A real estate agent is a trained professional who can help you navigate the sometimes confusing waters of real estate buying, selling and investment, especially if it's your first time. A good agent can help you understand the current real estate market, assist you in setting a budget for your purchase or help you determine an appropriate asking price when selling real estate.
Pick a Reputable Agent
Get your work relationship off on the right foot by selecting a real estate agent who has a proven track record in the type of real estate transaction you’re pursuing. If you're buying a house you'll want a buyer's agent; if you're selling a house you'll want a seller's agent. Look for someone familiar with the geographic area who is licensed and has a good reputation in the community. You can consult your area's real estate association networks and Better Business Bureau to learn more about an agent's background.
Pick an agent with whom you can develop an easy rapport. You’ll be communicating on a regular basis, so it’s important you find someone with whom you’re comfortable and who understands your needs. Let your agent know how you want to be contacted and how often you want to be in touch for status reports. Likewise, ask your agent about the best way to reach her.
Be up-front with your agent about all aspects of the deal you’re trying to broker. Providing false, inaccurate or misleading information can be costly, can delay the transaction process and can create a rift between you and your agent. Remember, there’s no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to buying or selling real estate. If you don’t understand something, disagree with an assessment or need additional information, speak up.
Use the Agent's Expertise
A real estate agent knows the tricks of the trade and can be a valuable asset to you. For example, if you’re selling your house, an agent can show you how to stage the property or present it in its best light. If you’re buying a house, an agent can help you with negotiation techniques to make sure you get the best deal. Listen to the agent's advice about various locations, builders, potential buyers and loan companies. A good agent should have in-depth knowledge of the market and may be able to provide you with valuable information not readily available to the general public. When signing a representation contract with an agent, make sure you're getting an exclusive relationship in which the agent cannot act as a dual agent, representing both a buyer and a seller in the same transaction. This can lead to conflict of interest and could undermine the quality of your representation. Representation agreements are typically in effect for about 120 days, upon which they can be renewed. Shorter terms may be negotiated as part of your contract if desired.
Abide by Deadlines
A real estate agent is typically a busy person working on numerous simultaneous deadlines. Make your work relationship run smoothly by being timely in delivering paperwork, signing documents and meeting the timelines the agent has in place. Use technology to your advantage by being immediately available by phone, fax and email. You can also use the Internet to preview listings your agent sends to you.
The real estate market and interest rates are constantly in motion. While a real estate agent can give you financial estimates, understand that market conditions may throw those numbers off during the closing process.
Get It in Writing
From your initial real estate representation agreement to your final loan and closing documents, every element of your working arrangement with your agent should be documented in writing and signed by all parties involved. Consider hiring an independent real estate attorney to review your documents to ensure everything is legitimate.
Once an offer has been made and accepted on a piece of real estate, by law all money related to the offer and sale must be collected by and disbursed by the real estate agent's broker. Outside agreements for kick-backs or tips are strictly prohibited. Token gifts may be given directly to an agent after the close of a real estate deal, such as a gourmet food basket, a bottle of wine or a restaurant gift certificate.
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