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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

6 Unexpected Advantages of Having the Right Agent

By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

I once worked with a buyer who had to fly to the other end of the world within a couple of days after we placed her offer. Needless to say, she was agitated and anxious about the prospect of being so far away during inspections and contingency removals, especially since I’d earlier stressed how important it was for her to be present.

Rolling with the punches and poor timing, we sat down just before she left and talked through the timeline, including which events would take place on every day of her absence - including some harmless glitches that commonly arise along the way.

I never will forget her laughter when the occasional glitch of this sort did, in fact, come up. She would say: “I would have been stressed out by that. But since I knew to expect it, I’m not!”

The list of pleasant surprises in real estate matters is really, really short. Normally, we all want things to tick along precisely according to plan, and almost anything unexpected causes us inconvenience or plain old stress. But there is one relatively common set of real estate surprises that is actually quite delightful: the unexpected perks of working with the right real estate pro.

Most sellers come to their real estate agent relationships expecting help selling their home on a particular time frame, and marketing the place to make that happen.  Buyers are most often seeking an agent’s help finding the right home and negotiating to buy it.

But both buyers and sellers are often pleasantly surprised at the other resources, strategic counsel and expertise their agents ultimately provide.  Here are some of the biggest benefits that catch them off-guard:

Read on for the 6 Unexpected Advantages of Having the Right Agent

1.  Insider knowledge.  In a recent survey, home buyers said one of the biggest benefits they got from their agent was an understanding of how the buying process would unfold. When it comes to something as infrequent, complex and high stakes as buying or selling a home, having an insider advisor who is dedicated to your success can alleviate your anxieties and otherwise put you in a power position, when it comes to making smart decisions and moves.

2.  Lifestyle design advice.  I recently spoke with Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, The Four Hour Body and his brand-new book, The Four Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything and Living the Good Life.  I asked Tim flat out what would be in his dream kitchen, if he were in the market for a home and he answered without hesitation: a six-burner Viking range.

And that was it. No Carrera marble. No European soft-close drawers. To a world class cook, what really matters is the stove. In fact, he explained, he was briefed on the importance of the range, and only the range, to a great chef’s kitchen by chef extraordinaire Alice Waters.

The right agent can and often does precisely what Alice Waters did for Tim Ferriss: they can course correct you around what home features, transaction terms and even timing nuances will help further the lifestyle you are trying to create - and which won’t - based on their past experiences working with buyers and sellers in similar situations.

You might think that you are desperate to live in a particular neighborhood, but your agent can help you understand the realities of the commute in a way you didn’t before. You might want to wait to list your home until the summertime, but your agent can point out the wisdom of getting started prepping the place during your holiday vacation time so that you’ll be poised to take advantage of pent-up cold weather demand at the first thaw. Of course, for your agent to be able to do this, you have to give them as much information as possible about the lifestyle you aim to create.

3.  Save you from yourself.  There are many instances in which even the smartest buyers and sellers are their own worst enemies, committing unintentional acts of self-sabotage like overpricing, lowballing, overspending and the like.  If you equip your agent with a deep understanding of the overall life picture, financial picture and then home picture you’re trying to create with your buy or sale (or both), they can help point out when you’re about to take an action that will be inconsistent with or counterproductive to what you say is important to you.

Ultimately, it’ll be your decision whether to take a given red flag-waving step or not, but your agent can be a very valuable coach to gently point out when you might be getting in your own way.

4.  Stop you from buying the wrong house.  A surprisingly high number of home buyers report that their agent actually talked them out of buying the wrong house for them. Whether because the inspection results come back and are deeply worrisome, the sellers simply want more money than you can healthily afford or experience has taught them that a buyer with your priorities will not be happy with a house like that, the majority of agents would rather sell you the *right* home for your family next month than sell you the wrong one right now.

5.  Devise an pre-buying or -selling action plan. What a tangled web we weave, when first we fail to properly plan and prep to buy or sell our home. Okay, so it doesn’t have quite the ring as the original saying, but you get the gist nonetheless. Agents love nothing more than to get a call way in advance of when you think you’ll be ready to make your move. Calling them in advance allows them to sit down with you in an unhurried, unpressured environment to map out an action plan that sets you (and them) up for successfully achieving whatever your real estate goal is.

And that, in turn, can help you prevent the overwhelm, procrastination and eventual last minute scrambling and freak-outs that arise when your ducks are not all in a row.

Things an agent can help you plan out, significantly in advance of your target move-in or move-out date, include, among many others:
  • Referrals to mortgage brokers, financial planners, contractors, stagers and relationship counselors (just kidding on that last one!).
  • Setting up action steps you need to take and helping you understand when you need to take them to meet your target time frames.
  • Getting clear on the relative costs (and financial prep it will take) to buy in any of several neighborhoods, cities and even property types that you are considering.

6.  Illuminate options you weren’t aware were even possible. There’s no shame in not knowing everything there is to know about real estate - even very active real estate consumers will only buy or sell 5, maybe 10 homes in a lifetime. But your agent does this all day, every day, for their entire career. So off the top of their head, they might be able surface options in terms of
  • properties
  • neighborhoods
  • pricing plans
  • contract terms
  • marketing tools
  • negotiation strategies
  • and even post-closing protections and service providers
that you would never have known existed, if not for them.

The theme here is this: don’t limit your agent and the help they can provide you by what you *think* their job is, or what you think they do or don’t know.  Make sure that when you’re getting referrals or meeting agents online and in person early on in your agent selection process, you pay attention to their references and marketing plans, but also to how well your personalities mesh.

Ideally, you’ll find and work with an agent in whom you can confide everything from your big picture life vision to your truly confidential financial details.

Bottom line: The more you feel comfortable sharing with your agent, the more likely you are to be pleasantly surprised with the ways they can help you.