I overheard some people talking about real estate last week and one of them mentioned she had hired an attorney to help her with answers on her short sale because, “Real estate agents never tell you what to do; they just say, well you could do this or you could that. The lawyers tell you do this, sign here.”
Of course this simple observation sent me into a tailspin of inferiority. Do I not answer my clients’ questions definitively? Am I really not that helpful? Is the existence of real estate agents basically totally pointless? Should I just dig a hole in my backyard, crawl into it, cover myself up and perish so that I save my loved ones the effort of disposing of my useless remains?
About two feet into my hole I had an epiphany: It’s not that real estate agents aren’t useful or good at what we do; it’s actually that the public is a little bit confused about just what exactly that encompasses.
I can see how this would happen. Realtors are notorious for getting involved up to our elbows in a deal. We work on commission, so we don’t get paid if it doesn’t go through. This gives us extra incentive to be problem solvers and sometimes it even gives us enough incentive to be the guy who goes over and fills the pool up before the appraiser gets there. This, however, does not mean we are the pool guy.
So today, just for fun, let’s do a quick breakdown of what the job of your Realtor is.
It IS your Realtor’s job to:
Set you up with a property search
Show you houses
Advise you of what comparable houses have sold for recently
Write a contract for you to make an offer (in the state of Arizona this is the Realtor’s job, because we have been given the legal right to write real estate contracts under our licensing, in other states you must have an attorney write the contract)
Act as a go between to negotiate between you and the seller or buyer
Guide you through the home buying escrow process and advise you of your time limits, rights and responsibilities
Advise you on the price at which your house will sell
List your house for you on the MLS
Photograph your house (or pay to have it professionally photographed)
Put a lockbox and a sign at your house
Check with the agents who’ve shown your house to get feedback on how it showed
Regularly reassess the listing price in relation to the market
Bring you all offers that have been submitted on your property and help you to navigate them
Assist and advise you through the selling escrow process
That’s mostly it. It’s generally our job to make the houses on the market available to you, or if you are the seller, make your house available to the market. It’s also our job to give you the facts on how the market and other properties that have sold recently factor in to your personal buying or selling situation. Then, it’s our job to explain and write the contracts for you. It really breaks down to those three areas.
But I’m sure you know there is LOTS more that goes into buying a house. You also generally depend on your Realtor for LOTS more than that. And hey, we have LOTS of experience in these transactions to bring to the table, so it would be rude of us not to help, right? So we do. We get in there and really get our hands dirty. We refer you to lenders and title companies and home warranty companies, we negotiate your short sales, we hand out anecdotal legal advice, we tell you what we’ve heard about tax implications, we point out cracks in the foundation and tell stories of what we’ve heard inspectors say about them, we drive you around, we schmooze appraisers, we generally get shit done.
However, with every one of these little extra things we do, we hand it to you with a caveat. 800 times a day we say, “This is what I would probably do, but if you have any questions or concerns, you should really consult a professional.” This may sound like we’re saying we’re not a professional. It may sound like we don’t really know anything. That’s just not the case. We are professional Realtors. You can take my word to the bank if it’s regarding the Arizona approved real estate contract, whether I can meet you at a house, or what is the best recent sold comp. I went to school for this. I’m licensed to help you with these things. I did not, however, go to Lawyer School, How To Keep the IRS From Throwing You in Jail School, or Build a House School. I didn’t even actually go to How to Fill a Pool School. I’m happy to tell you what I know about these things (which is, actually, kind of a lot), but you need to know I’m not a licensed professional in any of these areas.
So let’s finish up with things it’s NOT your Realtor’s job to do (but that they might help you with if you ask, as long as you know you can’t hold them legally accountable):
Advising you on the legal ramifications of short selling your house
Watering your landscaping
Meeting professionals at your house to have work done
Referring you to any multitude of professionals needed to get the house closed
Figuring out how you will have to file taxes on your short sale
Predicting exactly how long it will take for the short sale you put an offer on to be approved
Getting you quotes from contractors to figure out how much it will cost to remodel the house you’re buying
Helping you figure out how to keep scorpions from invading your house
Translating between you and your lender
Mediating between you and your spouse (or ex-spouse)
Giving you general financial advice
Determining whether purchasing a property will be a ‘good investment’
Seeing the future
I could go on, but I’ll stop there. In general, when you ask your Realtor to do something (or she offers), determine if it fits into one of the three basic Realtor job categories: showing or making available houses, advising on the market, explaining or writing contracts. If it doesn’t, think about if you should really be asking a professional to do this. If you feel confident your Realtor can handle it, consider acknowledging her for going above and beyond to help you out. Or at the very least, keep in mind you can’t sue her for it.