Staging a Home
While most real estate agents are not interior designers or professional stagers, they’re well aware of the subtle touches that have been proven to attract or repel potential buyers. For example, they know that staging practices like removing family photographs, clearing away clutter, and rearranging furniture make it easier for buyers to picture themselves living in the house and increase the likelihood that they'll make an offer. Don’t feel shy about asking your listing agent to look at each room and offer suggestions for staging improvements.
Help You Get Preapproved for a Home Loan
As part of their day-to-day work, real estate agents are in frequent contact with bankers, lenders, and other professionals involved in the buying process. When you’re ready to start house-hunting, your agent can assist you in determining how much you can afford to spend on a new home (using an income vs. debt formula). She can also connect you with a trusted lender who will help with preapproval so you can get out there and find a house.
Select an Inspector
After you make an offer on a house and the seller accepts your offer, you’ll want to have the house inspected to ensure that there are no structural problems or hidden hazards like termites or high levels of radon gas. Your agent should know many inspectors in the community and should be able to help you select one who’s thorough and reliable.
Arrange for Repairs
If a home inspection uncovers damage, the lender you’re working with will probably require that the damage be repaired before you close on the house. Your real estate agent will know dependable contractors and handymen, and can help you contact reputable professionals, gather bids, and arrange for any needed repairs. Your agent can also help you arrange to have the contractor paid at closing, and you may even be able to figure your portion of the repair costs into your mortgage.
Offer Credit Counseling
Good credit is vital when you’re buying a house, and credit is an area that can really trip up first-time home buyers. For instance, borrowers sometimes discover that the lender who preapproved them ultimately won't give them a mortgage because their financial situation has changed. Good real estate agents know that this can happen and will counsel their clients not to make any major purchases that could affect their credit, such as buying a car, until they close on their new house.
Auction Your Home
What if you don’t have the time to go through the traditional selling process? Perhaps you need to quickly sell a house that’s part of an estate, or maybe your house is in need of major repairs and you know it won’t pass the inspections. In situations like these, an auction may be your best bet. (In an auction, possession of the house transfers to the buyer immediately.) If your real estate agent is a broker (an agent with advanced certification), she can help facilitate an auction.
Refer an Agent in a Different Town
Buying a house in a new community can be especially stressful because you don’t know anyone. How do you find a good real estate agent if you don't have friends and colleagues who can recommend one? This is where a trusted agent in your hometown can help. Realtors (members of the National Association of Realtors) have access to nationwide databases that detail other agents' successful sales. Ask a local agent to refer you to a new agent—one with a good track record—in the community where you’ll be buying a house.
Help You Buy a FSBO
Real estate agents don’t list for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) houses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a buyer’s agent show you the house and represent your interests if you decide to make a bid. Your agent will contact the seller and ask to show the house. If the seller agrees and you make an offer, your agent will handle the negotiations, inspections, and other details of the transaction, and then you'll pay his commission at closing.
Manage Your Rental Property
If you’re going somewhere for an extended period and you don’t want to sell your house, you may be interested in renting it out while you're away. Well, your real estate agent can help with this by acting as a property manager, screening renters, collecting rent, and overseeing any necessary repairs and maintenance. Agent fees for this service are negotiable, but they typically run about 10 percent of the monthly rental fee.
Help You Find a Temporary Place to Live
If you’ve closed on the sale of your home but won’t be able to close on your new house for a few weeks (or longer!), you’ll need somewhere to stay. Your real estate agent may be able to negotiate a short-term lease with a local apartment manager or locate a house that’s currently vacant where you could live for a short time. Agents typically maintain lists of homes and apartments that can serve as temporary housing, so you won’t have to live in a hotel.
Your home is most likely your largest investment. Home insurance is a valuable way to protect the investment, but could you save money on your home insurance policy? Read our top tips for how to safeguard your property while saving money.