Real estate agent is key for buying, selling home

HOUSTON - When it comes to buying and selling a house, the key to success is finding the right person to help you.

The process of buying or selling a home can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out, but Angie Hicks, the creator of the website Angie's List, told Local 2 that it doesn't have to be stressful as long as you do your homework and hire the right real estate agent.

"When it comes to real estate, it's all about location, so you want to know that they are an expert in your neighborhood. They understand the market in your neighborhood and that they have great experience selling in that area, so they can bring the most to the table," Hicks said.

Don't be afraid to really dig in and find out how successful they have been with their clients in the past.

"Find out how long houses the agent sells are typically on the market and how close to the asking price does the house sell," Hicks said.

The shoe must fit on both sides. Real estate agent Tony Markus told Local 2 that means it's not just about an agent being perfect for you, but you being perfect for the agent.

"Look for some industry experience and knowledge there for that particular area and work off the numbers so they are in tune with what the current market conditions are," Markus said.

Markus points out that having a goal and working backwards is the right mindset when looking to purchase a home

"If they are thinking they want to buy a house that they are going to be in for three years, five years, 10 years or something else, they need to start with that goal in mind and work their way backwards so then they can figure out what the best property is for them," Markus said.

This is one time where asking for references is not only okay, but is a good idea.

You can ask former buyers or sellers how things went with negotiations, at the closing, and how they felt about the experience.

Buying or Selling a House Hit List:

· Hire a qualified real estate agent: Check references and reviews. Make sure your real estate agent is really working for you. If he or she isn't, find someone who will. "Interview them as you would interview your pediatrician," Brenner said. "Insist on meeting all the (members of that agent's team) so that you feel comfortable should your realtor be unavailable."

· Does the agent have a good number of his/her own listings in the community where the buyer wants to live? An agent is most likely going to show the buyer the homes he/she has listed. Her commission will be higher because she is both the seller's agent and the buyer's agent in the same transaction.

· Is the agent associated with a realty company that has a large quantity of listings that are attractive to the buyer? An agent can bring the benefit of a much larger list of potential homes for the buyer to choose from if his network or agency has some prearranged sharing of commissions.

· Ask the agent for references of recent buyers he/she has represented. Ask the referenced buyers questions about the negotiations, the closing of the deal, and what, if anything, they had to give up in the negotiations.

· Experience and knowledge: Home buyer and sellers should talk to their real estate agent and gain their industry experience to see what industry knowledge they have, what area or areas of town they work in, and make sure that lines up with their goals.

· It's always good for the buyer to talk with the agent and make sure that they are licensed in the state in which they do business. Beyond that, talk to them about the different commission structures, what it will cost them to sell their house and what options they have available. What other fees might go into that program?

· A good fit? buyers and sellers need to make sure that the personalities match with their real estate agent. Make sure that their goals are in line with how the agent does business. make sure that they work in the area in which that buyer is either looking to buy a house or sell his/her house.

Questions home sellers should ask:

1. "How are you going to price my home?" A real estate agent should do a comparable market analysis of similar homes in the neighborhood. You might get the high end, the low end, or the average based on condition of the home.

2. "What is your marketing plan for my house?" At a minimum, a broker should post a property on a multiple listing service (MLS) and market it aggressively online. A real estate agent that cannot give a specific plan is likely not going to be as successful. A seller should be able to compare agents by the quality and extent of the marketing plans each agent has.

3. "Is my home ready to sell? Your home's condition is key. Often, sellers don't fully realize the importance of the home being move-in ready. Think about cosmetic improvements that increase curb appeal and fix little things, such as leaky faucets. When people are thinking about buying a house, they are looking for reasons to rule it out - and little things might make them start thinking about big things that could be wrong.

4. "Will this project add value to my home?" If you're thinking about larger remodeling projects to help improve your home's resale value or appeal, first assess your home and your neighborhood. Find out the typical resale price of homes in your area because you don't want to have the most expensive house on the block. In this market, many buyers won't pay more for updates because there are often other homes with comparable improvements and at a lower cost. With a little research, you can see what the average sale price is for homes in your area and determine what your ceiling is for investment.

Questions home buyers should ask:

1. "What are my plans for this house?" Do you plan on being in that house for three years, five years, or 10 years? In doing so, you'll end up finding a property that meets your needs today and will meet your needs down the road. That really benefits you on the back end when you're ready to sell.

2. "What can I afford?" You may qualify for a higher amount that you actually want to pay. It's important to not only check with a mortgage agent to get pre-approved, but to know what the payments will be at that amount. Remember to factor in homeowner's insurance, property taxes, utility bills, moving costs, maintenance and any upgrades that you'll need to make.

3. "What do I want?" Make a list of what you want and don't want. Search for homes online to get some ideas. Are you looking for a small home or a home where your family can grow? Comparative shopping is key. In order to get the price you want, you have to arm yourself with information. Check out similar homes.

4. "How long has this house been on the market?" The length of time a house has been listed will affect the pricing. The longer the house has been on the market, the more chance the seller will make a larger cut in the price to move the home.

5. "What is your sales history and experience level?" A good agent should be able to provide information on comparable sales of homes in the neighborhood, schools and other local services.

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