Buying or selling a home can be one of the most stressful and expensive undertakings many people experience in their lifetimes. It’s like tiptoeing through a minefield. So proceed with caution, know the warning signs and find an experienced guide who knows where the dangers lie and can lead you safely through them. You’ll deal with legal matters, appraisals, market values, financing options, multiple listings, marketing, home inspections, home repairs, home improvements, title searches, contracts, mortgages and, finally, the long hoped-for closing.
You’ll face lengthy, anxious waiting periods, during which you’ll wonder if anyone will ever buy your place and, if so, will you get your price. If you’re buying, you’ll worry about whether you’ll qualify for a loan or whether you’ve picked the right house. In either case, you’ll agonize about whether it will all go through – or will it all fall apart at the last minute?
So where do you start?
First things first: Do your homework.
A good place to begin is with the Internet. Search for “How do I buy a home?” or “How do I sell my house?” or “How do I find a good real estate person?” and you’re on your way. You should, at least, get some basic information about how real estate works so you understand what’s going on. Some people believe they can sell on their own home and choose the for-sale-by-owner route. They hope to save themselves real estate commission fees. But they usually underestimate all that is involved and can greatly regret their choice in the long run. Others choose to buy a home without using a real estate person. This can work well if you’re buying a brand-new home from a builder. But if you’re buying a home from a previous owner, it’s wise to have your own knowledgeable agent to represent your interests, to advise you and to hold your hand through the worst of it. Ironically, in searching the Internet for pertinent real estate information, you may soon feel overwhelmed, because there are thousands of articles online about all aspects of real estate.
“Consumers don’t need to feel like they’re alone in this process, especially when suffering from information overload,” says Oregon Association of Realtors President- Elect Colin Mullane, principal broker at Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland. “While shopping housing inventory can be fun, and no one knows what you want more than you do, there’s a big difference between browsing homes for sale and successfully navigating a complete transaction. On the spectrum of DIY, there’s a definite tipping point where engaging a Realtor in the process makes for a much smoother and more efficient experience with a better chance of
So how does one find a good representative? And what’s the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor?
One excellent resource for the buyer or seller is the National Association of Realtors, which refers to itself as “The Voice of Real Estate.” NAR asserts that its members – Realtors – differ from real estate agents in that real estate agents need only pass a state exam to obtain a real estate license and must adhere only to state laws. NAR members, on the other hand, in addition to obtaining state licenses and obeying state laws, “must subscribe to the association’s code of ethics.” This code, which is delineated on the NAR website, is very specific. It identifies duties to clients, customers, the public and other Realtors. It seeks “to protect and promote the interests of their client [buyer/seller]” and “to treat all parties honestly.” The code forbids members from engaging in unethical behavior. If a complaint is filed against a NAR member for failure to behave ethically, NAR peer committees investigate. If found guilty, the Realtor faces fines, suspension or permanent loss of license, depending on the seriousness of the offense. Incidentally, NAR’s code of ethics reminds one of a Biblical
teaching: “Realtors can take no safer guide than that which has been handed down through the centuries, embodied in the Golden Rule.” Or, in Jewish terms, to quote the great Rabbi Hillel, “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others.”
NAR, founded in 1908, is also an enormous trade and lobbying association with more than a million members (real estate salespersons, brokers, property managers, appraisers). Members are required to continue their education, and NAR offers courses, seminars and conferences on all matters dealing with real estate issues and laws, along with required classes for realtors to regularly review its code of ethics.
Why would a licensed real estate agent choose not to join NAR? Since NAR exists primarily for residential home sales, many commercial real estate agents may not join. Or agents who work in a builder’s office selling new subdivision homes only need a state license. Ongoing dues and continuing education requirements also dissuade some real estate agents who are not pursuing real estate as a full-time career.
So if you’re facing the minefield of home buying and/or selling, it’s up to you to decide how you want to get through it. Of course, you can choose to do it on your own but, remember, it’s very risky. As for me, I’ll get by with a little help from my experienced, qualified, Realtor friends.
Joni Browne-Walders is a produced playwright, editor and freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.