I admire do-it-yourselfers. They cast aside fear of failure, learn what they need to know, and take on projects while acknowledging that they’ll probably hit some snags along the way. I count myself among this group. They tear down walls, tackle tiling projects, refurbish furniture by rebuilding and reupholstering, and do all their own painting (even scrape down a popcorn ceiling on a ladder). They wouldn’t be able to afford so many home improvements, if they had to pay for someone else’s labor.
But for all their home improvement savvy, the do-it-yourselfers still leave some things to the experts.
For example, if you don’t have the skill or the equipment necessary to put in a drain field or relied on a seasoned electrician to handle some wiring on a screen porch. They’ve been able to identify those areas where their inexperience could become very costly. An improperly installed drain field could cause waste water backup in their home or yard and could contaminate drinking water, which would likely lead to expensive repair work. The key is knowing when it pays to hire an expert.
Because buying a home is typically the most expensive (and probably the most complicated) purchase you will ever make, this is an instance when it’s in your best interests to get expert help. A real estate agent can make the home-buying process more convenient and less time consuming. With the help of a real estate agent, you will gain access to a list of homes that meet your needs and get information about the community, schools, real estate taxes, property covenants, or code requirements on homes that interest you. Further, a real estate agent will explain the home-buying documents and terms to you, assist you with writing an offer to purchase, present the offer to the seller, and help you with the arrangements for closing your loan. Without an agent, you’ll have to undertake all of this by yourself – which is a lot more than you think.
Sure, a buyer might be ruggedly independent and like being in the trenches, so to speak. But buyers often believe that they’ll save money by going it alone when in fact statistics show that buyers typically pay less for a home when using a real estate agent.
Real estate agents are typically paid a commission (averages range from 4-10%) out of the seller’s proceeds of the sale. The total commission is meant to cover both the listing and selling agent involved with the sale of the property. This means that in reality, you—the buyer—are paying the commission in the purchase price of the home, whether you use a real estate agent or not.
Saving money is just one part of the equation, though. Without professional assistance, you can end up getting caught in a misunderstanding or find that something pivotal to the transaction was omitted.
What should be in the purchase agreement? How will you determine whether the price is realistic? What arrangements need to be made to close the transaction? How do you resolve a problem discovered by your home inspector? Add to this that it can be difficult to negotiate with a seller face-to-face.
When you purchase a home, you are entering into a contract—and an expensive one at that. It makes good sense to get all the expert help you can.
Nevertheless, hiring a realtor doesn’t mean you sit back and relax; you still need to ask questions to get the best home at the best price. But having expert help navigating through this complex process is a wise idea.
** Excerpts taken from the American Center of Education. Theresa Ross can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org