We live in an era of individual empowerment. You can start your own business in an afternoon, monetize your social media presence, and turn your home into a virtual bed and breakfast. But as great as solitary independence can be, we should remember that expertise still has real value. To put it another way - you could probably pull that painful tooth yourself, but wouldn't you feel better if a qualified dentist did it?
Selling a home is a lot like that. Websites like Zillow and Redfin have made it easy to browse local properties on your phone, and the rise of For Sale by Owner sales means that anyone can, theoretically, fetch a six or seven figure payday with nothing more than some fliers and a staple gun. But in reality, doing it yourself when it comes to a home buy or sale probably isn't going to get you to your ideal outcome. To achieve that, whether it be closing on the perfect family home, or selling for five figures above ask, you're probably going to need the help of a local realtor.
How can a local realtor help you? Let's go over three of the top benefits you can expect to get from working with a seasoned, well-networked local realtor.
They Have a Deep, Intimate Knowledge of the Area
Most buyers have a pretty good idea of what they want from their future home; three bedrooms, a garage, a kitchen with an island. Finding it out in the real world is another matter entirely. Unless you have hours to spend browsing listings, and you're willing to spend entire weekends going to open houses, you're looking for a needle in a haystack. Or more likely, you'll end up settling for something pretty good, but not great.
A local realtor knows exactly what's on the market, and once they familiarize themselves with your desires, can take you directly to the homes that best fit your needs. This not only saves you time, it can get you to your dream home before someone else gets there first. After all, if you fall in love with a home, it's likely that a dozen other buyers have too.
Realtors have also helped countless other buyers find their ideal homes, and they may know what you want even better than you do. They can suggest features or neighborhoods that you hadn't even considered, but can make a huge difference in your eventual quality of life. And when you do find a home that catches your eye, they can help protect you from questionable situations. A realtor's trained eye can detect subtle signs of problems like pest infestations, foundation issues, or mold that a civilian wouldn't even notice.
They Understand the Market, and Where It's Going
Let's say you've found your dream home, and you're ready to put in an offer. If you're working with an agent, you have very little to go on, aside from online property values, and the seller's asking price. Your offer will essentially be a stab in the dark. A realtor, on the other hand, will be familiar with all recent comparable sales, and will be able to hit on an accurate value effortlessly. They also have insight into the seller's situation that can be invaluable to you. If the seller is highly motivated, or under time pressures, your agent can help you use that to your advantage. And if there are other interested buyers circling, they can counsel you on how to put in an irresistible offer, to head off a bidding war.
On a similar note, if you're selling by yourself, you probably won't have much context for any offers you might receive. Should you jump on it, or ask for more? An agent can help you extract the most profit from your sale, or even leverage their network and marketing skills to whip up a bidding war. There's a reason that FSBO listings fetched, on average, 30% less than agent-assisted sales.
And then there's the big picture. Agents are out there, in the trenches, and they know where the market is going well before any analysts or experts. If the market's healthy, they can give you the assurance to put in a high bid, and if it's looking shaky, they can save you from being stuck with an underwater mortgage a year from now.
They Offer Confidence and a Network
Buying and selling a home isn't a short or simple process. The purchase agreement alone can run up to a dozen pages, and then there are contingencies, inspections, deed issues, and countless other potential speed bumps. And if you overlook something in the contract, that can come back to haunt you years later.
An agent can make sure all your paperwork is in order, so you can proceed with confidence. They also contribute a more general layer of professionalism to the transaction. Agents have what's known as a fiduciary responsibility to look after their client's best interests, and to maintain a level of professional discretion; think of it as the realtor's equivalent to attorney-client privilege. After all, when it comes to a FSBO listing, not many people feel comfortable handing their detailed financial information over to some guy who may never have sold a home before. An agent's presence reassures all parties that the transaction will be smooth, secure, and professional.
And on a more practical level, an experienced local realtor has a robust network of professionals they can call on. If you're selling, professional quality photos can make a huge difference in how quickly your home sells, and for how much, and a good agent can connect you with a quality local photographer. And if your home needs a refresh before it hits the market, a local realtor can suggest a reputable contractor who does quality work at reasonable rates.
The most common reason people are averse to working with a local realtor is that they want to save on commission. But in most cases, the benefits of partnering with a realtor far exceed any potential commission savings. Whether they're saving you from unsavory contractors, knocking five figures off the sale price at the negotiating table, or catching an omission in the contract that could've had you in court five years from now, a good agent is worth their weight in gold.