Buying or selling a home can be complicated and time consuming. A hundred different problems can arise during a typical transaction. Good realtors not only solve these problems for clients, they also anticipate such problems before they occur.
But not all realtors are good at what they do. Some are not as committed or competent as others, and their shortfalls can cause headaches and considerable financial losses for clients.
Here are five common ways a realtor can mishandle – or even destroy -- your home sale or home purchase.
1. Delaying or complicating access to the property for inspections and appraisals.
Both listing agents and buyer agents can be guilty of this.
Real estate purchase contracts usually require that a property inspection be completed by a certain deadline – typically seven to 10 days after the date of contract acceptance. An appraisal of the home is required and arranged by the buyer’s lender as a condition of making the loan.
It’s the listing agent’s duty to help ensure that the property is accessible to the home inspector and the appraiser. The buyer’s agent, meanwhile, must help the buyer arrange the property inspection, and make sure that any repair requests resulting from the inspection are submitted to the seller in the proper format by the established deadline.
Many real estate deals collapse due to inspection and appraisal issues. If the buyers and their agent miss the deadline for completing the home inspection and requesting repairs, the buyers can lose the right to ask the sellers to make the repairs as a condition of moving forward with the deal.
If you’re buying a home, make sure your agent knows the specific date by which he/she must submit repair requests to the seller. Better yet, immediately after the contract offer is signed by both parties, ask your realtor when the property inspection will take place.
2. Failing to get completed paperwork to the mortgage lender on time.
Home buyers and their agents are responsible for getting certain information to the mortgage lender on time. Failure to provide complete and accurate information to the lender as requested can significantly delay or even wreck a deal.
One great example of this is when first-time home buyers use home buyer assistance programs to help fund their purchase. Some of these programs require that buyers complete coursework to receive their benefits.
Lenders usually require proof that this coursework is completed. Home buyers sometimes drag their feet on completing this work. Failing to complete a home buyer assistance course and provide appropriate documentation to the lender can unnecessarily delay or derail your home purchase.
To help avoid this and similar problems with red tape, ask your realtor what documents and forms must be submitted to the mortgage lender and when that information must be provided.
3. Handling a type of transaction they’re unfamiliar with.
Some agents are better at handling certain types of real estate transactions.
Want to buy waterfront property? Then your agent should understand things like riparian rights and the proper mean-low-water-level for your boat.
What about buying a short sale? Does your agent use a short-sale negotiation service or does he “handle” all the mind-numbing administrative requirements himself?
Engaging a realtor to handle a transaction type he or she is unfamiliar with is setting yourself up for failure.
Consider short sales, for example. Every short sale is different, and there are key questions to ask.
For example, does the seller have one mortgage on the property or two? If there are two mortgages, does the same bank hold both mortgages, or are they owned by different banks? And which banks, in particular, hold those loans? Realtors that handle short sales know that certain banks are notoriously difficult to work with.
The answers to these questions can make a difference in whether you’ll wait two months for an approval decision or nine months. Or even longer.
A good agent with experience handling short sales can set the proper expectations for you and streamline the purchase process to minimize the work and aggravation short sales entail.
The same holds true for other types of real estate transactions: investment properties, vacation properties, rent-to-owns, waterfront homes and the like.
Make sure your agent has experience with the type of property you’re looking to buy.
4. Failing to promptly return phone calls, emails or text messages.
Buying real estate is an involved, high-stakes endeavor with many key players and critical deadlines. Problems crop up quickly and frequently. Consequently, transactions must be constantly monitored and nurtured by your realtor, and your realtor should keep you apprised of what’s happening. This is especially true if you, as the buyer or seller, have not been through the process before.
The key to conducting any business of this magnitude is communication. The parties must have the ability to contact one another whenever necessary to clarify issues that arise.
In this day and age, people prefer to communicate in different ways, whether it be by phone, email or text message. You and your realtor should discuss this issue before signing a representation agreement. How often do you expect updates from your realtor? How quickly do you expect him or her to respond to your messages? What is your preferred method of communication?
It’s one thing for your agent to leave town for a few days for a family vacation. But it’s another thing if your agent doesn’t return your messages and hasn’t enlisted a qualified colleague to help you while he’s away.
5. Failing to do proper research.
What if your agent helps you buy a home and after taking possession you learn that your HOA doesn’t allow you to keep your dog?
What if you buy a home thinking it’s located in a certain school district, but once you move in you find the home actually feeds into a different school?
Or, what if three months after placing a purchase contract on a short sale home you discover the seller will not pay to have the home’s gas, water and electric service turned on for the property inspection?
In instances like these, more comprehensive research by the agent – along with due diligence by the client – can help prevent nasty surprises.
Realtors are not responsible for knowing everything about a home. But reputable, experienced agents tend to know more about the business and how to avoid the kinds of problems that can arise.
Seek out agents you can trust. Ask friends and relatives for referrals. Ask tough questions of your realtor before you engage his or her services.
Not all realtors are the same. As in any profession, some practitioners are better than others, and you want to work with the good ones.
Jerry Kline is a Realtor with the Odenton, Md., office of Keller Williams Flagship Realty (1216 Annapolis Rd., Odenton.) For more information on the local real estate market, contact him at (443) 924-7418, or visit his blog (www.JerryKlineRealtor.wordpress.com) or website (www.JerryKline.kwrealty.com).
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