Frequently Asked Questions


Why should I use a Real Estate Agent?

 

Real Estate Agents act as your representative; negotiating on your behalf and working in your best interest while advocating on your behalf. When representing a listing, your agent will inform you about the market in your neighborhood, aggressively price your listing, creatively market your home, pitch it to other agents, increase the visibility of your home sale and ultimately negotiate with buyers on your behalf to net the highest price in the fastest time frame possible.  When representing a buyer, your real estate agent will listen carefully to your needs list, introduce you to lending professionals who can help you get a loan with the best rate, hunt for homes on your behalf, attend broker only events to learn about properties before they go on the market, preview homes for you, tour you around specific neighborhoods, schedule showings at listings you're interested in, submit offers and negotiate on your behalf, represent you through the escrow period, guide you through the home inspection and any additional investigations as needed at the property, help you be informed and knowledgable about the home before purchasing it, negotiate credits or repairs based on the results of the investigations, guide you through your contractual obligations and assist you in meeting the timeline required in the contract, all to ensure a smooth and timely closing. While there are many parties involved in a real estate transaction, your agent is the only one working as your representative to ensure your best interests are met and advocating on your behalf. 


How much does it cost to use a Real Estate Agent to buy a house?


It does not cost a buyer anything to work with a Real Estate Agent. Agents are paid by the seller, a pre-negotiated rate determined by the listing agent at the time of the listing contract. Listing agents understand cooperating with buyer's agents is a part of the cost of doing business. In fact, they rely on outside agents to bring clients to them. Therefore, there is no downside and no cost on your end to have a Real Estate Agent represent you.


What are closing costs?


Closing costs are an inescapable part of buying a home. The closing costs vary depending on every transaction and include things like the cost of the home inspection, appraisal, loan fees, notary and wire fees, title fees, etc. While some of these fees are unavoidable, working with an experienced real estate agent will help you save on these closing costs. They will recommending professional inspectors or contractors for the investigation period. They can assist in communicating among all the parties involved in the transaction to eliminate redundancies, such as repeat appraisal inspections, to ensure the process is as efficient and ultimately less expensive as possible.


What does FSBO mean?


FSBO (pronounced fizbo) stands for "For Sale By Owner." A FSBO property is a property for sale in which the seller has not employed the use of a real estate professional. Typically these homes are not sold the same way as a real estate agent represented property and the process will be different for a buyer as well. If you find yourself interested in a FSBO property, there are many things you need to know. 

Why did the seller choose to FSBO? Sellers attempt to sell their homes without an agent to save money. While commissions vary, the standard real estate commission is 6% which is normally split between the listing agent and buyer's agent. A seller might attempt to FSBO because they are in a hot market and they believe the home will sell itself. FSBO homes are typically more difficult to find. Without the use of a real estate professional, sellers cannot post their property on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service.) There are specific websites such as fsbo.com, or many sellers post in the classified section of the local newspaper, or on craigslist.org. This is certainly one of the many reasons why sellers employ the use of a real estate agent rather than going it alone. 

Can I use a real estate agent to buy a FSBO? You can and should. It is always in your best interests to have someone negotiating for you, representing your interests and advocating on your behalf. Many private sellers are still willing to pay the "buy side" to ensure buyers are properly qualified to make the purchase and that the paperwork is handled correctly. 

What are the risks of buying a FSBO home? If you as a buyer are working with a real estate agent, the risks are minimal, but if you are not working with an agent yourself, beware. Often FSBO sellers price their homes high for the market, because they are not properly advised on the market in their neighborhood. You'll also want to make sure you have a very thorough home inspection, as you won't have an agent on your side looking for red flags. If you buy a FSBO home, be prepared to do most of the leg work yourself.  You may consider employing a transactional agent to assist with the paperwork. Your state's laws regarding disclosures do not change when the seller is unrepresented, but they can often be disregarded. This explains why most buyers prefer to utilize an agent to represent them through this complicated process. 


What is a broker?


Many people who are unfamiliar with the real estate industry use the terms real estate agent, broker and Realtor interchangeably. The biggest distinction between the 3 is that a broker can work on their own, while a real estate agent must work underneath a broker. There are many big name brokerages, such a s Berkshire Hathaway, that provide agents and their clients with legal services, insurance and various other protections. A Realtor is a real estate agent who is also a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and has agreed to abide by their standards and uphold their code of ethics. 


What is a contingency?


A contingency is a condition that has to be met for the contract to be binding, Common contingencies are financing, inspection and others which protect buyers, and their earnest money, in a real estate transaction. While the most common contingencies are financing and inspection contingencies, there are many others depending on the transaction. The financing contingency ensures buyers will be able to properly apply for financing and protect them from financial loss in the case that financing becomes unavailable. Financing contingencies often have a time frame for the buyer to apply for financing. The standard time frame in a California real estate transaction is 21 days, although this varies regularly and can be negotiated differently. If the buyer follows the terms of the contract and the lending institution can't deliver the funds to make the home loan possible, the buyer has an option to get out of the contract without loosing their earnest money. An inspection contingency works in a similar way. There is a time line, standard in CA is 17 days, in which they may inspect and investigate the property with use of inspection professionals and then respond to the seller. Buyers can accept the property in its current condition, can ask the seller for repairs or credit in lieu of repairs, or disapprove of the inspection entirely and end the contract. These contingencies will certainly vary depending on the real estate transaction so consulting with your Real Estate Agent to ensure you meet and understand the contractual contingencies and your obligations regarding them is a necessity. 



What is an HOA?

 

HOA stand for Home Owner's Association.  Many communities have enlisted HOA's in order to ensure property values are maintained and homes neighborhoods are cohesive. This is accomplished by enforcing the community's covenant and maintaining the common areas. The association is started as a non-profit organization, created by the developer of a community. Similar to other non-profit organizations or corporations, there has to be a leadership team, which in this case is called the Board of Directors. Once a family buys a home in the development, they become a member of the homeowners association. When the community starts to grow, the residents can elect the members who are most qualified and interested in overseeing the association to serve on their Board of Directors. Once a certain percentage or number of the community’s homes are sold, the developer turns full control of the association over to the board. The biggest advantage of a homeowners association is the shared common areas within the community. Most associations have pools, clubhouses, volleyball courts, and other fun amenities that one could not afford on their own. Luckily, anyone living in the community can take advantage of these comforts, which are funded by the members’ dues. If the dues are not paid on time, the HOA and its management company are required to enforce rules and late fees to keep the budget of a community on track.

 

What is the difference between being pre-qualified and pre-approved for a loan?


While many people mistakenly use the terms pre-qualified and pre-approved interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two. Pre-qualified means you have contacted a lender and voluntarily presented your financial information. This is the first step in the loan application process and gives you a good idea for what you will be able to afford in a home purchase. Pre-approval is the next step, and is a conditional commitment to actually grant you the mortgage. Typically the lender will require some paperwork in order to grant the pre-approval. Offers must be submitted with a pre-approval letter from a financial institution in order to be considered. Most Real Estate Agents will only show buyers one or two homes, if any, without the buyer being pre-approved. Pre-approval demonstrates buyers are qualified.



What is the first step in the home buying process?

You may choose to enlist a Real Estate Agent first, and they can guide you through each step of the process. The first step in the home buying process is pre-qualification with a lender, your Real Estate Agent can recommend several lenders. Buyers may choose to contact the bank with which they regularly bank with, banks specific to home lending, or a mortgage broker; who will contact multiple banks on the buyer's behalf. Upon contacting a lender, the buyer will voluntarily, often verbally, provide the lender with their specific financial information and the lender will in turn advise approximately what the buyer may qualify for. This is followed by the pre-approval process, in which the lender requests supporting documentation to ensure these financial details are up to date. Often the buyer will work towards pre-approval while also researching homes on the market. Once a buyer understand approximately what they may qualify for, they can determine the neighborhood, details such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms or other items on their needs list that are within their financial means. Many Real Estate Agents discourage looking at homes and building this wish list prior to pre-qualifying, as it may result in heartbreak on the buyer's behalf once they learn what they can afford.