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2007-02-04 19:29:00

Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Agent

The manner in which real estate professionals sell property is always changing.  Real estate professionals today are confronted with more educational requirements, more responsibilities, and definitely more liability than ever.  They are worth much more now than they were ever worth in the past.  Real estate professionals can help you in many ways:

Define Goals 

Licensees can work with you to refine your goals if you feel that help is needed or wanted.

Understand Variables Affecting a Property Purchase

They can explain their views on the variables affecting a property purchase including timing of the sale, interest rates, regional economy's effect on buyer's and seller's markets, applicable tax rules, and the 24-month rule.

Understand Types of Housing Available 

Licensees can explain the types of housing including cooperative apartments, condominiums and condo conversions, as well as single family homes. 

Assist with Financial Preliminaries

In order to know what you can afford, work with the broker on the financial preliminaries.

  • Calculate your income and expenses. They can assist you in calculating your income and expenses to help determine the amount of a loan for which you will be able to qualify.
  • Handle credit rating.  Licensees assist you in handling your credit rating including examining your credit rating,  resolving some items, and explaining to you how to handle other items which may create financing problems.
  • Estimate home purchase and ownership costs. They can estimate applicable home purchase costs including down payment, professional services, inspections, closing costs,  and moving. They can also estimate home ownership costs which include house payment, homeowner's and mortgage insurance, property taxes, utilities, maintenance,  homeowner's association dues, and items for a new residence.
  • Calculate the maximum amounts for payments and loans. Licensees can calculate the maximum amounts for the house payment, PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance),   the amount you can borrow, and the type(s) home loan you can obtain.

Aids in Choosing Consultants

Licensees may recommend consultants including accountants, attorneys, closing agents/escrow holders, home inspectors, lenders, and title companies.

Assists with Loan

Understanding and getting the loan can be a complicated process.

  • Understand loan considerations.  They may explain loan considerations including the source of down payments, the effect of different amounts of down payment, income, type and condition of the property, and amount of time before scheduled closing.
  • Understand loan terms.  Licensees can explain loan terms including mortgage, trust deed, principal, interest, equity,  equity buildup, amortization, interest rate, term, biweekly,  cosigner, seniority of loans, a note of personal liability,  buydown, and down payment.
  • Understand the details associated with obtaining loans. They can explain details for all loans items including points,  prepayment penalties, and due-on-sale clauses.  For fixed-rate loans, they can explain the interest rate and term.  For adjustable rate loans (variable rate), items they can explain include initial interest rate, adjustment interval,  index, margin, caps on interest rates and payments,  convertibility, floors, and negative amortization.
  • Understand financial arrangements.  Licensees can explain financial arrangements including all cash offers and no cash offers (nothing down); taking over the seller's loan  (including assumable and subject-to loans); obtaining new financing (including conventional, FHA, VA, and FmHA loans).  They can also explain graduated payment, rollover, balloon,  growing equity, reverse annuity, zero rates, deferred interest, flexible payment, easy qualifier, price level adjustable, shared equity, FNMA 2-step, and bridge loans as well as renting with an option to buy and pledging other assets.  In addition, they can explain seller's participation in buyers financing including seller buydown,  seller carryback, seller guaranteed, and wraparound loans as well as land sale contracts, equity sharing with the seller and lease options.
  • Understand and handle prequalifying.  Licensees can explain prequalification items and help handle the prequalification process including lenders check of credit rating, income,  employment history, and debt management.
  • Understand types of lenders. They can explain information about the types of lenders including conventional lenders (savings and loans, banks, credit unions); mortgage brokers  and bankers (insurance companies, real estate investment trusts, pension funds, endowments); government programs  (FHA, VA, and FmHA); and private lenders (builders and  developers, seller, and others).
  • Shop for a loan.  Licensees can help compare lenders and the loans that the lenders offer.
  • Handle loan applications. They can help you understand loan applications including the amount financed, annual percentage rate, finance charge, prepaid charges, deposit,  payment amounts and dates, late charges, prepayment penalties, cancellation and acceleration policies,  assumability, and fees.

Understand Choice Considerations

 Licensees can explain to you the items to consider when choosing a property.

  • Community choice considerations.  Licensees are a good source of information on community choice considerations including accessibility, climate, community plan, crime level, employment opportunities, services available, tax base, schools, recreation, cultural opportunities, shopping.
  • Neighborhood choice considerations. They are knowledgeable on neighborhood choice factors including assessments and bonds, child care availability, crime level, possible hazards, neighborhood plan, neighborhood improvements,  parking, religious organizations, schools, shopping,  topography, traffic, transportation, and zoning. 
  • Property choice considerations.  Licensees can help you understand property choice considerations such as both new and existing housing, housing in good repair and fixer-uppers, style, location within the neighborhood, position on the lot, construction materials, view, landscaping, as well as the types and number of rooms in the home, and included amenities.
  • Non-traditional housing supply.  They can explain the non-traditional housing supply including foreclosures, REOs  (real estate owned), and VA and FHA repossessions. 
  • Property problems.  Licensees understand, can explain to you, and can check for problems which you may not normally be aware of when viewing a property.
  • Property disclosure.  They can obtain the disclosure of  information for you regarding a property you may be  interested in buying including
  • A list of items which are on the property;
  • Defects and malfunctions in the interior walls, ceilings, floors, exterior walls, insulation, roof(s),   foundations, slabs, driveways, sidewalks, walls and fences, electrical system, and plumbing/sewer/septic   system;
  • Complications associated with the property including environmental hazards; shared property; encroachments and easements; alterations made without permits; alterations not in compliance with building codes; landfill; soil problems; flooding, drainage, or grading problems; major damage to property; violations of zoning, use, or setback regulations; neighborhood nuisances; CC&Rs (conditions, covenants, and restrictions); homeowners' associations; common areas; notices of abatement or citations; and lawsuits.
  • Understand and handle contract preparation.  Licensees can prepare the contracts to your best advantage.
  • Specific negotiating goals.  Licensees can work with you to prepare specific goals for the negotiation to be included in the contract such as price, terms, down payment amount, type of financing, date of closing, date of possession, the inclusion of personal property, and buyer to name service providers.
  • Costs.  They can explain the various costs including the appraisal fee, assessments, assumption fee, attorney fee,  beneficiary statement, credit report, delinquent payments,  document preparation, drawing deed, escrow/closing fees,  homeowner's insurance, homeowner's association fees, home  warranty, impounds, interest, loan origination fee, loan  tie-in fee, notary fee, pest control inspection fee, pest  control repair charge, physical inspection fee, points,  prepayment penalty, property taxes, reconveyance fee,  recording fee, satisfaction of mortgage, sub-escrow fee,  survey fee, title insurance, title search fee, and transfer  tax.
  • Contingencies.  Licensees can understand, explain, and use many types of contingencies effectively in your best interest.
  • Purchase contract.  Licensees can explain and show you the  most advantageous way to handle the purchase contract  sections including contract preliminaries, financing terms and loan provisions, loan approval, existing loans, due-on-sale clause, credit approval, balloon payment, prorations,  property tax reassessment, FHA financing, VA financing, definitions, time is of the essence, conditions satisfied,  insurance, destruction of improvements, notice of  violations, title examination, bonds and assessments,  closing, evidence of title, vested title, physical  possession, fixtures, personal property, and maintenance. 

A licensee can also explain and tell you the most beneficial  method to handle the seller disclosure statement, pest control inspection information, inspections of the physical  condition of property, roof report to seller, city and county report, maintenance reserve, home protection  contract, contingent sales, owners association disclosure,  Flood Hazard Zone Disclosure, rental property, rent control  ordinance, and smoke detector(s) default, attorney fees,  additional terms and conditions, addenda, agency  relationship confirmation, expiration of offer, entire  agreement, commission, and FIRPTA (Foreign Investment in  Real Property Tax Act).

  • Special purchase contracts items.  They can understand,  explain, and use effectively special items in purchase contracts include financial disclosure laws, notice of delinquency, smoke detectors, real property disclosure,  liquidated damages, dispute mediation, arbitration of disputes, a summary of attachments, counterparts, provisions to be initiated, and walk-through inspections.
  • Special Contracts.  Licensees can understand, explain, and effectively use special contracts including lease purchase,  sale-leaseback, lease option, and purchase option agreements.
  • Backup offers.  They can understand, explain, and use backup offers effectively.

Understands and Handles Negotiation

They can effectively present the offer and negotiate well to get the property you desire at the best price and terms.

  • Offer logistics.  Licensees can understand and explain the process of sellers accepting your offer as well as the process and implications of you revoking an offer.
  • Counter offers.  They can understand, explain, and use, as necessary, writing a counter offer, revoking a counter offer, sellers accepting another purchase contract, you accepting seller counter offer, and timing.

Understands and Handles Escrow

Licensees can explain the advantages and functions of escrow, actions prohibited for escrow holders, requirements for a valid escrow, selection of the escrow holder and timing of the selection.

  • Establishing an escrow.  They can understand, explain, and assists with opening an escrow, providing take sheet information, and approving the escrow instructions.
  • Escrow responsibilities.  Licensees can understand and explain buyer's loan duties including applying for a loan,  consumer lending laws, and handling tax duties.
  • Contingencies.  They can understand and explain the consequences of unmet contingencies.  They work to remove contingencies to prevent cancellation.  They can understand,  explain and use as appropriate the use of contingency releases, contingency removal requests, and contingency removal notices.
  • Other complications.  Licensees can understand, explain, and handles other complications including revocation, breach of contract, death or incapacity, assignment by the seller, mutual consent and cancellation (including the implications and contract release), and disputes.
  • Walk-through inspection.  They can explain the walk-through inspection to you and accompany you on the walk-through inspection.
  • Closing escrow.  Licensees can explain closing escrow and closing costs.  They can explain and help you reconcile the closing statement. 

Contract Changes

As you can see from the above discussion, real estate is a complex business.  Real estate is also dynamic.  It is always changing and usually growing.  Real estate forms publishers seem to change their forms, such as the purchase offer form, every few months.  The form changes as something new gets added or, much less often, as an old item is deleted.  Each new change makes the old form obsolete.  It contains addenda and disclosures which seem to go on and on.  With every change, the forms appear to get longer and more complex.

(Saul Klein is CEO of Real Estate Electronic Publishing Company, home of RealTown.)

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