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Beacon Senior News

Do you really need a Realtor?

Aug 29, 2017 02:23PM ● By Jan Weeks

The kids are grown and gone, and you’re rattling around what used to be a full house, wondering if you should downsize.

Maybe you’ve considered hiring a Realtor to represent you, but then you think, “How hard can it be? Lots of people sell homes on their own, and I can save a bundle on commissions. So do I really need a Realtor?”

The answer is yes. Marie-Louise Hausermann found that out the hard way.

A year ago, she decided to list her former home as for sale by owner, cash sale, as is. It didn’t take long for a buyer to appear. The buyer was in a legal wrangle with an ex, but promised that the sale would be completed in a couple of months. Hausermann and the tenant signed a lease, expecting that the sale money would be in the bank soon. After a year of promises, legal hassles and stress, she’s still waiting.

Get top value for your home

Although some who put their properties on the market themselves may manage to navigate the complex legal issues of selling a house, there are many more who wish they had just contacted a Realtor in the first place.

“Realtors know the market and we know the things that will really make a home sell and get the top price,” said Carol Gerber, a Realtor with Bray and Company.

Broker Michelle Klippert, owner of The Real Estate Store in Montrose, said that in 2016, the average sales price of a home listed by its owner was $185,000. The average price for a home represented by an agent was $245,000—a $60,000 difference.

“Seniors can get a good idea of what homes are going for in their area but they usually do not have the data that is associated with the upswing and downturn of a market,” Klippert said. “This is associated with market value and not appraised value.”

Knowledge and understanding

The benefits of using a Realtor far outweigh the fee charged. For instance, a broker can interpret the 35-40 pages of the contract, which is always couched in legalese. Realtors also continuously update their education so they always know the industry’s latest rules and regulations. Realtors market your home professionally, listing it on multiple websites and in the newspaper, using attractive signs and hosting open houses.

“Statistics show that when you use a Realtor, you will get top dollar for your home and come out ahead,” Gerber said.

Realtors are a great help in the buying process as well. If you’re in the market to buy a new (or new-to-you) home, the real estate professional who shows you properties does not charge a fee for showing them. He or she will be paid only when your offer is accepted, the contract is signed and the sale is complete.

Some Realtors are designated Senior Real Estate Specialists (SRES) who have undergone additional education enabling them to keep seniors’ needs in mind. Klippert said Realtors can provide a perspective that their clients may not have, viewing the house as it is, and not as buyers and sellers want it to be.

“This includes viewing the deferred maintenance, dated elements of the home and [establishing] time frames to pack and move,” she said. “With fresh eyes and objective views, the Realtor can give a clear value of the home. They can communicate with the sellers and sometimes even the extended families to create game plans for downsizing and correcting home issues that can help with the sale of the home.”

Realtors work with owners, offering suggestions on small changes that can make a big difference in the price and how quickly the property sells.

“I recently helped a client downsize from her family home of 40 years. I advised her to make a few changes, like placing tile in bathrooms and removing carpet,” said Gerber. “We were able to market her home and get it sold fairly quickly at a higher price than she thought she could get.” Realtors with SRES training know the toll that a move can have on their older clients.

“Downsizing is a very emotional event for a senior,” Klippert said. “Many times, getting rid of personal property is as hard on the emotions as a death in the family.”

A matter of safety Putting a sign in your yard on your own can open you to phone calls or knocks on the door at all hours, and you’re never sure if the person is a legitimate buyer, a scammer or an outright thief.

“Seniors are the most targeted for scams and robbery,” Klippert said. “[Seniors are] very vulnerable to having unqualified buyers scout their home. Single seniors are the highest at risk for this type of behavior. When they open the door to a stranger who just rings the bell, they have no idea if the person is friend or foe.”

For older folks especially, letting strangers into your home can be a dangerous proposition. You don’t know their intentions—whether they may plan to steal your nest egg or endanger you physically.

Only you can decide if you want to hire a professional or buy or sell your home on your own. You owe it to yourself to know as much as you can about the process before making a decision that will affect your life—for better or for worse.

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Gerber and Klippert gave the following advice:

  • Ask how long they’ve been in the business.
  • Aim for Realtors with experience and who have a track record of sales.
  • Find out if they are senior specialists, or hold any other industry designations.
  • Ask what additional education they have done and verify their credentials. Specialists will be certified and have proof of their designations.
  • Interview them and rate them to see if they will be your trusted advisor.
  • Seniors need more than a salesperson. They need advisors to help with all aspects of their transition, which may include information on movers, house cleaners, maintenance people and more.
  • Become a team.
  • Clients should be up front about their properties and what results they want and expect.
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