Real Estate

Buying or selling real estate: why do you need a real estate agent?

Agents make the process understandable Photo: densip12 / flickr

I get this question from time to time: “Why do we need a real estate agent?” The answer, put simply, is that transactions and compliance with regulations are becoming more and more complicated. Real estate agents are trained on the latest requirements for the sale and purchase of property.

Still, this is the information age. Can’t you find everything you need on the Internet? My answer is this: Would it be too much to liken real estate to medicine? You can find a lot of good information on WebMD, but when you need surgery, you’re probably going to want a doctor.

Consider this: Years ago I got a call from a client who had previously purchased a “for sale by owner” home directly. It was now time for the couple to resell. I asked them for certain documents that they should have been given when they purchased. They pulled out their file, and none of the items I asked for were there. Sellers are required to give these documents to buyers by law, and if my sellers didn’t have them, then they would have to pay to have these documents recreated, and pay for any inspections or activities required to complete the documents.

I have never forgotten that. Real estate agents keep up on our ever-changing federal, state and local requirements to ensure that all documents, disclosures and inspections are in compliance with current regulations.

Sometimes I am asked about simply having an attorney handle all this paperwork. That sounds like a reasonable alternative, but real estate transactions are more involved than that. For example, I have never seen attorneys attend physical inspections of the property. Even if they did, it is not something they do routinely like professional real estate agents do. We attend the property inspections so we can listen with our buyers and ask key questions that a buyer may not think to ask. Should something come up, we keep lists of professionals — such as electricians, plumbers, contractors, engineers, and the like — who can share their expertise and offer assistance if necessary.

Real estate agents also have lenders available whom they know and trust. These lenders will give our clients preferred service. They will present loan options that match up with a client’s circumstances and preferences, and they can preapprove that client. In today’s market, that is critical. All parties need to know that the lender is reliable and that the buyer will be able to perform. Just picking a mortgage broker or banker on your own is not the best way to ensure that your offer will be seen favorably. Listing agents want to be familiar with the lender on the preapproval letter to ensure the smoothest possible transaction for their seller.

Your real estate agent will advise you on how to craft the best offer possible in today’s super-hot market. He or she can not only look at comparable sales but can advise buyers on what it might take to present a competitive offer package. The real estate agent will make sure that all required items are in the package — not just the offer itself.

My final point for today: Most real estate agents are connected to other real estate agents who might have a property that you are looking for. We make phone calls to see what we can find out in advance of properties coming on the market. We network with other agents to let them know what our buyers are looking for, in case they know of listings that might match up with what is being sought.

These are just a very few of the many reasons to use a professional real estate agent when buying or selling a home. This may well be the largest single transaction of your life; use a professional to be sure all the “I”s are dotted and the “T”s crossed.

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Stephanie Saunders Ahlberg has been a real estate agent for more than 30 years and joined Hill & Co. in 1983, where she has consistently been among the top 10 salespeople. She can be reached at www.realtyinsanfrancisco.com.

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