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The majority of potential real estate buyers seek the assistance of a real estate broker in completing their purchase. An agent can help you target potential neighborhoods, provide you with rental income estimates, assist you with mortgage pre-qualification and generally help you manage the seemingly endless details of your real estate purchase.
SUGGESTION: If you are purchasing rental property, one of the most useful pieces of information you can get from a real estate broker is information regarding the rental market in that particular area. Ask the broker if their office is generally busy with finding apartments for renters.
When you venture into the world of real estate sales, you'll begin to hear a number of different titles. Let's take a look at what they all mean:
Realtor: A member of the National Association of Realtors, a trade and lobby organization. They are bound by a code of ethics. Not all salespeople are realtors.
Broker: An individual licensed to operate a real estate office. Most states require several years of experience to acquire this designation.
Agent: Also sometimes called a sales associate. The common name for any real estate professional. All agents must either be brokers or work under a broker in an office where several salespeople are employed.
Listing Agent: The agent responsible for signing up the seller of a home with a particular broker. The home is usually then also listed with the Multiple Listing Service.
Selling Agent: The agent responsible for the sale of a particular property. The property may be listed with their own agency, or learned about via the Multiple Listing Service.
Buyer's Agent: The agent hired by the buyer as opposed to the seller of the property. A buyer's agent will help find the home, terms, and overall conditions most favorable to the buyer in a given transaction.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Buyer beware. Although the broker will provide assistance to you (the buyer), the broker's fees are paid by the seller of the property, whether on a flat fee basis or as a percentage of the selling price of the property. There is an obvious obligation for the broker to represent the interests of the seller—and get the seller the best possible deal.
This doesn't mean that you'll be misled or mistreated in any way. Realtors are professionals who abide by a code of ethics, as well as state law, that protect you against unscrupulous behavior. The point is, however, that a savvy buyer should never tell the broker everything! If you plan to offer $300,000 for a home, but know that you would ultimately be willing to pay $350,000, never tell the broker your upper limit. They are bound, in many cases by state law, to tell the seller this information. Once the seller knows your initial offer is a lowball bid, it is quite unlikely that they would ever accept anything lower than your upper limit of $350,000.
SUGGESTION: Typically, demand for homes surges in April through June, then again in September through Thanksgiving. By timing your house hunting and purchase in the remaining slower months, you may find more eager salespeople and sellers that are willing to bargain in order to cut a deal.