Home Team Advantage

Tracey and Michael Garner of Kennesaw, Georgia, spent three glorious years in their first home, which they purchased for $134,000. But once their family grew to include three young children — Jarius, 6, Jalen, 4, and Jaeda, 2 — they needed a much larger dwelling.

Not wanting to find a new home on their own, the Garners turned to friends for referrals of local realtors. They chose LaVonne Walker, an agent with Prudential Georgia Realty in Marietta. While driving around different neighborhoods, the Garners came upon a new subdivision. “The location was nice and it was a small community. The quality of the homes and the builder also played a big factor,” says Tracey, 35, who owns a bridal consulting business.

Acting as their real estate agent, Walker helped the Garners negotiate with the builder. “LaVonne knew to ask the builder for the kinds of upgrades that could be available,” says Tracey. “There were things we didn’t know how to ask about, such as more hardwood flooring instead of carpeting.” Walker also drafted a contingency clause, says Michael, 35, a structural design engineer. “In case our house hadn’t sold in a certain time period, we’d be relieved of our obligation. We also were given the right to buy in the next phase of the development. As it turned out, that’s what happened; it took a little longer to sell our old house.”

Thanks to Walker’s contingency plan, the Garners avoided having to pay two mortgages at the same time. “A good agent won’t let the seller pressure you into buying before you’re ready,” says Tracey. Walker helped the Garners buy a two-story home they liked as well as sell their former house for $162,000.

Each year, millions of Americans buy homes. But that doesn’t mean they all get the right place at the right price. Errors can happen and the stakes are high. “Buying a home is a major financial transaction,” says Mike Hannigan, executive vice president of The Precedent Cos., a real estate firm in Indianapolis. “Working with reputable professionals can help you understand the risks as well as the benefits.”

You should have a team of people knowledgeable about buying real estate. You won’t necessarily huddle with your team members as a group but you should have good relationships with individuals who can help you progress from first down to touchdown.

So, who belongs on this winning team? You’ll want at least three key players: a real estate agent or broker, a reputable lawyer, and a lender. Here are some pointers to help you score big.

You can hire a real estate agent or a broker. An agent is licensed by the Department of Real Estate to handle real estate sales and is someone who usually works for a specific company. A broker, also licensed by the state, is often the person who owns a real estate company and manages other agents. A licensed realtor can review the entire market and show any house in a neighborhood. Which one you choose depends on your