You know you need to contact your trusted local Realtor if you are planning to sell your home.
A qualified agent will assess market conditions, determine the value of your property so you can set the right listing price, advise you on preparing your house or condo for sale, assist you in filling out disclosure forms, market the home for the widest possible exposure, evaluate offers, negotiate price and terms, and walk you through the escrow process to a satisfactory close.
You may also know you are entitled to your own representation – separate from the listing agent, who represents the sellers – when you purchase real estate.
But there are many other services a real estate agent can provide. When should you contact your Realtor?
• You Want to Purchase a Brand New Home
Many buyers don’t realize their Realtor can help them find and get a good deal on a home from a builder.
Your agent can help you determine whether to use the builder’s lender or go with someone else, explain the paperwork to you and help you decide which upgrades will be the best investment in the long run.
They may even be able to negotiate price reductions or additional upgrades.
Most builders will cover your agent’s fee, as long as that agent accompanies you to the development the first time you visit. Unfortunately, if you view a development for the first time without your agent, you likely will be on your own in dealing with the builder or else you can compensate your agent out of your own pocket.
• You Are Moving Out of the Area or Buying Vacation Property
Agents licensed in California legally can represent you anywhere in the state, but most will not help you buy or sell real estate in areas with which they are unfamiliar. They probably belong to networks that will allow them to find you a great agent who specializes in the area you are looking to move to, however.
This is true not only for other parts of California, but throughout North America and sometimes beyond.
If your agent is affiliated with a large company, that company may have offices in other regions. If your agent participates in a national coaching company or has earned a designation such as Certified Residential Specialist or Senior Real Estate Specialist, he or she can refer you to other agents with similar credentials. Referrals benefit both you and your Realtor.
• You Are Moving, But You Don’t Want to Sell Your Home
Maybe you want to purchase your next home while keeping your current property as an investment. Your agent likely can help you with that.
Some Realtors specialize in managing rentals and have the ability to run credit and background checks on prospective tenants.
Others will refer you to a property management company that can screen renters and look after the property in your absence.
• You Don’t Want to Buy or Sell Now, but You May in the Future.
Your Realtor can keep you up-to-date with market conditions, fluctuations in interest rates, and legislation that may impact property rights or affordability. Many agents provide quarterly or even monthly newsletters, chock full of such information. Others meet with past and potential clients periodically to discuss their real estate needs.
But even if yours doesn’t, he or she will likely be happy to provide the information you seek.
And if you need to rent a home, your agent can help you find a rental or refer you to a Realtor who specializes in rentals.
• You Want to Acquire Investment Property
For rentals, fixers to flip, land for future development or other types of investment property, your agent can help you find and secure real estate that will serve your long-term goals.
And when it’s time to sell that investment property, your agent can connect you with exchange companies to help you defer capital gains taxes on the sale.
• You Want to Buy a Business
Maybe you are looking to purchase an established business or secure space in which to open a new business.
Some agents handle both residential and commercial real estate but, most likely, your residential agent will refer you to a commercial agent who knows the area, the business climate, sources of commercial funding, and local rules and regulations necessary to get you started.
• Your House Isn’t Perfect, But You Don’t Want to Move
Maybe you love the location or the floorplan. Maybe what you really want is your house – only better.
Chances are your agent knows top-quality contractors, plumbers, electricians, architects, landscapers and other home improvement specialists. Just ask for a referral.
• Your House Is Perfect, But Your Mortgage Isn’t
Maybe what you really need is to refinance your mortgage. Your agent can refer you to a trusted mortgage specialist.
• You Want Information about Your Neighborhood
When you are looking for updates on new developments, schools, parks, transportation or other changes that could impact your neighborhood, talk to your local Realtor. He or she may not be familiar with everything that is going on, but chances are your agent can find the answers you need.
• Your Spouse or Someone Else on Title Dies
If you share title to any real estate you own and that person dies, you will need to document the value of the property at the time of death for tax purposes.
Depending on the title held, you may not need that information until you or your heirs sell the property. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to get an accurate assessment.
You can, of course, hire an appraiser. But many Realtors will provide a Broker Price Opinion for their clients for little or no compensation. (This also applies if one person wants to buy out the other’s shares, due to divorce or other circumstances.)
• Someone You Know Would Benefit from Your Agent’s Services
You are not planning to move, buy commercial or investment property, remodel your home or refinance your mortgage, and no one has died, but a friend, a neighbor or a family member is thinking about making a change. Don’t you want them to benefit from the same great professional service you have enjoyed?
Call your local Realtor today and pass along that person’s contact information. Your friend will thank you for it.
Cher Wollard is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Livermore.