A “Realtor” is Not Always a REALTOR®!
You’ve met with your financial planner, an attorney, and possibly a lender, and now you have a pretty good idea of what you can afford and how to pay for it. If you’re not planning on aging in place, then it’s time to sell your home. In the real estate world, you are now considered a seller, and possibly a buyer as well.
In either case, the next adviser to meet with is a professional real estate agent who is licensed in your state. Most states require agents work under real estate brokers who are often known by their agency/company names such as Coldwell Banker, Re-Max, Century 21, etc. An agent may also choose to become a REALTOR® which is a trademarked name for agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). REALTORS® abide by a strict Code of Ethics, which is important in selecting someone who will be helping you sell what is likely your biggest asset.
In some regions, sellers have many companies from which to choose. When it comes to selling your home, bigger is better. Larger agencies have a broader reach to potential buyers for your home, not just through their internet marketing, but also through global name recognition, and their relationships with relocation companies.
Real estate agents often carry an alphabet soup after their name; SRES, CRB, GRI, ABR, … These letters signify that the agent has had extra education and experience in a specific area. Some agents represent only buyers, some – only sellers, some – only commercial property, etc. For seniors and their families, the most important designation to look for when selecting a REALTOR® is the SRES, or Senior Real Estate Specialist. An SRES REALTOR® knows enough about financial, legal, tax and Medicaid issues, to make reliable referrals to the professionals in these fields. SRES designated agents should also have a familiarity with important senior topics such as universal design (making your current home easier to navigate), aging in place, and various senior living options (assisted living homes, retirement communities, etc.)
Another important factor to consider when selecting a real estate agent, is their familiarity with your community. You want a REALTOR® who specializes (and hopefully lives) in your neighborhood. Although many aspects of a home can be learned through research and inspection, the character of a town and its neighborhoods is best understood through personal experience.
One way to identify a good REALTOR® is through a referral from a friend, relative or service provider you trust. If a home has recently sold in your neighborhood, ask that seller if they would recommend their agent. These days, the most popular way to locate a REALTOR® is by searching the internet. If you don’t use a computer yourself, then ask your children, grandchildren or neighbor to help you Google local real estate agents. You’ll get multiple websites with agent profiles outlining the communities they cover and their specialties.
Don’t stop at the first REALTOR® you find (although you may ultimately come back to that one). Speak with several. They won’t be offended; it’s part of their job to do a “listing presentation” for you, outlining their services and their company. Think of these meetings as job interviews, and the agents – as prospective employees.
A note about listing presentations – they vary greatly. Some agents will bring a laptop computer or an ipad and present themselves and their company to you electronically using slides and videos. Others may forego any type of visual aid and will verbally describe themselves, their companies, and their listing strategies. If an agent shows up and does neither, don’t use them. Their lack of preparation may foretell their lack of thoroughness in selling your home.
Ultimately, you want to make sure you genuinely like your REALTOR® because, as a seller, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them. Did you feel heard? Understood? Was the agent knowledgeable about your community? Were you comfortable with their communication style? To get the most from your agent, it’s important that you listen to them as well. Choose a trustworthy REALTOR® and then trust that they know how to do their job.
After you’ve identified two or three agents you like, you can ask each to provide you with a Comparative Market Analysis. A “CMA” is the primary tool used by sellers to determine the value of their home. You’ll also need to know its value as part of your larger financial picture to help you understand what you can afford moving forward.
The contents of this article are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. Contact an attorney for specific legal advice.