What Is a REALTOR® and Why Do I Need One?
First-time homebuyers might think that their dream home is just an internet search away, but while the internet offers easy access to lots of real estate information, navigating the real estate market can still be tricky—and that’s where real estate agents come in.
Just What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?
Real estate agents can wear many hats when helping in a real estate transaction—and those hats go way beyond what online search tools offer (though agents can be a great way to find the perfect property).
When you’re selling a home, a real estate agent will:
- Help you determine the price range for your home, taking into consideration both the home itself and the current real estate market.
- Offer advice on how to prepare your home for sale, whether this involves repairs or some heavy spring cleaning to show off your home’s best features to potential buyers.
- List your home for sale on the MLS (complete with flattering photos) and work to market it to potential buyers (or fellow real estate agents who might have potential buyers interested in it).
- Field inquiries about the property and be willing to show the home.
- Negotiate with potential buyers (or buyers’ agents) to get you the best possible selling price.
If you’re buying, an agent can be equally valuable, as a buyer’s agent will:
- Find and show you properties that meet your needs and are in your price range.
- Help you make the right offer on properties you’re interested in and negotiate the best deal with the sellers.
- Guide you through the paperwork needed to close on a home, as well as recommending services like inspections and appraisals you should get before buying.
Whether you’re buying or selling, a good agent will help you wrangle contracts, jump through necessary hoops, and generally be an advisor and advocate for you throughout the process.
Do I Want a Real Estate Agent or a REALTOR®?
Though you might not realize it, there’s a difference between ordinary real estate agents and REALTORS®. REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and are required to follow the association’s strict code of ethics. This isn’t to say that agents who aren’t REALTORS® aren’t ethical, but when you work with a REALTOR® you have an additional guarantee that you’re working with someone who’s putting your best interests first.
Whether you’re working with a REALTOR® or just a real estate agent, be sure you take the time to talk with them and be sure you’re on the same page about what your needs are before you sign any paperwork.
Do I Really Need a Real Estate Agent?
You can purchase or sell real estate without a real estate agent. Should you decide to go it alone make sure you’re really interested in taking on all of their duties. An important question to ask yourself is: Do you have the knowledge, expertise and time required to successfully navigate a real estate sale or purchase?
Even if you do have the time to do an agent’s job, it’s worth bearing in mind that a good real estate agent can be a huge asset, especially if you’ve never bought or sold a home before. After all, it’s an agent’s job to be familiar with current real estate conditions and laws—and many of them have years of experience handling real estate transactions. Even if you aren’t a first-time homebuyer, having someone in-the-know in your court can be a big help since a real estate agent has helped with people buying and selling homes on a regular basis and will have the latest info.
Provided you select your real estate agent with care, a good agent can be relied upon to take a lot of the stress out of the buying or selling process off your shoulders—making them a must for first-time buyers or sellers.