I paid was nearly $10,000 lower than the new asking price would have been.” Eubanks estimates that his home, purchased for $307,000, has gone up in value by 5% to 10% in the year he’s been living there.
Now that you know the importance of hiring a knowledgeable real estate agent or broker, just how do you go about finding that person? The best source is people you know, people who can tell you what they liked or disliked about their real estate agent. You can also visit open houses for properties already on the market where you can observe a number of agents in action.
Other great sources are Websites that compare real estate companies and agents in your area. Start with www.homegain.com or www.agentconnect.com to locate agents based on their background, experience, local sales, commission rates, and more. Find out if an agent is a member of a realtor’s trade association such as the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org; 800-874-6500) or has additional credentials such as a GRI designation (Graduate Realtors Institute) or the more advanced CRD designation (Certified Residential Specialist).
ATTORNEYS: YOUR BEST DEFENSE
Equally as important to your home team is a seasoned real estate attorney. In fact, some states require attorneys be used for real estate transactions. An attorney will handle legal matters, such as a title search to make sure there are no liens on the property. He or she can also help you prepare for the settlement, or closing, or act as an escrow agent.
Do you really need a lawyer? “You’ll sign a contract when you agree to buy a home. Real estate contracts are not all alike,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates, a publisher of loan information based in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, “but standard contracts represent the interests of the seller. Therefore, they can tilt against you, the buyer. In some cases, clauses can be removed on your behalf, if you work with a good attorney.”
Not having an attorney ch
eck out the paperwork can be costly. “Most home purchase contracts require a payment that might be anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 in earnest money or a down payment,” says Kellye Curtis Clarke, partner at the law firm of Shreves Schudel DeVol Saunders Jackson & Clarke P.L.L.C. in Alexandria, Virginia. Before handing over the cash, you want to know your obligations. “If you don’t have your own attorney go over the contract before you sign,” says Clarke, “you could run the risk of losing all your money by failing to meet all the terms of the agreement.”
Genevia Gee Fulbright, vice president and marketing director at Fulbright & Fulbright CPA, PA, an accounting firm headquartered in Durham, says, “Normally, I recommend that an individual hire his or her own attorney, experienced in real estate transactions, when purchasing a home from an individual, from an estate, or from most companies.” However, she adds, “when the seller is a major developer that has produced a significant number of houses or condo units, it usually will