I think one of the scariest things about buying a new house is deciding how to get started. Should you go it alone, finding the home on line and a mortgage in the cloud? Should you work with the listing agent and the lender that they recommend? Should you interview REALTORS® and pick your own loan officer, or one that they recommend? What is the best way to get the process going?
If you do your research, you will find that the best way to buy or sell a house is to have someone that you trust acting and negotiating on your behalf. You may feel like that you are good at figuring stuff and out and that you can navigate the process on your own, but most people find that it can be overwhelming and time consuming. Presumably, you have a real job and/or other responsibilities that would not allow you to focus on this 24/7. A REALTOR® does this as their job and will be familiar with the ins and outs--and potential pitfalls--of buying and selling a home. They are looking out for the things that you might not know you need to look for.
How do you find someone to represent you as you buy or sell a home? Ask your friends and family! In survey after survey, purchasers say that they would refer their REALTOR®. Take advantage of other people's experience and ask them for recommendations. Interview the folks that they recommend and see if you have, or could have, a 'trust' relationship with them. If you think you can, you have found your REALTOR®.
Are REALTORs® local to certain places? In Virginia, we are licensed by the state. That means that, legally, we can represent you anywhere in the state. That is not practical, however, so most of us set regional areas for our representation. My area runs from Arlington out to about Leesburg. There have been times when I have gone a bit further, but it depends on where and how time that I have available; I never want to short-change my clients by not being able to get to a property in the course of my day.
Do REALTORS® limit themselves to types of properties or price ranges? Maybe. It depends on the REALTOR®. I work with all types of homes and buyers. I work with First Time Buyers, Luxury Buyers and Sellers and everyone in between. I generally do not do commercial work or horse farm work, but I can work with a client to find the perfect agent to help them with this. I make my choice based on how effectively I can represent my client. I cannot know the ins and outs of every type of property. It makes sense to focus on what I know best, which is residential real estate.
Do REALTORS® work with rentals? It depends. I will do rentals for clients and friends and families of clients. My choice not to do them for everyone is more out of practicality than bias. Again, you just have to pick your specialty area and mine is home purchases and sales. I will always help somone find an agent who can help them find their next home.
What about helping clients find roommate situations? I have had this question a lot because of the age of my children; their friends parents often call me and ask how to get started. There are not a lot of single rooms posted in the MLS. Your best bet for findin them is social media and networking. There are sites that host ads for sublet situations and most people find their rooms and roommates this way. Just proceed with caution and be safe before responding to these ads. Never go alone. If you are looking for an entire property for a group, I can help with that. Just know that a lot of landlords do not want groups of singles, only families or limited numbers of singles (usually no more than 2), in their homes. It can take a little bit longer to find this kind of property, so be sure to leave the time.
How do we pay our REALTOR®? When you hire a REALTOR®, you sign a contract--either a listing agreement or a Buyer's Agency Agreement (in Virginia). The payment terms are spelled out in these documents. Most of the time, the seller or the landlord is paying your REALTOR®'s commission. We don't receive any salary and are only paid when the transaction--purchase, sale or lease--is completed. It is most often paid at closing out of the proceeds of the sale. There is never any cash that exchanges hands directly. Make sure you understand the terms and what, if anything, you will owe when your transaction closes.
Buying, selling or renting can be an incredibly stressful time. Make sure you have someone who is on your side and prepared to help you navigate the situation. While it might be tempting to go it alone, I think you will find that being represented makes the process a better one for you and your ultimate goals.