• Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Skill
  • Liability
  • Standing in the middle

With all the discount services available and the internet providing information on just about everything from listings to loans, why should you spend the money hiring a professional to market your home?

Most people don’t act as their own lawyer, doctor or dentist, do they? Most don’t even make major home repairs themselves – they hire professionals. Why? Because they expect the professional will do a better job.

But on with why a Realtor is necessary.

  1. Liability.

There can be very big dollars involved when errors are made in real estate and some people just love finding and milking them for every last dime they can squeeze out. (Not that you would, of course.)

People who like to sue know – correctly – that if an error is made, the first person to target is the real estate broker. Why? Because they carry errors and omissions insurance, giving them supposedly deep pockets.

So the first line of defense for the person who finds himself threatened with a suit is his agent’s company. The second line is the other party’s agent’s company. Most of the time, both become involved.

The principals (buyers and sellers) in a transaction do have liability also – but if the principal in question had been represented properly, there shouldn’t have been an error, right? Right. Or at least that’s what judges are told.

On the other hand, say you don’t have an agent, and somebody is going after what’s in your personal wallet. Then you must hire an attorney. Win or lose, that’s not free. Then you must discover what laws or rules you’re accused of breaking, figure out whether you broke them or not and consult with your attorney as to how best to handle it. Then you must put together all the records of the transaction. That means ALL the records, documents, emails, photos, every last little thing that has to do with it. From that point, it’s most likely in your attorney’s hands – whether there will be mediation, arbitration, a hearing, or whatever, depends on the contract you signed. But whatever it is, it’s not fun. As a non-professional you’ll have to interpret jargon, read between the lines of what the other parties say, and hope your attorney is leading you in the right direction. Bottom line: It can take months, sometimes years, and cost thousands, even if you win.

Short and sweet – if you get involved with a litigious person and are faced with a suit over some error, either real or imaginary, it’s very stressful and can be very expensive. However, with your agent on board, you won’t be going into battle alone and it’s highly unlikely you’ll personally pay for someone else’s error.

If it was your error and not your agent’s, that’s a subject for another article on how to avoid that happening.

  • Knowledge

You need your agent’s knowledge – of the industry, of the practices and processes involved, sometimes of the other agent, as well as his or her knowledge of marketing. In actual fact, though, marketing is probably one of the least important factors because once that listing is in MLS, everybody in the business knows about it.

(So why not just hire one of those companies that will put your listing in MLS and leave the rest up to you? If your property will sell five minutes after it’s in MLS, maybe you should. But if you have even the slightest doubt about that, read on.)

One of the things experienced agents know is how to recognize red flags. Most non-professionals don’t. No, they don’t, no matter how intelligent they may be. What are those? Red flags are indicators of potential trouble – it’s important to see and deal with them before they turn into actual trouble.

It takes between seven and fifteen or so independent individuals or companies to get a real estate transaction ready to close. If any of those individuals or companies drop the ball or make a mistake, the entire transaction can be delayed or jeopardized. It’s the Realtor’s job to coordinate all those entities and make sure their tasks are completed correctly and in a timely manner. Red flags can come from anywhere during the process and the agents involved have to be prepared to handle and solve them.

That takes knowledge most non-professionals don’t have.

That trouble-free transaction buyers and sellers expect does not happen without that knowledge. If you’ve had a transaction like that it’s probably because your agent was there to resolve issues before they became problems – and you may not even know they occurred.

  • Experience.

Everyone’s a beginner at some point, so I’m not advising you not to work with a new agent. Not at all. But you do need to be sure your novice agent has resources at hand – an experienced principal broker being key. And you do need to be sure your agent works for a reputable company with a good track record. There are many ways of checking out who you’re working with, the very best being satisfied past clients – either of your agent, or if she’s brand new, of her company. Don’t leave out that step.

  • Skill.

Many different skills are necessary for a successful agent – and for a successful transaction.

Just a few: understanding numbers; being a top-notch negotiator; being friendly – courteous, tactful and diplomatic; being a problem-solver by nature – looking for solutions rather than creating problems; maintaining a professional demeanor when dealing with difficult people.

Do you know how to analyze an offer to arrive at your true bottom line – how much actual money you’ll net?

Can you be cool-headed when an offer is insultingly low?

Do you know when to understand that offer is the best you can expect from that buyer and when to recognize it’s only an opening bid?

Can you tell someone “no,” while at the same time encouraging them to try again?

Do you recognize when an aggressive demeanor is intended to intimidate you into caving in to demands, and do you have the skill to get past hostility to a place where a meeting of the minds can happen?

What about after a contract is signed and the other party wants to change the terms.  Which, by the way, happens a lot! Can you deal with the situation in a way that’s fair and equitable without antagonizing that other party and destroying the transaction?

And I haven’t yet gotten to what happens about property condition issues. Those are a whole other ball of wax, kettle of fish – or maybe kettle of wax/ball of fish??? Regardless – that’s a whole other set of skills which we’ll discuss later.

  • Standing in the middle.

Your agent is there to mitigate personal contact between you and the other party to your transaction – by standing in the middle.

Horror stories abound about transactions being destroyed by one party inadvertently – or not – offending the other with disastrous results.

Every agent knows keeping buyers and sellers apart until after closing is critical to a successful transaction.

Don’t believe me? You should!

What you should NOT do is be present when people are looking at your house and/or discussing it. Stay away if at all possible.

Do NOT follow prospects around extolling the virtues of your home and why they should buy it – or worse, asking if they’re going to make an offer.

Do NOT verbally negotiate or say anything that could remotely be considered negotiating!

All of that is interfering with getting the job done – for you.  It’s your agent’s job to talk to prospects and you need to stand aside and let her/him do it! DO refer all questions and comments to your agent as soon as you can.

Keep in mind, folks, the objective is closing, not finding your new best friend!

Buying or selling a home is very personal to just about everyone. People tend to be nervous, even a little paranoid and anxious. Agents are there to keep everyone centered and in reality, to prevent small things from becoming big deals, and to be the one to handle all the many concerns that come up.