how this real estate agent got to work on marketing the house to the public. Her efforts were well worth the 8% commission fee. Our sister showed us the photographs that the agent snapped of the house, concentrating on those angles and corners that she thought would attract the most number of buyers. The photographs looked like they were professionally executed; the chandeliers, of course, were not photographed.
“The chandeliers will be the WOW factor when they actually come to visit the house” she said. “Don’t worry, now that your chandeliers don’t look like ancient lightning rods, they will help clinch the deal.”
The closing and finalization of the deal went like clockwork and was virtually hassle-free. Our sister was so pleased that she treated the friend who recommended the real estate agent to a swanky restaurant and then presented her with a bottle of champagne.
Real Estate Agents Know Their Business
You could also be lucky and meet the right real estate agent for your needs. The idea is to engage the services of agents who know what they’re doing and ARE confident about what they’re doing. When you ask a question, you want a definitive answer, not “er…let’s see…my guess is that…”
We’re talking about your house, probably the largest single asset you possess, the sale of which will help cushion your retirement. Who’s the best person to ensure you get your money’s worth, or that your house (filled with memories of eras passed) goes to the right owner who will take good loving care of it?
So what are the advantages of a real estate agent?
- You save time – instead of handling the nitty gritty yourself, a good real estate agent will take over your house. Not to steal it away from you, but show it to prospective buyers. After you’ve agreed on the terms and conditions of her service, you basically keep a hands-off approach. Let the agent get to work and don’t interfere. Do not be present during showing, nor should you answer questions from interested parties. Once you hire a real estate agent, your job is to get OUT of the premises.
- Expertise – an experienced real estate agent is backed by a wealth of information about the housing market. Agents live and breathe houses every day. They start their day showing a house and at the end of the day they could be closing deals on three to four houses at the same time. The knowledge they gain from being at the “heart of the action”, or by playing “center field” makes them well-equipped to know the do’s and don’ts like the back of their hand. Serious real estate agents also continuously upgrade their skills so they’re always on the prowl for real estate seminars and briefing sessions. They read up on the latest trends and fill their cup with knowledge. And more knowledge. And they have gut instinct for whether or not a house is priced way too low or too high than market.
- Access – this refers to a real estate agent’s broad network of contacts. When you hire a real estate agent to help you buy or sell a house, you gain access to her/his fellow-professionals and contacts. They know exactly where to go for information and how to use that information to advantage. A significant number of real estate agents are members of real estate clubs and therefore have access to essential resources. By hiring one, you’re buying that agent’s sphere of influence.
- MLS – this is the multiple listing service which only a seasoned agent can read and interpret. Oh yes, it is open to everyone for a nominal fee, but why pay the annual fee when your real estate agent probably reads it everyday? The MLS is perhaps the greatest source of real estate opportunities in any given geographical area. There were 111 MLS systems across Canada in 1991; we believe that number has doubled in the last decade. In that year alone, the MLS processed 301,000 sales (residential) with a total value of over $45 billion (Weiss, 1992). Clearly, therefore, who’s the best person who knows how it really works and how to capitalize on it?
- Free advice – when you meet a real estate agent, and your comfort level is high, listen to every word the agent says. Their advice comes with no fee and can prove to be invaluable, as in the case of our sister’s agent. If the agent says that your house has too much clutter and should be cleared so prospective buyers can visualize better what they can do with the house, don’t be offended. They’re working with you, not against you. If your agent says the colors of the wall create eye fatigue, she’s speaking from experience and repeated feedback from buyers and sellers.
One lesson stands out in this whole discussion of the advantages of a real estate agent: you can argue with the taxman until you’re blue in the face, but don’t argue too much with a real estate agent. Otherwise, you can end up being blue because your house can be on the market for the longest time. And you’ve heard the saying about property being in the market too long: buyers get very suspicious and will begin imagining all kinds of things that will keep them forever away.
Also, when it comes to the advantages of using a real estate agent, pay heed to this essential tip: check out your real estate’s credentials. A certification, licence or some special training are critical. And so is the best teacher of all time: experience.