By Erik J. Martin
Ever tried representing yourself in a court case, climbing a steep mountain minus a guide, or coordinating a giant wedding without a professional planner? While you may not be required to have an expert for some key events in life, navigating them is a whole lot easier when you’ve got a pro on your side.
The same is true of hunting for and purchasing a home. The process can be a lot more complicated and downright risky without representation in the form of a real estate agent or Realtor.
A real estate agent is anyone who holds a real estate salesperson or broker license in a particular state. These individuals are licensed to help people sell and purchase homes as well as occasionally act as a property manager. A Realtor is someone who is a real estate agent but is also a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Realtors also must adhere to a code of ethics and standards of practice and complete continuing education courses to remain in good standing with the NAR.
Jasen Edwards, chair of the Agent Editorial Board, says the advantages of collaborating with an agent/Realtor are numerous. “Agents have extensive knowledge of the local market, including current trends, pricing history, and availability. They will also be familiar with zoning laws and regulations as well as any other local laws that may affect the property,” he says. Agents are skilled in locating the right property for their client’s needs, running comparables to ensure buyers don’t overpay, working with all necessary third parties, and understanding the transaction process from start to finish. Additionally, agents are completely unbiased when it comes to the property search, helping you meet your buying objectives while staying within your criteria. Furthermore, they are a great source when you have questions about local amenities, utilities, zoning rules, contractors, and more.
Importantly, an agent can also provide invaluable assistance with negotiations.
“They can act as a buffer between buyers and sellers, helping ensure that both parties receive a fair deal. They will also be familiar with financial assistance options, such as loan programs and grants,” adds Edwards. Best of all, a buyer’s agent shouldn’t cost you a thing. Typically, the seller pays the commission for the buyer’s agent, unless you are purchasing a property off-market or for sale by owner. So, there’s really no reason not to work with a real estate agent.
The risks of not having an agent in your corner are plentiful. For one, there are many legal considerations when buying a property, including contracts, title issues, and disclosures. Hiring a real estate attorney can help with these matters, but so can an experienced agent.
Without a real estate agent, you are also unlikely to gain access to a comprehensive database of available homes on the market. So, you may miss out on a great property and a fantastic bargain. Plus, if you’re not familiar with what’s customary in a particular real estate market, you may also end up overpaying for certain closing costs, like escrow fees and taxes.
Also, there’s always the risk of fraud to worry about when you aren’t represented by an agent. “You could be vulnerable to scams or fraud without an agent’s help,” Edwards cautions. Lastly, consider that searching for, making an offer, and closing on a home is a time-consuming process.
“Without an agent, you will have to spend a lot of time researching locations, hunting for homes, and negotiating on your own,” Edwards says. The best way to find a good agent/Realtor is to request referrals from family, friends, and colleagues.
“You can also research local agents online and check out the ratings and reviews. Make sure to read up on the agent’s qualifications, experience, and track record to ensure they are a good fit for your needs,” recommends Edwards.