In basketball, every position on your starting five plays a major role. Your point guard sets up the offense. Your center serves as a pivot and low post threat. And your power forward is often a key defender and rebounder. But it’s your go-to scorer whom you typically rely on to rack up the points and win the contest.
In the game of real estate, your agent, who serves as MVP of your home buying squad, plays this role. Think of him or her as your personal LeBron James – a versatile expert skilled at many positions who can lead you to the promised land of your first home by putting you on the right path to the right property – right away.
“An effective agent can save you valuable time by matching you with the best homes that fit your criteria, oftentimes narrowing your search to the top choices. With an experienced agent on your side, you won’t have to exhaust yourself going from one open house to another every weekend to find the perfect home,” says Teresa Tumminia, Mortgage Specialist with 3rd Generation Mortgages based in New Jersey. “In addition, they sometimes have access to properties before they even hit the market, giving you an advantage in the buying process; combine that with a mortgage pre-approval and you’ll come in as a strong buyer. ”
What’s more, your agent can help assemble the rest of your team.
“They can manage all the players involved and the entire process on your behalf,” adds Tumminia. “An experienced realtor will more than likely have relationships with all the other team members you’ll need – including a lender, inspector, title company and real estate attorney – and can provide those referrals accordingly. You want your buying process to be as smooth and seamless as possible,” says Philippa Bebbington, Realtor Associate with RE/MAX in Monroe, NJ.
“Having a cohesive team of professionals can increase the chances of a smooth transaction,” says Bebbington, who adds that of course you can choose these individuals yourself and aren’t obligated to go with your agent’s recommended experts.
Additionally, a seasoned agent knows the pros and cons of specific areas and the types of properties that can return a higher resale value, “which helps protect your investment. They can also help to make sure your purchase will fulfill your needs now and in the future,” says Bebbington.
What’s the difference between a Realtor, an agent and a broker, you ask? According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), any person who earns a real estate license can be called an agent, whether that license is as a sales professional, an associate broker or a broker. A broker, meanwhile, has earned education exceeding the agent level (as mandated by state laws) and has passed a broker’s license exam. A Realtor is either an agent or broker and is an NAR member; a Realtor must abide by that organization’s code of ethics and its 17 articles, enforced by local real estate boards.
The “Realtor” title (a trademarked term) is an added protection that your agent will act ethically, with integrity, and cooperate with other real estate professionals, which is a critical component once you start negotiating a home purchase.
To help choose the right agent or Realtor for you, it’s important to follow recommended criteria.
This person should have good communication skills – someone who you feel comfortable with and who understands what you’re looking for.
Experience can make a big difference, too.
Choose an agent who has been licensed for at least a few years and who can furnish a list of closed sales. You don’t want a person who isn’t committed to your needs and who does this part-time as a side job.
Listen to your gut instincts, as well.
You should work with someone you trust. It’s also helpful to select an agent who is familiar with your neighborhood and has sold similar homes in the area.
To help you narrow down the right real estate candidate, ask these questions:
- How long have you been licensed and how many sales have you closed?
- Are you an agent or Realtor? Full-time or part-time?
- Will I be working directly with you or someone else from your team?
- What sets you apart from other agents?
- What’s your strategy to help me save time and money?
- Do you have online reviews I can see or past clients I can contact?