Once you've decide to sell your home, finding a REALTOR® is the next step in the process. In making this important decision you should understand:
If you®re not in a "must sell" situation (job transfer, career opportunity, family upheaval, financial hardship), but rather in an "elective" one, you may want to consider adding on to your current home (if you need more space) or refinancing to lower monthly mortgage costs (if finances are a concern).
Who is a REALTOR®?
The terms agent, broker and REALTOR® are often used interchangeably, but have very different meanings. For example, not all agents (also called salespersons) or brokers are REALTORS®. Learn who is a REALTOR® and the reasons why you should use one. As a prerequisite to selling real estate, a person must be licensed by the state in which they work, either as an agent/salesperson or as a broker. Before a license is issued, minimum standards for education, examinations and experience, which are determined on a state by state basis, must be met.
After receiving a real estate license, most agents go on to join their local board or association of REALTORS® and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the world's largest professional trade association. They can then call themselves REALTORS®. The term "REALTOR®" is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law). In most areas, it is the REALTOR® who shares information on the homes they are marketing, through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Working with a REALTOR® who belongs to an MLS will give you access to the greatest number of homes.
How to evaluate an agent
Without any obligation, you can invite local REALTORS® to visit your home and give you a "listing presentation" about why they're the best ones to market it for you. Two to three presentations will probably give you a good opportunity for choice. A listing presentation includes having the REALTOR® review with you the reasons why you should list with that particular individual, and providing you with information that will assist you in making initial decisions about selling your home.
Recent laws in every state have defined the duties of someone specifically retained as a real estate agent. Most states require a real estate agent to explain his or her role at the outset of any conversation. A professional agent will promptly provide this such a disclosure. Look for an agent who:
The following are important questions to ask a potential agent:
And in addition to the criteria mentioned above, there are number of very important reasons you will typically prefer to work with a REALTOR®. Among them are the fact that they adhere to the NAR's highest standards of ethical conduct and professional training.
What a REALTOR will do for you
There are many important reasons to use a REALTOR®. Some of the duties your REALTOR® will perform for you include:
Selling on your own
"You can get rid of the broker, but you cannot get rid of the broker's work" is an old caution for those who intend to offer their homes "For Sale By Owner" (FSBO). Selling on your own is not an easy undertaking. It requires a significant amount of time to study the process, understand your obligations, and do some of the complicated work that a real estate agent does. In addition, selling on your own requires extra help from outside professionals, such as a REALTORS®, accountants or attorneys for some of the jobs that require specific expertise.
The following are some major pitfalls to avoid:
If you require only limited services, some REALTORS® will agree to help with the transaction for a predetermined fee. You can call real estate companies and ask for the managing broker and see if they're interested in furnishing "unbundled services."