Benefits of Using a Real Estate Agent

Deciding whether or not to use a real estate agent when you buy or sell your next home is a question that you might have asked yourself in the past. If you are not sure if it would be beneficial to use a Real Estate Agent, maybe this article can help.

The 2011 profile of homebuyers and sellers created and distributed by the National Association of Realtors shows that For Sale By Owners (FSBO’s) accounted for only 10% of home sales. Also the average FSBO listing sold for $150,000 while the average real estate agent assisted home sold for $215,000. While many people think that they can save time and money by selling the home on their own, this is often not the case. They also usually don’t always understand the trials that come along with selling their home FSBO. The Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers show the hardest tasks for a FSBO are:

• Understanding the housing market and listing their home at the right price.
• Understanding the paperwork involved and correctly filling everything out.
• Having enough time to devote to all aspects of the sale. This would be marketing the home, showing the home, responding to phone calls and emails about the home, etc.
• Determining whether or not they should spend extra money to prepare or fix up the home.
• Selling the home within a certain time frame.

Purchasing or selling a home is typically the largest investment most people will make in their lives. Whether you’re buying a new home or selling your existing home, a real estate agent can help protect your interests and potentially save you a substantial amount of money. We have compiled a list of benefits for both the homebuyer and seller.

Reasons To Use A Real Estate Agent When Buying A Home

1. A home buyer is usually not required to pay the real estate agent. When a real estate agent represents a home buyer on a purchase of a home, the commission earned by that agent is paid for by the seller of the home. The commission is taken out of the sales price.

2. Real estate agents have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS is a serviced provide to real estate agent that gives them the most up today information on homes that are for sale in your area.
This service is not available to the general public. With the MLS an agent can find out information about the home like, taxes, how long it has been listed, price changes, special features on the home etc.

3. Agents have knowledge about the area. A real estate agent should be able to tell you about the neighborhood, schools, activities, recreational areas, etc. that are available in the areas that you are looking to purchase.

4. Agents know how to negotiate with the seller on your behalf. Negotiating the price of a home can often get very difficult. In today’s market it is not uncommon to ask for closing costs to be paid, repairs to be completed, home warranties, or inspections. Often real estate agents are able to negotiate items in the home like washers/dryers, refrigerators, or furniture into the sale of the property. Your real estate agents job is to make sure you get the best deal.

5. Agents keep the deal going. Once your offer has been accepted you will have a lot of tasks that need to be completed in a short amount of time. Your agent can help you keep track and orchestrate all the tasks required in the buying process.

Reasons To Use A Real Estate Agent When Selling A Home

1. A real estate agent is worth the commission. Once you actually consider all the things your agent will do for you from the time they list the home to the time it sells, the commission paid to that agent is usually money well spent. Often times an agent will be able to help you get your home sold much faster and for more money than you could have on your own.

2. Agents understand the current housing market. Choose an agent that lives in your area. This agent will understand the neighborhood, home values, benefits of the area, and the local competition.

3. Agents know how to sell your home. This is their job, and just like any other job if they don’t do a good job they get fired. A real estate agent is a professional and should know what they are doing. It is often a good idea to get an agents track record prior to letting them sell your home. Selling any home takes experience, dedication and knowledge in this market. Their job is to attract buyers and sell the home.

4. Agents know what will make houses sell. Your agent will be able to give you advice on what could be done to the home to get it sold quicker. Anything from staging the home to making minor repairs or upgrades.

5. Agents will put your home on the MLS. A real estate agent has access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This tool is only available to real estate agents and allows them to get your home in front of thousands of other agents and buyers.

6. Agents know how to market your home. Your agent will know what to do to market your home for sale, whether that is an open house, internet exposure, flyers, caravans, etc.

7. Agents represent you to the end. Your agent will represent you from the time the home is listed to the time is closes escrow. An agent’s job is to make sure your interests are protected in the sale of the home and every thing negotiated in the contract is fulfilled. If a problem arises at or after closing your agent is there to help resolve any issues.

Sarasota Real Estate Investors – How to Deal With a Sarasota Real Estate Agent

While most qualified homebuyers with a ready down payment and good credit history are more than welcome by any Sarasota real estate agent, a real estate investor is seen as a pain. In fact, most Sarasota real estate agents consider real estate investors a complete headache when it comes to purchasing any property.

There are two main reasons for this…

First of all, like any businessperson, a real estate agent likes making a quick and hassle-free profit. Secondly, many real estate agents do not have the experience, expertise, or willingness to handle the creative deals that real estate investors need.

Nevertheless, real estate investors have no choice but to use an agent because that is the only place where they can access the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

Therefore, it is in the best interest of the investor to get on the “good” side of a real estate agent. Here are a few tips…

1. Offer a fast closing. Real estate agents love “quick” deals. A realtor would much rather have the chance of making a commission in 2 weeks as compared to 2 months. Also, real estate agents are much more likely to take you seriously if you offer a fast closing.

2. Offer a down payment. Most real estate investors are used to paying little or no upfront payment, however, if you want a realtor take you seriously than offer a serious down payment.

More often than not, a real estate agent will recommend the home seller accept a lower offer if the overall package is better…meaning the offer has a higher down payment and a faster, hassle-free closing.

3. Offer the offer yourself. Sometimes real estate investors can come up with very “creative” offers. Try persuading the real estate agent to allow you to present the offer directly to the seller (with the agent present of course). You want the seller to hear the offer directly from you, as no one else can match your precision and passion in presenting the offer. It will also allow the seller to address any questions directly to you, instead of going through the real estate agent as a middleman.

As a real estate investor you may come across many uncooperative real estate agents. A number of Sarasota real estate agents would prefer not to work with real estate investors because it requires more work than simply writing up a contract and handing over the keys. Don’t get discouraged though…there are also many Sarasota real estate agents who enjoy working with real estate investors…especially those that follow the tips above.

How NOT to Hire a Real Estate Agent

If you do NOT read this report you will almost certainly lose thousands of dollars when you sell your home…

Home sellers don’t know how to spot a good real estate agent

This is understandable when you consider that you will only buy and sell one or two properties in your lifetime. Your home is probably your biggest asset. So, be careful whom you choose to sell it; one slip-up from an agent will wipe thousands off your selling price.

Ask the right questions

Many home sellers ask the WRONG questions when they interview an agent. They ask questions such as “How much do you charge?” or “What’s my house worth?”. While these questions are important, they should only be asked after the agent has told you what they’ll do for you and how they’ll get you the best price.

This report is your guide to hiring a real estate agent. I’m going to show you how to spot and select the best agent to sell your home. After all, I believe there’s no one better to sell your home than a highly skilled agent. The problem is that highly skilled agents are hard to find.

WARNING! Don’t settle for second best. Too many sellers make the mistake of picking the ‘best of a bad bunch’. You could be better off without an agent

Check out your agent

It’s a sad fact, but many people don’t check-out their agent until after they have signed with them – by then it’s too late. After you sign you’re stuck; you could be locked into a ‘minimum 90 day’ contract.

The questions and information in this report will give you the knowledge you need to keep the power when you’re selling a house. After you sign you lose your power.

Agents love to say they are all different but basic research will prove most are the same. It’s the ‘cookie cutter’ approach when it comes to selling your home – every property is sold the same way.

What to look for when choosing an agent

In 2006 Neil Jenman (my Dad) was asked to provide a list of questions, comments, and hints to help home sellers choose an agent for a TV show he was hosting. He called his list of questions and comments, GUIDE TO GRILLING AGENTS. Over the last few years I have given the guide to many home sellers. This report contains many of the questions and comments in his original guide.

What does a good agent look like?

Most agents will be well dressed, on time, and prepared. But the best real estate agents will be the ones who put your interests first. They will offer solutions that suit you first, not them.

Agents who ask for money to advertise your home should rarely be hired. After all, if advertising was the only reason your home sold why do you need a real estate agent?

Questions are the answer

Sometimes the answer to one good question will give you the confidence you need to hire the best agent to sell your home. Good questions do the hard work for you. Before you jump in and start grilling real estate agents, take a step back.

Put your home buyer shoes on. And start with a mystery shop…

MYSTERY SHOP

Department stores do it, so why shouldn’t you? Use the ‘process of elimination’ to weed out the poor agents. Why bother interviewing a real estate agent who doesn’t bother to return buyer’s calls? Start with an email. Approximately half of all buyer enquiry arrives via email.

If you send out 10 emails to 10 local real estate agents, I can almost guarantee that you will not receive 10 replies. If only 5 reply, then you have just saved yourself having to interview 5 agents. Include your phone number in your email. Do they call you back? Or do they just email a standard response? An agent who follows up with a call has a much better chance of ‘closing a sale’ than an agent who sends a standard reply.

QUESTIONS ARE YOUR BEST WEAPON

If you don’t ‘test’ your real estate agent before you hire them – one thing is for sure – the buyers for your home will do it for you.

What follows are questions that have proven to be a huge help to sellers.

REMEMBER: You are the owner of the property. You are considering employing an agent to sell your property. You are the boss. You have the power BEFORE you sign up. Make sure you keep that power at all times. Control the agents, do not let the agents control you.

Your home’s selling price is determined by your agent’s ability to negotiate

• HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET THE BEST PRICE FOR MY HOME?

When you ask this question many agents will start throwing around the word negotiation. You want to be certain that they are capable of negotiating a high price for your house, ask them to teach you something about negotiation.

Question their ability to negotiate.

Ask them what they know about negotiation. It’s a big point that most home sellers miss because they focus on what the agent says rather than on what they do.

Here’s one of my favorite questions to ask a real estate agent:

• WHEN/IF YOU BRING ME AN OFFER, HOW CAN I BE CERTAIN THAT IT’S THE ABSOLUTE BEST PRICE THAT THE BUYER CAN PAY?

Many real estate agents will have difficulty answering this question. It’s a question that’s rarely asked of agents. Ask it. The answer will tell you a lot about an agent.

Some more questions you can ask are:

• Are you a good negotiator?

• Can you tell me some of the main points you know about negotiation?

• Can you give me some examples of the results of your negotiating ability?

The Biggest Liar Gets the Job

When hiring a real estate agent, the biggest liar (the agent who quotes you the highest price) often gets the job. It’s an old (and very true) real estate saying.

Unfortunately many home sellers hire liars. This happens because people who hear what they want to hear don’t perceive the information as being a lie.

One of the best questions you can ask is:

• WHAT WILL YOU DO TO GET THE BEST PRICE FOR MY HOME?

Once you are satisfied with the answer then ask:

• WHAT PRICE DO YOU THINK YOU CAN SELL MY PROPERTY FOR?

Most agents will try hard to hedge around this question. They may be vague and say such things as “It depends on the market,” or they may use the common ploy of answering a question with a question, such as, “How much do you want?”

Sellers should stand firm and press the agent on this point by making such comments as:

You are the agent, you sell lots of properties in this area, surely you know how much you can sell my property for – even if you have to give me a range. After all, you are the expert, aren’t you?

Once the agent has given a [verbal] quote, ask the following:

1. Will you give me that quote in writing?

2. Do you usually sell properties for the price that you quote the sellers?

Regardless of the answers, don’t dwell too long on any point at this stage. Just keep the questions rolling…

It’s not what you pay an agent, but what they cost you, that counts.

• How much commission do you charge?

Most agents will talk about ‘standard rates’ or they will say that the rate is recommended by the Real Estate Institute – this is to soften the shock. Sellers should make comments such as:

Is your fee negotiable?

Have you ever reduced your fee for anyone?

If you should ask me to accept a lower price than the price you have quoted me, will you also accept a lower fee?

NOTE: Be wary of agents who cut their commission to get your business.

These agents are often poor performers who rely on discounts to get you to sign with them.

• What is it about you and your agency that makes you better than other agents?

This is a great question. The agents all want to say that they are “the best” but they will struggle to define what is meant by “best”. Of course, “best” to a seller means the highest price with the lowest risk and the lowest cost.

The Issue of Advertising

With almost every agent, advertising will be a big point. Be careful, this is the most common way in which thousands of home-owners lose thousands of dollars without selling their homes!

The Golden Rule when selling a home: Never pay any money for any reason to any agent until your home is sold and you are satisfied.

The Silver Rule is this: Don’t sign anything that requires you to pay any money [in the future] for any reason if your home is NOT sold.

Some agents will say “you don’t have to pay for advertising until your house has sold” but what they fail to mention (or make clear) is that if your home fails to sell you will still have to pay.

Here are some comments and questions that can be made to an agent which show the absurdity of the advertising policies in most real estate offices.

• Why do you expect me to pay for the advertising to find a buyer? Surely the commission should include advertising?

• Why should I pay twice – once for advertising and once for commission?

• If you put ads in the newspapers [and charge sellers for those ads] and the buyers are going to come via you, what are you doing that sellers can’t do for themselves?

• If you advertise my home and I pay for the ads and you get calls from buyers and those buyers buy a home other than mine, do you give me any money back? If not, why not?

• If I pay you [thousands of] dollars for advertising and you do not sell my property, what happens to the money I paid?

• I notice that your advertising has your name and the name of the agency prominently featured. Surely I don’t have to pay the cost of advertising you and your agency?

• Based on the length of time you have been in business and the number of people who contact your office, don’t you already have a list of buyers on your books?

• I am not going to be paying any money to any agent for any reason until my home is sold. Once my home is sold within the price range that you quoted me, I will be delighted to pay you a GENEROUS commission as a reward.

This is my firm policy as a seller. Do you accept my policy?

Random comments and questions… [or other ways to make the same major points] might include…

• I want an agent who will get me the highest price at the lowest cost with the lowest hassle and, of course, without any risk of loss if there is no sale. Are you comfortable with being able to meet these simple requests of mine?

• How many properties do you sell? (Let them ask you if you mean weekly, monthly or annually, to which you reply that the time frame doesn’t matter. You just want to know that they are capable of getting results).

• What provisions do you take to ensure the security and safety of my home when it is being shown to prospective buyers?

• If I find a buyer – such as a close friend or relative – will you want me to pay you any commission?

• Have you ever had any unhappy clients?

• What were they unhappy about?

• If I employ you and I am not happy with your performance, I want to be able to dismiss you without any penalty to me. Is this okay by you?

• The agent I choose will be given an initial time period of 30 days on the selling agreement between us. If my property is not sold in 30 days and if I’m happy with the performance of the agent, I will be happy to extend the term of the agent’s appointment. Is this okay by you?

SELLERS’ TERMS & CONDITIONS

Get the agent to agree to your terms BEFORE you agree to the agent’s terms.

Finally, the biggest and most important point of all for home sellers – DO NOT SIGN the document that the real estate agent asks you to sign – at least NOT on the agent’s first visit.

Ask the agent the following questions:

• If I decide to employ your agency to handle the sale of my home, what document will you be asking me to sign?

• Can I have a copy of that document so that I can get some independent advice about it?

• The following is the start of your final words to the agent at the end of the agent’s first visit…

As I am the owner of the home and as I will be employing an agent, I will be preparing a list of my own terms and conditions under which I employ an agent. I will be asking the agent to sign my terms and conditions before I sign any terms and conditions prepared by the agent. Further, if any of my terms conflict with the agent’s terms, then, of course, my terms will take precedence.

• Are you okay with me, as the owner of the home, telling you, the agent, what I require you to do?

Thank the agent for coming and tell the agent that you will be in touch should you require the services of his/her agency. Stand up, shake hands, walk towards the exit or front gate. Wave goodbye.

How to Look for a Good Real Estate Agent

You may be planning to sell your home or buy a new home. Either way, you’re probably looking for a great real estate agent.

Realtor, Real Estate Agent – is there a difference?

There are Realtors® and there are real estate agents. These are not synonymous terms. A real estate agent is licensed to “represent a buyer or a seller in a real estate transaction in exchange for commission.”Real estate agents typically work for a real estate broker or Realtor.

A Realtor also is licensed and may sell real estate as either an agent or a broker. There are completely ethical real estate agents and Realtor®. The primary difference is that a Realtor has made an additional commitment to honor the 17-article code and profession of the real estate business.

The search and some questions

Looking for a great real estate agent means that you will be asking questions, so let’s start building your list of questions:

Referrals: ask your friends, colleagues, and relatives for referrals. Most people who have had a positive experience working with an agent will gladly describe their experience and why they feel their agent was exceptional.

Referrals from professionals: it is certainly appropriate to ask real estate agents for referrals. Financial institution representatives, especially mortgage brokers, are likely to be aware of exceptional agents.

Open houses: going to open houses is a great, non-threatening way to meet estate agents. Pay attention to the agent’s manners and appearance, his/her professionalism, and the quality of promotional material provided at the open house. Does the agent seem knowledgeable about the property and the local market? Is the agent ready to point out the home’s features, or does he basically ignore visitors?

When you have a generally favorable impression of an agent, be sure to collect a business card and make notes of your observations.

References: plan to interview several agents before making a decision and signing a buyer’s agreement. During the interview, ask each candidate to provide referrals of recent clients and call those referrals.

Among the questions to ask are what were the asking and selling prices of their properties, and how long the home was on the market?

Take time to look up the estate board of licensing services to confirm that the candidate is currently licensed and whether any complaints or disciplinary actions have been filed against the agent.

Experience: how long has the agent been in business? You should be looking for the agent who thoroughly knows the local market in which you are selling or planning to buy your home. It takes time to build expertise and market knowledge. One agent recommends that any viable candidate should have at least five years’ experience.

Is the agent full- or part-time? You should expect, and ask for, a full time agent.

Next steps

When evaluating the qualifications of estate agents, look at their websites and current listings. Your future agent should be web and technology savvy, using all current media to help you find your perfect home or sell your current one. The agent should also be able to communicate reliably and regularly using the form(s) of contact you prefer – fax, phone, text, or e-mail.

Ideally, your prospective agent is busy but not too busy to effectively represent you. If you feel that the candidate is not committed to giving your sale or purchase full and enthusiastic service, or is prepared to hand you over to an “assistant”, move on.

Your agent should be realistic about pricing, marketing, and representing you as the seller or buyer.”If it sounds too good to be true… ” can apply to estate agents and services, too. Trust your powers of observation and intuition. When you combine them with the information you have gathered from your interviews, you will be ready to make a well-informed decision.

What Your Buyer’s Real Estate Agent Won’t Tell You – Part 1

Buying a house – The realistic approach

This article is not about the secrets of buying a rental property for no money down and half the price of the market value of the house. I am not Tom Vu or Don Lapre and I am not in jail.

In Canada, the no money down home did use to exist, but not anymore. Some banks and/or lenders were willing to lend you the 5% down payment so that you don’t have to pay a dime out of your own pockets to purchase a home. However, given the current financial situation with tighter lending restrictions, there will be no bank or lenders who can do that in Canada.

The buying home for half price did use to exist as well. At one point, foreclosures in Canada would allow foreclosed homes to be sold at rock bottom prices. The new law, which has been in placed for many years now require the homes be sold at the highest possible price for foreclosed homes or else the lenders could be sued. Hence, sometimes foreclosed homes sell higher because Canadians have the misconception that foreclosed homes are a really good deal causing it to have a reverse affect. There have been many people buying foreclosed homes believing they got a good deal and not doing a thorough check as to the actual value of the home.

Now, clearing out the quick money maker myths of buying homes, there are still many things you need to be aware of before starting.

If there exist ever an industry with more sneaky sales tactics and money motivated people, it has got to the Real Estate industry. As a buyer, you could be dishing out $350 000 and everyone wants a piece. The Real Estate Agents want a piece. The lenders want a piece. The lawyers want a piece and the sellers want piece. No wonder there are so many scams in this industry.

The first thing to be aware of is the Real Estate Agent. A Real Estate Agent is suppose to act on your behalf to buy or sell the home. Both the buyer of the home and seller of the home will have their own Real Estate Agent called a Buyer’s Real Estate Agent and a Seller’s Real Estate Agent.

In Canada, each Real Estate Agent gets an average of 2.5% and sometimes 2% for the commission of selling the home. Some Real Estate Agents provide cash back rewards. Canadian Real Estate Agents gets higher commission than anywhere else. In United States, their Real Estate Agents only get 1% of the commission and their homes are actually much cheaper. Even though Real Estate Agents are the least educated of the parties involved in the buying home transaction, they seem to be getting the biggest piece of the pie.

Do not listen to their gimmicks on Real Estate Agents are ethical. (http://www.howrealtorshelp.ca) Where do they get the idea any Real Estate Agent off the street is ethical. Their claim is based on these tests that they pass to become a Real Estate Agent. Agents passing a test does not meant hey are ethical. It only means they can remember enough to pass the test.

One would believe it should be the Real Estate Agent’s job to help the buyer ensure the home is of value. Rightly so, many buyers depend on the Real Estate Agent to protect them and provide them advice and in my opinion, the ethical Real Estate Agent should do that. However, the true reality is that Real Estate Agents do not make money unless if the home is purchased. The reality is that the Real Estate Agent’s salary is not truly dependent on giving you advice. The Real Estate Agent’s job is to get the buyer to buy a home through them so they can get paid!

As a result of this, what ends up happening, are two types of Real Estate Agents with variations in between. The first type is the honest agent with the belief “If I work hard and treat my buyer right, the buyer will come back to buy more homes from me. The second type is the “I need to get the buyer to buy a house quickly so that I can move on to the next buyer (sucker) so that I can maximize my time for profit.” The bottom line is that you are looking for the first type and you want to avoid the second type.

We’ll call the first type, the Bad Real Estate Agent. We’ll call the second type, the Good Real Estate Agent.

So what kind of characteristics does the Good Real Estate Agent have that the Good Real Estate Agent does not have?

1. The first characteristic is Patience. Bad Real Estate Agents will attempt to sell you a home quickly to get the money quickly. Do not buy a house without spending a lot of time looking at several different homes. Be careful of tactics such as Real Estate Agents claiming it is the perfect and acting like a salesman rather than providing you information.

2. The second characteristic is information. A good Real Estate Agent needs to provide you all the information to let you make the informed decision and we are not talking about their opinion. Real Estate’s opinion does not matter. Real Estate Agents have data such as the history of the house being sold at, homes being sold near the area and type. A Real Estate Agent should be able to provide you with a compilation of official documents that tells you these kinds of data to let YOU make an informed decision.

3. The third characteristic is care. You will know this during the actual signing of the contract to purchase the home at a certain price. Once you become interested in a property and want to buy the property at a certain price set by YOU, you have to write up a contract. The contract consist at least three conditions that will null the sale of the home and a security deposit.

The common three conditions are, buyer can get financing, the home passes inspection and the appraisal value of the home is above the price to be purchased. Generally, you will want the lenders to appraise the home so that you know the fair value of the home and the lenders would only lend of you are buying the home at fair market value.

The security deposit is an amount you will provide to lock the home from being sold to other buyers while you perform to checks to see whether these conditions have been met. If these conditions are not met, then you SHOULD get your security deposit back.

The Bad Real Estate Agents will want to you provide very few conditions and a big security deposit. Doing so ensure the home is more likely to be sold.

Choose the Best Realtor – How Can You Find the Best Real Estate Agent For You in Today’s Market?

Real estate agents don’t get enough credit for the work they put into their clients. There is a lot of potential liability in the real estate career, and true success takes sustained hard work. Many try, and few survive. A good Realtor should become your trusted advisor. By understanding and appreciating what the Realtor does for you as the client, you can guarantee a wonderful working relationship with your Realtor and ensure total success throughout your home buying process.

Always, when I say “real estate agent” I want you to think Realtor, and to consider only a Realtor to represent you in your home purchase. “Realtor” is a professional designation for a real estate agent who has made a public commitment to a high level of accountability and professionalism. A real estate agent merely signs a license; a Realtor adheres to a code of ethics.

With a Realtor, you can expect someone who has invested time, money, and energy into the real estate profession, as opposed to someone who paid a couple hundred dollars, took some classes and passed a test. Yes, a license allows one to practice in real estate in the state of issuance, but it says nothing of the agent’s reputation. Most first-time homebuyers don’t even know to ask, “Are you a Realtor?” or even better, to check out the agent’s business card to verify their title. A Realtor can also take additional education to gain special designations, further proof of effort towards professionalism and competence. Usually, the more designations the better: few would spend the time and money on these designations without a passion for this business and the clients they serve.

Finding the right Realtor is hardly an exact science, but a little research can go a long way. In so many cases, the best agents are not the ones you see and hear about; on the contrary, the best agents are the ones who are so good at their trade and profession they don’t need to spend money on advertising. These are the agents who work primarily by referral or word of mouth and have qualified people coming to them every day. This phenomenon only happens to great agents who know their trade and have built their business over enough years for new clients to seek them out.

Referrals Rule

Many buyers start by looking at agents they have heard of. This could be the local Century 21 branch next to the coffee shop down the street, or it could be that nice old lady who walks down the block every Thursday with her funky flyers. That old lady agent is desperately hoping that her hard work pays off and that after years of delivering her funky flyer to you, one day you will pick up the phone and call her. Similarly, the local Century 21 branch is hoping that next time you get coffee, you will walk in and become their next lead (and potential client). After all, they pay good money for the visibility that has been building their brand awareness every time you passed by and saw their sign over the years.

These are some of the many examples of how agents try to get your business, but you should not concern yourself with them. You should actively seek out a Realtor. Essentially, the best agents are typically the ones who don’t need to spend time cold-calling or door-knocking to get their business. Business comes to them via referrals from past clients who are satisfied with their professionalism, honesty, and results. Take the initiative and give yourself the best opportunity to win: choose your agent carefully.

Let’s take a moment to clarify this issue about star agents and how they go about their business. Great agents did not get that way by sitting around waiting for business to come to them. Rather, their success is the result of years of hard work building their businesses and spheres of influence in order to get to the position where they no longer need heavy marketing. Please don’t mistake an agent’s aggressiveness for a bad thing. A proactive agent is a very good sign! He or she is just trying to see where you are in terms of the buying process. An agent needs to know whether you are looking to move next month, or are looking to start looking next month – there is a huge difference! Sometimes agents who don’t need to advertise do so anyway in order to maintain an identity in the community. Just as choosing the best agent is not an exact science, neither is the way that great agents market and advertise themselves.
Knowing what I know, if I wanted to find the best real estate agent for my first-time purchase, I would follow two basic plans: I would ask several people I knew and trusted for Realtor recommendations, and I would scan the online community consumer blogs for highly recommended Realtors.

As I mentioned before, the best agents are the ones who get consistent referrals. You should be one of those referrals! You should ask everybody you trust about his or her most recent experience in real estate. Preferably, you want to ask people who bought their homes within the past year or so, though a referral to an agent someone has worked with multiple times is a good sign. Always keep an open disposition for what people are telling you. In general, we humans have an innate need to share good experiences, so you should take any recommendations with open arms and then qualify them with questions about the experience. Whenever I get a referral from a past client or good friend, I am excited! I am already going to have a more solid connection to the referral, and there is a good chance the new client and I will mesh in terms of personality.

I will ALWAYS treat clients referred to me by people I know at a higher level than online “leads” or other unknowns. Without question, the level of commitment on the part of the buyer is so much more significant when it’s a referral from a good source. I don’t like admitting that my initial treatment of an Internet lead compared to a referral is different, but in practice it most certainly is! I can depend on a referral; I cannot depend on an online lead. For this reason I give priority to my referrals, and reserve the best service for them. Ask around, get referrals, check out the agents’ websites, pick out your favorites, and schedule a time to meet.

Before you meet a potential agent, write down your most pressing questions. This will really help with your interview. It may be necessary to let the agent know you are interviewing a few other agents. This will keep them on their best behavior and you will see the best that they can offer. Usually I dislike it when I am referred a client who is “shopping” other agents, but here’s the bottom line: If I were in your position, I would want to shop around until I meet the Realtor who is going to represent me in the most important buying decision in my entire life. It is a good idea to shop around, even if it hurts the agent’s feelings. The one you choose will probably forgive you.

In some cases, you may feel so strongly about a particular agent that you don’t find it necessary to interview other agents. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as you feel very certain about it. It’s typical to see that with a highly referred agent only one appointment is needed to see that they truly are the best fit for you. You’ll probably be sold on them after that initial consultation. After all, there is a reason they are that good in the first place.

The WOW Agent

Test-drive your potential agent during the interview! You’re hiring your agent primarily for their real estate expertise. Their most important assets are their local knowledge (of the market, prices and inventory), their ability to negotiate and handle contractual issues, their ability to manage emotions and surprises, and their ability to connect with you as a person and help usher you at your pace through the transaction. How do you know your Realtor’s skills before you begin? Ask questions! Your agent should leave you saying “WOW!” and feeling excited about the process ahead. Keep an eye out for that “WOW” agent. You will know when you find him or her, and you will be happy you did!

I cannot tell you how many times people have come to me looking for help after they have been working with a non-“WOW” agent. Sometimes the agent’s problem is a lack of knowledge, sometimes it’s a lack of communication, sometimes it’s an unforgivable mistake, but no matter what, if you have found yourself with an agent you thought was a “WOW” agent, and you turned out to be wrong, it’s OK to move on. My only suggestion is that as soon as you realize that your agent is not a “WOW” agent, you must cut ties with that agent as soon as possible! I say this because a lot of people are generally so afraid of confrontation that they negatively affect themselves in the process by not severing the relationship with the non-“WOW” agent. Do yourself a favor. Be bold. This will help you get what you want quicker, and it will be a wake-up call of sorts to the agent.

The bottom line is simple: go with a pro. Go with someone who knows the trade, and who is aggressive and tenacious (in a good way). Go with someone who knows how to talk and negotiate. Go with someone who has it together. Go with someone you connect with on a personal level – this will help you to build trust with your agent, and trust is the most important aspect of the agent-client relationship. Once trust and respect are established, the rest will fall into place. Just make sure you have the agent who will get you what you want!

It is important to remember that no matter how you choose your agent, being a good client will pay off in the end. Being demanding or demeaning to your agent will get you nowhere. Go in with the intention of keeping your agent as a trusted advisor for anything real estate-related from that point on. A long-term relationship is better for both parties, and no agent will tolerate an extremely needy or demanding or rude client for long!

Recently, I’ve been planning a wedding. I made a point of asking all our vendors what an “ideal client” is for them, and how we can work best with them in their service for our wedding. This would give me the idea of how to make our relationship and the task at hand as enjoyable and successful as possible. Similarly, when I work with clients who have this kind of commitment to the client/agent relationship, there is no end to what I would do for them to ensure that their experience is second to none.

Bonus: The Top Ten Traits of a Successful Client

A recent client of mine named Amanda embodies this mentality. Her purchase price was low, which meant I wouldn’t get much of a commission. The job entailed many hours of work, several offers, a long short-sale escrow and a couple of delays. All this was of no concern to me because of the type of client Amanda was. The time and effort involved didn’t matter, because she was top-notch. I wish all my clients were like her. In fact, I have said during the course of transactions with several clients that I wished all my clients were like the one at hand. Whenever I say this, I am saying that this particular client exhibits the following qualities, and no matter the challenge at hand, I am there without question to make sure everything goes right.

1. Be reasonable! Don’t get too emotional, ever. When clients get overly emotional, agents get impatient. This is a grown-up world and you need to act like an adult. I will hold your hand throughout the transaction, but irrational clients never get the best treatment.

2. Be responsive! Unanswered phone calls and ignored emails are never a good sign. This is a warning flag for an agent, signaling that you may not be as motivated as you say you are.

3. Be punctual! If I am on time, you must be on time, too. This is a simple thing, but it’s surprising how many people are late to everything. This is a slap in the face and you lose points in my book if you are late to confirmed appointments. If you flake on an appointment, start looking for some other agent; I probably won’t work with you any further after a stunt like that.

4. Be flexible! Sometimes your wants don’t quite line up with your budget, and you need to be OK with that! An irrational client is the last thing I want, a big waste of time. Really, it means that the client doesn’t know what they truly want, or that what is affordable for them (what the buyer can actually buy) will not work.

5. Be honest and upfront! The more honest and open you are, the better I can serve you. Sometimes I go weeks with a client, only to find out about a preference, financial condition, or special need that has not been addressed. This can seriously affect the client’s ability to find something that will work. Open yourself to your agent, and your agent will be better equipped to find you what you are looking for!

6. Be grateful! Show some love for your Realtor. Show that you appreciate all the time and hard work put in for your benefit. A grateful client is easier to work with and gets more appreciation than a demanding client.

7. Be respectful! This is a business, and you are dealing with a professional. Treat your agent like you would want to be treated yourself. When I am treated without respect, I have no problem moving on, letting go of a potential client. Sometimes clients seem to feel a need to act condescending or big or strong to establish control over the situation. This behavior is not conducive to a mutually healthy and beneficial business relationship.

8. Be trustworthy! I want to trust you and you should want to trust me. When both the client and the agent have a relationship built on trust, nothing can stop them. It’s only when I have clients who question me as to my skill or ability that the relationship becomes distant.

9. Be prepared! Be ready to move fast! I know you are a busy person, but buying a home takes focus and commitment. I don’t care if you had a busy week; we have a lot of documents to go over in a short time, and I shouldn’t have to feel bad asking you to go over things you should be going over through the course of the escrow. I am bringing to your attention items and issues that will directly affect your purchase and the home you end up with. I cannot want the home more than you do, and if you aren’t prepared and committed, it makes everything more difficult and stressful for me and for you.

10. BE COMMITTED! Being committed means that your heart and mind are in harmony with respect to the goal at hand. I have found that this is the number-one trait for all the buyers in my most successful and seamless transactions. When a buyer is committed, no matter the hurdle that may arise in escrow, the buyer will overcome. When the buyer is committed, the entire process is less stressful. When the buyer is committed, success is in the cards!

Bonus: Google Your Agent!

Today’s online community offers an exceptional ability for any consumer to check in on the history of their service provider’s reputation and work ethic: kudzu.com, yelp.com, and angieslist.com are a few stellar examples of websites geared to service providers for a specific geographic location. As time goes on, more and more of us will become connected, and this type of virtual “feedback” will become more and more pervasive.

Real estate aside, you can and should be doing this for any service provider, from your babysitter to your auto mechanic. That said, at least a nominal amount on online research should be called for to find any specific warning flags regarding the agent(s) you are considering working with. Check the agent’s website and see if there are written testimonials on the site, and if these testimonials match up with what you find online. Keep in mind that there are some people who just love to file complaints, even for good service, and this can tarnish your expectations of the person you are considering working with. Please know that the online community cannot be fully regulated for accuracy, but it is typically more helpful and accurate as opposed to being burdensome and untruthful. There is no doubt that this kind of research will become more common because it is user-generated and tends to offer a comparatively unbiased opinion of a given service provider.

Choosing the right agent won’t necessarily make or break your deal, but it can mean the difference between a satisfying deal and an unfulfilling one, a good deal and a not-so-good deal, a one-time transaction and a trusted advisor for life. Put simply, choosing the best agent gives you the best opportunity to realize massive success for your first home purchase. Choose wisely!

Michael Wolf is a Realtor, GRI and author and currently practices in the San Diego area. His company is Ascent Real Estate, and his business partner and fiance Jessica Richter are located in Bankers Hill. Michael and Jessica specialize in San Diego county real estate, with emphasis in Foreclosure and Short Sale distressed property. Aside from residential purchases and sales, Michael and Jessica have helped several investors with multi-unit and commercial residential income investment properties.

Real Estate Agent – What is It?

A real estate agent is a person that is used as an expert to facilitate the selling of real estate. In my opinion, a real estate agent should be open to new things, including innovative marketing ideas and cutting-edge changes that impact buyers and sellers. A real estate agent should be someone who listens to buyers, sellers and renters to figure out what the public hates about agents and proactively make changes in their own business plan accordingly. A real estate agent should have business hours that are applicable to other professionals that are paid thousands of dollars per transaction.

A real estate agent should practice their skills by using them everyday. A real estate agent should not be part-time in the business. This means they should not have a full-time job and sell real estate when they need some extra money. A real estate agent should be skilled at keeping their cool when something goes wrong. A real estate agent should be professional and never hang up on a client or another real estate agent, no matter what was said or done.

A real estate agent should be responsible to learn, understand and keep up with all marketing tools that could and probably should be employed in selling or buying a home. The fact that a real estate agent is “not comfortable with the Internet” when most homes are now sold via the viewing on the Internet by a buyer is no longer an excuse. A real estate agent should be diligent about understanding modes of communication and marketing via every type of media from which a buyer can search and ultimately buy a home.

A real estate agent should not have to turn on their fax machine when they return from the store. They should be in business, full-time, and be set up to do business anytime inside their business hours. A real estate agent should not leave town without backup and just leave a deal hanging as a result. No one cares that the real estate agent is on vacation other than the agent himself. A real estate agent should never tell a seller that open houses don’t work, when in fact, open houses sell properties, everyday. A real estate agent should never be so in-the-box that they laugh at someone for discussing the use of a St. Joseph’s statute. They shouldn’t scoff at the fact that apple pie scent may or may not sell a house just because they don’t want to go to the trouble to explain what may or may not work to the seller.

A real estate agent should not cry when a seller tells them that they no longer want to sell their home or that they are not going to use them to sell the home. A real estate agent should not steal yard signs from lawns or directional signs from subdivisions just because someone did not choose to list the house with them but a competitor. A real estate agent should not bash other business models. They should simply point out the things that they bring to the table and why they feel their business model works better.

A real estate agent should not open the house for a buyer and let them stay in there alone, just because the buyer looks nice. A real estate agent should always look at the identification of a buyer because they recognize that they are responsible for the seller’s property. A real estate agent should always be grateful that someone is willing to pay them thousands of dollars for a job that has never been fully explained to the public as to how little knowledge an agent needs and how little you’re trained when getting your license.

America is unfortunately the only place where all of these standards, or should I say the lack of standards, are applauded everyday as good and acceptable behavior. The public needs to be reminded that an overwhelming number of inexperienced, part-time real estate agents hold in their hands the fate of most people’s largest asset. When will we put our foot down and say enough is enough… real estate is a real profession that requires skill, knowledge and a constant reach to perform strategies and results for clients.

Indian Real Estate, Property Portals and the 21st Century Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents? Hasn’t the internet gotten rid of them yet?

I hear this question all the time. Most people assume that property portals in India are working towards eliminating agents and facilitating direct interaction between seller and buyer. Though this is partially correct, real estate agents are the biggest customers of these portals and the portals are doing their bit to facilitate their growth. We interact with agents every day and we see most of them are doing good business. I want to take some time and explain the dynamics behind Indian real estate, the role agents’ play and how the role of agents’ is going to change in the future.

Note – Throughout this article, I’ve focused only on the rental and resale market and not gone into sale of new property by builders as the dynamics of that market are radically different. Also, the scope of this article is limited to Indian Real Estate.

“MakeMyTrip has eliminated travel agents. So why hasn’t the same happened to real estate agents?”

One needs to understand that ticketing is now a point-and-click industry – travel agents have been replaced by computers. The process of getting information about the journey AND purchasing the tickets can be done on the internet. Real estate is fundamentally an offline process. Though information aggregation is an important part of it, site visits, negotiations and paperwork all need to be done offline. Even from an owner/sellers perspective, renting out/selling a home isn’t as simple as listing it online – the process can stretch for months. This is where real estate agents step in – in guiding customers through the offline part of the transaction, bringing both parties to agree to the terms and finishing off the paper work.

Why aren’t property portals trying to eliminate agents and become virtual middlemen?

A property portal provides a platform for a seller and a buyer to interact (A seller can be an owner, builder or an agent). If we eliminate agents from this equation, portals are left with a C2C platform with property owners being the only source of inventory. Though many prefer a scenario like this, we need to figure out how the platform provider is going to monetize from this setup. They have the following options –

Listing fees – They can collect a fee from the owner/seller to list their property. There are few owners who’re willing to pay for premium listings (last time I checked, about 5% of owners listing online were willing to pay) but this is simply not enough to sustain the business. Indian consumers are ready to use a service which is free (free listings) OR pay for a service once it’s rendered (brokerage) but are not OK with anything in between.

Charge property seekers to get owner information – Another option would be to charge property seekers a fee to give them information about the owner who’s listed. This also isn’t a sustainable option because owners who list online tend to list on multiple portals and you can always finds a portal which gives you the owners information for free.

Brokerage fee when the deal is closed – This would be a great monetization scheme that everyone would be willing to pay for, but is very hard to implement. To do this, portals need to keep track of every deal that closes offline and that would be next to impossible.

There might be more options, but I don’t really see them becoming huge ‘revenue making machines’. Running a real estate portal is a VERY expensive affair and portals would need a solid revenue stream to offset that cost.

This is where Real Estate Agents step in: Agents are willing to spend good money to market their properties on a platform which would give them good leads. Property portals see this as a steady, sustainable revenue stream. This, seemingly, is a match made in heaven.

So, you’re saying property portals have made no dent in the brokerage industry?

Undoubtedly, they have. In a BIG way! With many owners listing their properties online, agents are starting to feel the heat. Coupled with the fact that the number of real estate agents has almost tripled in the last few years, you’ll see that the average real estate agent earned a LOT less in 2014 that he did in 2011. Agents are beginning to realize that there’s a paradigm shift and it’s time to mend their ways, before the game gets taken out of their hands. There needs to be a shift in their mentality and it needs to happen NOW.

Role of the 21st century real estate agent

10 years back, agents pretty much charged money for information arbitrage – “I have the contact information of the owner/tenant and you need to pay me money to get this contact” was the mantra and it has worked. A disproportionate amount of money was charged for this seemingly simple service and the world went on without a qualm primarily because there was no alternative. But now there is. Increased owner listings on portals, multifold increase in number of real estate agents, internal portals in corporate companies which help employees find accommodation, Facebook groups, etc. have all impacted the brokerage industry and there needs to be an overhaul.

“What’s dangerous is to not evolve, not invent and not continuously improve customer experience” – Every Realtor in the country needs to latch these words said by Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon. Information arbitrage can no longer be the game real estate agents play – We’re moving towards a world where access to information is getting easier and this cannot remain the USP of why a property seeker goes to a real estate agent. I believe agents need to adopt the following practices –

Save time for your customers – In today’s world, nobody has time to do things (even if they do have time, people don’t want to spend their time house hunting). Saving time for your customers is probably the best value-add an agent can provide. Be up-to-date on the latest inventory that is available in the locality. If you’re not confident if the customer will like your property, just tell them so! Don’t drag them to a dingy apartment they’ll never never be interested in – they’ll lose trust in your sense of judgment and never come back to you again. Learn to truly understand what your customer wants, be equipped to find the most relevant inventory, accompany them during site visits and close the deal. A really good agent should be able to close a rental requirement in 7 days and a resale requirement in 1 month, tops.

Give as much information as possible – Instead of hoarding information, agents need to freely part with it. Tell your customers exactly which apartment society the property is in, tell them exactly how far from the bus-stop it is and tell them if the owner/tenant is not comfortable with someone from their demographic. In the longer run, this helps build a better rapport with customers. Sure, other agents (or your customers themselves) might get to the owner/seller without you, but in the longer run, this is what will work.

Adopt technology, don’t fight it – Apart from Whatsapp, agents don’t use their smart phones for any business related activities. Why is this so? For starters, there’re many CRM applications on the app store which they can use. This alone will improve their productivity 100 times over! Other applications for maintaining inventory, marketing, etc. are available but are not being consumed by agents.

Develop skills a computer/technology can’t do – A computer can never negotiate a good deal for the client – that’s a job that requires a human touch. A computer can never get a feel of what the customer truly wants – Agents can do that given you’re always with the customer. This is a relationship driven industry, make sure you always remember that.

Use social media as a marketing platform – When owners are using Facebook as a platform for marketing, why shouldn’t agents? Creating a Facebook group to marketing their listings is a great way to reach new customers. There are some agents who do this already and are getting good response from the same.

Be professional – Cliche as it may sound, going back to the basics is something every agent needs to do. Being punctual, dressing in formals and talking politely to customers are some key skills that agents need to practice. Again, there are agents who’re well mannered, but the number seems to be shrinking.

The list can keep extending, but I can summarize it this way – If you’re a real estate agent, think of what you were doing for your business 5 years back and compare that to what you’re doing today. If nothing much has changed, understand that you’ll become redundant within the next few years. The world is changing and only those who change with it will live to fight another day. Portals have evolved, house hunting has changed for end customers and it’s about time the role of the real estate agent changes as well.

How are we positioned in this complicated market?

Our vision has always been to build A Technology Powered Real Estate agency that works towards helping our customers find a home they truly love. We do that by mixing cutting edge technology and expertise brokerage. We’re adding great real estate agents to our team, giving them next-gen mobile applications/desktop products to better run their business, helping them understand the market as it is today, providing training sessions and learning material and eventually, helping them serve customers better. Given the amazing response we’ve received from customers and agents so far, we’re confident of the road ahead.

TheHouseMonk is an effort to establish an equilibrium between the online and offline aspects of Real Estate

All About Real Estate Agents

Who Are They…

Real estate agents are professionals instrumental in connecting the buyer with the seller.
Additionally, many real estate agents manage rentals wherein they introduce tenants to landlords and oversee the maintenance of the property on behalf of the landlords.
In most areas real estate agents are required to be highly educated, licensed and are regulated by a governing body.
Some real estate agents are also Realtors.
To use the title Realtor, a real estate agent must be a member of the National Association of Realtors which in addition to a number of other requirements, requires Realtors to adhere to a strict code of ethics and offers Realtors additional educational and designation opportunities.
Though not required by rule or law, it might be a wise decision to seek the services of a Realtor.

What Do They Do….

Real estate agents bring together two or more interested parties, perform those steps necessary to successfully conclude a transaction and charge a commission for their services.
For sales transactions, they charge commission to the seller while for rentals, commission is typically charged the landlord.
Real estate agents generally calculate their fee as a percentage of the selling price (in the case of a sale) and as part of the rent for rental units.

How Do They Do It…

People who want to sell or rent their property leave details of their property with the real estate agent.
Along with all property details the real estate agent will typically have keys to the house to facilitate showings.
The other interested party (i.e. the buyer/tenant), gets access to this information and to the property by contacting the real estate agent.
That’s how the real estate agent becomes a hub of information.
Contrary to some common misconceptions, real estate agents typically represent the seller or the buyer but rarely both.

Why Should I Use One…

First and foremost, to protect yourself. Real estate transactions are highly regulated, highly paper (document) intensive transactions.
The real estate agent possesses an in depth knowledge of the laws, rules, regulations, disclosures and documentation necessary to successfully complete the transaction to the satisfaction of the buyer, the seller and the law.

Because real estate agents are most familiar with local real estate market conditions, it is wise and makes sense to seek the advice of one to get an idea of the current trends and pricing for properties within that market.
A good real estate agent will know the prices (or price range) of various properties of different types and at various locations within the region.

Because of the real estate agent’s knowledge and expertise, property sellers often get a few thousand dollars more for their property.

Many home seekers, including seasoned real estate investors use the services of real estate agents to locate the best real estate bargains in the easiest and quickest manner.

Furthermore, the best agents analyze the wants and needs of a home buyer/tenant and provide valuable input as to the kinds of properties available to them within their budget. Therefore, a good real estate agent will not just present a list of available properties to the buyer/tenant but will actually discuss their needs and make suggestions.

The good real estate agent, working in this manner benefits in at least two ways…
First and most obviously, when the real estate agent is able to successfully complete the transaction the commission is earned and the real estate agent is paid…
and secondly, if they make the customer/client happy they earn a good reputation and often receive referrals (hence more business).

Worth Noting…

It is worth noting that there is a myth floating around that real estate agents only work on behalf of the seller, buyer beware.
This is not written in stone nor is it always the case. Real estate agents are, in most regions, highly regulated.
With few exceptions, real estate agents work either for the seller (as is the case with many listing agents) or for the buyer (as is the case for a buyer’s agent).
Additionally, some areas allow for dual agency where an agent can work for both the seller and the buyer or as a transaction broker where the agent represents the transaction itself and neither the seller nor buyer individually.
However, in the case of dual agency/transaction brokerage, note that rule, regulation (law) and ethics do not permit the agent to act in favor of either party while in detriment to the other.
If you are unsure of the relationship between you and your real estate agent, do not hesitate to ask.

FAQs Every Home Seller Should Read Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent

Before you hire a real estate agent, read the answers to your most important questions.

Will a property I sell myself be at a competitive disadvantage compared to properties sold by real estate agents?

No-and in many ways, you’ll have an advantage. First of all, today’s buyers find their homes on the Internet on their own time. If they like your home, they’re going to contact you no matter what-and the odds are good that they’ll be happier dealing with you than with an agent. It is no secret that a huge number of homes are not selling and expire before the agent ever gets the home sold. Do a Google search and you’ll see the amount of training material the real estate industry offers to teach their agents how to persuade sellers to renew their listings for a year. There is no magic in what a real estate agent does.

To give you an example of the advantages of selling your home yourself, think about signs. When you list with an agent, they get to place a mini billboard in your yard that includes a tiny bit of advertising for your home and a huge amount of advertising for their company. The whole industry should have moved on to customized signs a long time ago-but they haven’t. You’ll have a significant advantage by tailoring your on-the-ground marketing plan to your home, including your FOR SALE sign.

Do homes sell for more when listed with a real estate agent?

That’s what the National Association of Realtors funded by real estate agents says, but there’s no independent data to support their statistics. If a real estate agent tells you they can get you more money for your home, ask them to bring you a buyer; if they can’t, they need to leave you alone to sell your house. Far too many listings handled by agents expire, unsold.

An agent’s opinion is not going to get your home sold. It’s easy for people to make guesses and conjectures, but to win in today’s market, you have to deal with hard facts.

How much time and effort is this really going to take?

It takes about as much time to sell your house as it takes to plan a long vacation. The marketing side requires the most time up front, but once you’ve gathered your facts, it shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to get your marketing plan started. You’d have to gather that same information for an agent, if you used one. And the process has been streamlined for you on sites like simpleandsold.com.

If you’re skeptical, take the amount you’d pay in commission to a real estate agent and divide it by the number of hours it takes to plan a vacation. The result should help you see that time you put into selling your house will be time well spent.

A real estate agent told me it would be dangerous to sell my own home, since I’d be letting strangers in my house all the time. Should I be worried?

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to let strangers in your home to sell it. But you would have to do this with or without a real estate agent, so this is almost a moot point. Remember that you can open your home any way you want: you can take down information for safety purposes; you can schedule your viewing appointments so that you won’t be alone in the house; and you have the right to stop the process if you ever become uncomfortable with a person’s presence. This is something even real estate agents face.

Do I need to use a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to get the exposure I need for my home?

First, you should understand what MLS is. It was not designed as a marketing venue for homes; rather, it’s a simple way for brokers to negotiate compensation with each other, so that Real Estate Agent A can tell Real Estate Agent B, “Sell my listing and I will pay you X.” Period.

My local MLS, which was named #1 in the country, is still way behind the times. It allows me to upload approximately eight tiny (two-by-two-inch) pictures and about three sentences of description. I’m not even allowed to link to anything. How is that a viable marketing tool?

Look at Zillow, Trulia, and Yahoo! Real Estate and you’ll see how much the MLS has been eclipsed. It’s become just an outdated method for real estate agents to protect their turf. Some systems are not even Mac compatible.

With Simple and Sold, you can put your home up for viewing on hundreds of websites, and you can add up to thirty-six large, high-definition photos in your listing. You can have paragraphs of description about your home. You can attach listing brochures and other files, which interested buyers can view online or download. You can add background music or a voice-over about your property’s features; you can provide links to area schools and anything else you want.

What is the NAR?

NAR stands for the National Association of Realtors, the lobbying group listed at #4 on opensecrets.org’s list of political heavy hitters. It’s the organization about which Joe Nocera of the New York Times once wrote: “You have to wonder sometimes what they’re smoking over there at the National Association of Realtors.”

According to Bloodhound Realty Blog, The NAR has stayed under the radar while doing a monstrous amount of damage to the economy, the housing market, and most importantly, the consumer. Bloodhound Realty Blog states (this blog does a great job of exposing the NAR), “It was the NAR that lobbied for each law and rule change that resulted in the housing boom, the sub-prime lending catastrophe, the wanton bundling of fraudulent loans, the ongoing subsidization of the secondary mortgage market, etc. The villain behind all the villains in the collapse of the American economy is the National Association of Realtors.”

“The real estate licensing laws, written in their original form by the NAR, exist to limit competition in real estate brokerage, eliminating alternative sources of real estate brokerage to artificially sustain higher commissions for NAR brokers”

John Crudele of the New York Post recently stated: “The real estate industry lives by the motto: “location, location, location.” Next week it’ll be known for “deception, deception, deception.” People want the truth and the NAR is deceiving the public all to save the sacred real estate commission. Crudele also reports: “The National Association of Realtors admitted that it has been reporting bad figures on sales… Jeez! Tell the truth!… The Realtors aren’t doing the country any favors by sugar-coating their stats… and the people at NAR don’t seem to be bothered by the practice.”

Don’t most people trust real estate agents to get them the best deal?

Unfortunately, people don’t trust them. In the most recent Gallup poll, they ranked lower than bankers but higher than congressmen in terms of ethics.

In all fairness, it’s not the behavior of real estate agents that has been unethical; it’s the way their organization, the NAR, has worked to block their competition. As I see it, and as most Americans see it, competition is for the competent. You own your home, so you should have the choice to sell it any way you choose.

The NAR got a public slap on the wrist in 2008 from the Justice Department when the organization tried to stop real estate agents without a physical office from participating in MLS. The Justice Department had to sue the NAR to allow mobile, internet-based brokers-the kind who operate from laptops and Starbucks instead of fancy offices-to practice their trade.

I think the NAR should be ashamed of making taxpayers pay for this lawsuit, which (in the words of the DOJ itself) “requires NAR to allow Internet-based residential real estate brokers to compete with traditional brokers.” The Department said the settlement would enhance competition in the real estate brokerage industry, giving consumers more choice, better service, and lower commission rates. NAR is now bound by a ten-year settlement to ensure that it continues to abide by the requirements of the agreement.

But don’t Realtors operate under a Code of Ethics?

Ironically, the NAR emphasizes a “Code of Ethics” for all its members-but at the same time, they have been called on the carpet for deceptive statistics on homes sales.

In my opinion, anyone who needs an organization to tell them how to be ethical probably doesn’t understand the code of ethics that they’re swearing to uphold.