By Guy Kipp
Special to The Star-Ledger
A homebuyer or seller about to enter into a transaction might be tempted to go it alone, without the assistance of a real estate agent. But there are myriad reasons for dismissing this temptation and, instead, taking advantage of all the expertise a qualified Realtor has to offer when making such a life-changing decision.
“Especially now, consumers need to have someone looking out for their best interests when it comes to buying or selling a home,” said Amanda Brown, regional director of RE/MAX of New Jersey Inc. “In most cases, this is the biggest investment someone will make in their lifetime, and having a real estate agent by your side to protect your interests is critical to ensure that the client’s best interests are protected.”
A Realtor also can save the buyer considerable time. “Buyers may spend months looking for a home,” said Elaine Pardalos, relocation director and Realtor at Rhodes, Van Note & Co. in Upper Montclair. “The Realtor will hand-hold a buyer and provide comparisons, discuss differences in closed transactions as they compare to the property in question and generally represent, inform and protect the buyer through an offer.” Even after an offer on a home is accepted, a real estate agent continues to play an integral role.
“Once the Realtor has negotiated to an accepted offer, the next round of work begins,” Pardalos said. “In these local towns, inspections can take several hours and sometimes require several days to complete. The Realtor is ever-present for the oil-tank sweeps, home inspections, termite (and) pest inspections, fireplace inspections, mold inspections, etc. Once reports are back regarding the inspections, the agent works closely with the buyer and the buyer’s attorney to determine the items of concern and the related costs/estimates for repair. Often this requires that the agent sets up and meets numerous contractors to obtain these estimates. All the while, the agent is providing information, more hand-holding and keeping the buyer on track with their mortgage broker.”
Someone selling a home also can benefit greatly from the experience and expertise a real estate agent will provide.
“I would say the biggest pitfall for a seller not using an agent is that the majority of times they are too emotionally attached to represent their own home,” said Roxanne Formisano, broker/sales associate and operating principal for Keller Williams Towne Square Realty in Bernardsville. “Many times they do not qualify their buyer. They are not aware of the issues that are occurring in their market.” A knowledgeable agent will be able to match the right buyer with the right home, rather than showing a prospective purchaser a home that isn’t appropriate.
“An experienced real estate agent knows how to get the best price for the seller, how to market the property and qualify the buyer,” Formisano said. “Experienced agents do their due diligence on making sure they do not take any candidate to a home for which he or she is not qualified to purchase. The most qualified client is a relocation buyer, and they only work with real estate companies. In our area, this is still occurring.”
Sellers may be attracted by what they perceive to be savings on a commission cost by marketing a home on their own. But those savings might come with a “price.” In fact, the typical home for sale by owner in 2010 sold for $140,000, compared to a $199,300 average for agent-assisted home sales in the same period, according to the National Association of Realtors.
“There are many reasons to utilize the services of a Realtor versus selling a home on your own,” Pardalos said. “Some may feel they can easily save the commission and sell their own home. However, the services on behalf of a seller are huge, and most will agree worth the commission.
“The public doesn’t always know the work and necessary steps to a transaction closing easily and successfully. Many people think if a buyer likes a house and wants to buy it, the work is done. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many steps and often weeks and months of work that goes into a real estate closing. On the selling side, Realtors start with doing a bit of homework so they provide sellers with a market analysis to determine market value.” Realtors also help a seller with staging–enhancing the appearance of a listed home’s exterior and interior–and paying for a professional photographer to secure an attractive image of the home to market it in newspapers and on websites.
“A real estate professional can help the seller to see his or her home through the eyes of a potential buyer, not only with price but also with its condition,” said Dorothy Bellas, a broker sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s East Brunswick office. “Often a seller will believe that sprucing up the home for sale will cost too much and suggest an ‘as is’ sale, which will cause a buyer to place lower offers on the home. A sales associate can help to stage a home, showing a seller that with a few adjustments and improvements that may not be costly, the final sale price will be much better.”
“And, the Realtor must host broker and open houses–again, all before an offer comes in,” Pardalos said.
A real estate agent also can advise a buyer on the details of a particular neighborhood, as well as tackling the unexpected speed bumps that might arise for either the buyer or the seller during the process.
“(Realtors) have the knowledge of the area and can answer questions as far as schools and demographics to put the client’s mind at ease; and they can handle the volumes of paperwork needed in order to close a real estate transaction with the comfort of knowing that you are not making a mistake or omitting important and critical information,” Brown said. “You never know what will happen during a real estate transaction, and it is vital that clients have someone with them throughout the entire process to ensure that the desired result is achieved without complications down the line.”