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Real Estate Agents: Friend or Foe?

 
pollinator
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What do people think about Real Estate Agents when buying or selling property?

I do not have an opinion on whether they are needed or not, but I have never bought or sold land through one before. Typically I just set my sights on some land, approach the owner, and make a deal, the agreement being legal through an attorney.

We are currently selling our Homestead, and we have been on both sides. We posted it on Zillow, on here and at a Homesteading Fair and got a few people interested, but the most promising person was absolutely incensed that we did not have a real estate agent. I mean INCENSED. Then after a few more people looked over the house, we decided maybe we did need a Real Estate Agent, so we got one. Then a person was interested in the house, but not keen on the idea that we got a Real Estate Agent. It is almost a darned if you do, and darned if you do not, kind of situation.

Overall there seems a stigma against those that want to buy houses have something against people trying to sell it on their own. Yet in any other deal, that is not how it is done. I have sold a lot of expensive pieces of equipment, and I show the people what it is, all the known problems, and they decide if they want to buy it or not. If they do, we talk price for a bit, and then the paperwork is drawn up, and it is done. I cannot see why a $150,000 bulldozer is any different than a $150,000 house. Yet with a house, there are all these unwritten rules the buyer and seller has to do, and I am not sure why. It seems way more complicated then what it has to be. At the end of the day none of these "rules" mean anything. Ultimately as a seller, I agree to the price suggested or not. Ultimately the buyer decides if they want to buy the house at that price or not. Its pretty simple. The lawyer just makes everything legally binding.
 
gardener
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I agree Travis;  They make home buying way to complicated.  
Having only bought one piece of property I'm no expert but.. We used no agent. I contacted the seller and we made our own deal. Very easy , with no difficulty.
I think we are both very country folks. Common sense prevails.    City people tend to expect the worst in folks and want a buffer between them. I call it them the "sue" happy people.

In your case , you broke down and got a real estate agent. You may as well keep them for now, you can always go back to owner sale later.
 
gardener
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If you get a real estate agent, that person represents you not the buyer. It's worth saying this to prospective buyers. If "they" want one, encourage them to get one because that person would represent them (the buyer.)
That should resolve both people in your example and lower fees from a potential 6% to 3% or 0%(i am sure it is regulated state to state so the % may change)

 
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I've only bought properties, and rented properties, so I can't speak from the perspective of a seller, but in my experience real estate agents run the spectrum from somewhat helpful to major hindrance. The number one advantage I see of using real estate agent is that they can open up the lock box on the door so you can see a lot of properties in a single afternoon. 30 years ago, I could see how an agent would be helpful in finding properties, but if you're tech savvy enough to post on the permies.com forum, you're also tech savvy enough to search for houses online.

I don't worry too much about whether or not the agent represents the buyer or the seller, as they always represent themselves. In other words, it is to their advantage to push the deal though with as little fuss as possible to get their paycheck.

 
master steward
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A real estate agent is not something a person has to have.  A Title Company or a Real Estate Lawyer can be used instead of paying a commission to someone to show a home.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
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I guess what frustrates me is that the Real Estate Agent cannot seem to adapt well enough.

Like for instance, on Saturday, a family was here, and the dad had this idea that his kids would be safely riding their bicycles up a long driveway, and not near the road. As a father, I understand that, so our kids ride their bikes up a half mile private farm road we have. In this case, as soon as I heard that, I would have taken the parents up to the roadway and said, "this is where my kids ride their bikes". But the real estate agent did not think of that road at all, and just kind of shrugged her shoulders at what the dad wanted. The family left, without even knowing a nice country lane existed where they could ride bikes, pick raspberries along its edges, all without cars going by.

It was a lost opportunity.

You can never replicate exactly what is in a person's mind granted, but you can show them options that come very close. In this situation, the real estate agent does not have young kids riding bicycles, and she does not know the property well enough to remember the property had a road that starts on it.

I will admit more people have come to the house through her, than when we tried to sell it ourselves, but what does it matter if she is not helping people see the full potential of what they are see?

In another example, we have a one car garage, and I explained to her that this would be a great place for someone to have lots of chickens. She mentioned that there is no need to tell people that because they already have in mind what an area is going to be used for. I disagree. We used that garage for firewood storage, so I think people will see it for what it was last used for. I do not think it hurts to tell people that Katie and I have used it for a sheep shed when we were overrun with lots of sheep one year, but also considered finishing it off, and using it for a recreational room for our up and coming teenage daughters. I do not think it hurts to tell people about the many ways a room can be used, because people do not always think about the options they have.

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View of that Country Lane in which to Ride Bikes
 
pollinator
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It's a sales game. Some salespeople have very definite ideas about the product they are selling, and what ranks in importance, because it speaks directly to their sales strategy.

I think that agents that care to spend the time to at least look at an itemised list of what might be termed "ephemeral" benefits, though a safe half-mile on which to bike and a raspberry patch sound pretty substantial to me, and care to adapt their sales strategy, as opposed to what is being described with the missed opportunities and the dismissive attitude, do exist, but you have to search for them.

My sister is a real estate agent in one of the smaller cities to the west of us here, and she has described colleagues who take a cookie-cutter approach to sales because it's easier to encapsulate that way, in order to package for sale, such that working large numbers of sales is easier, even if the success rate is lower. This isn't the type of agent that is useful in this situation.

It is also possible, as mentioned above, that what you need is less someone to stage and sell your property and rather someone like a real estate lawyer who can ensure that all the legal requirements are met and documented. Especially if you are likely to sell to like-minded people, it might be that you, Travis, are the best person to show and sell your property.

In direct answer to your question, it depends on the sales style, and how the salesperson intends to make their money, in my opinion.

I hope you find an arrangement that pleases you, Travis. Keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
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At one point in time I would have hired a real estate agent. At this point in time the market is so hot I could sell our property myself for way over what I personally think it's worth. Everyone wants a country property close to town now. I've got it.
 
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As a person who was in real estate previously, and who knows real estate well, i can tell you the best answer i can give is "it depends".

From a buyers perspective, im not completely sure why you wouldnt use a real estate agent, especially first time home buyers who have no clue what they're doing. Why i say this is, normally speaking, buyers do not pay a cent for their agent. That is all wrapped up into closing, where the seller (like i said--usually) pays for both the buyer and sellers fees.
You CAN on occasion pay your realtor yourself (as a BUYER) but this usually only happens when the home seller refuses to pay out to any real estate agents. In that case you can negotiate with the agent who you want to represent you, a "reasonable" fee. If thats the course you chose. Or you can, as others have stated, go about it unrepresented, and essentially let the chips fall where they may with your purchase.

Now, im no longer in real estate, as i said above, but i would personally highly recommend that buyers do have some sort of real estate professional involved in their transaction. Why i say this is because there are MANY MANNNNY things that can go wrong with these transactions, and there are many items that can be inserted into the lengthy closing documents that you may not realize/know about/read right/ etc etc. Ive seen it happen before, it is detrimental to a family. Land or home purchases are one of the most, if not THE most expensive purchases that anyone will make in their lives, so this is something that i would think would be something seriously considered for these reasons.

As a seller, you are in a position of power, when it comes to real estate. You know whats wrong with your house and with your property. You also know all the positives, quirks, etc so on and so forth. In addition, you stand to (likely) gain all the profit, assuming you sell your home in a market where you will actually make a profit. So, should you use a real estate agent? This is where id say it depends. Thats my honest answer, because it can absolutely benefit you, some wise sage advice from people who know what theyre doing (assuming you select the proper person to help you sell your home). Or, yes, it can definitely hinder you. Its like anything in life, there are people who are very good at their job, and people who are horrible. You need to be wise on how you select your agent, especially sine youre going to pay for them out of the proceeds of your house!! Is it worth it? If you select someone who knows what theyre doing some of the benefits to you they can provide are:
-marketing your house to make it appealing to the masses
-marketing your house to make it more visible and more available to not only the masses, but to OTHER real estate agents, who then will show their prospective buyers that home and then will get you showings that you never yourself could obtain (seeing as you frankly do not have the same legal resources as real estate professionals do)
-advising you on how to prepare your home for showings, sale, etc
-advising you on what to fix/do to your home and property to make it more appealing, get buyers.
-giving you honest buyer feedback from showings
-conducting showings and open houses

the list goes on....i only have so much time to type this out, sorry

But i digress. There are benefits.
One of the resources that you wont be able to post your home to, that licensed active real estate professionals CAN, is called the MLS, Multiple Listing Service. It is, IMHO, the most useful resource they have on you, and it is the hub for real estate professionals, and it is where your home will get LOTS of hits, and attention.

I would like to add, real estate professionals are almost...i said "almost"... a necessary, shall we say, "evil" in society today. Most people DO use them. And when you choose to forgo the "norm", if you will, you do lose out on opportunity. Its just something that you need to know, and frankly, need to be okay with, if you choose to not utilize "the system".

Is it a racket?? Yes, it is. But it can help you. And a lot of times, it is a good use of your monies. ESPECIALLY if you are having a hard time marketing and selling a property/home. ESPECIALLY then.


Some tidbits: you can and should fire any real estate professional who is not doing their job to your satisfaction. It is legal, it does, and it should happen. Dont feel sorry for these people. They need to do their job to your standards and to the standards you discussed when you first hitched your wagon to theirs. Period.

Two- EVERYTHING is negotiable. Literally, everything. Fees, payments, even any little contractual item. It can be changed. You dont like it? There is an addendum for that. Which is ALSO why real estate power is in the hand of the seller. Which is ALSO another reason why these buyers need to hire someone who knows what their reading, so they dont get screwed in the end.

I think ive fairly adequately covered it. Let me know if you have any questions. My advice is free

And good luck in the sale of your Homestead

 
gardener
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My wife and I recently sold our house with the help of a real estate agent, and it worked out great for us in the end. It’s a bit of a saga, so I’m going to try to provide a condensed version.

A few years ago, we purchased some farmland, with the help of an agent who lives and works in west tennessee.  We, not knowing much about selling homes, asked this agent if this would like to sell our house back in Nashville. This agent was very kind, very nice, gentle, and is a joy of a human being. This agent said they’re moving to Nashville, we lived just outside of Nashville, and they said they’d be happy to sell our home. A year passes before we’re ready, this agent lists our home for $320k, and we get crickets. Like nothing. We learned this agent moved back to west tennessee, and was kinda an absentee agent, and my wife and I don’t think this person was familiar with the Nashville market (Nashville has in the last couple years had the hottest real estate market in the country. According to the statistics, about 105 people move to Nashville, every day, and this has been going on for several years) After one viewing in two months on the market, we fired this agent. Time to regroup.

Almost three months would pass before listing again, now this time the house is vacant. We interviewed a couple agents before making a choice. One agent, been in the business thirty years, suggests listing our home for $240k and their fee is 6%. That’s a big difference in the previous agents listing price. We interviewed another listing agent, recommended by a coworker of my wife’s. This agent came to meet us, has been in the business almost twenty years, and is doing things a little different. This agent just started a new format, and instead of a percentage of the sale, this person charges a $1000 flat fee. This agent suggests listing our home for $285k. That’s substantially more than the previous agents recommendation.

Interestingly, both the agents we interviewed, asked us “you said you just listed your house in january. I couldn’t find it on the MLS” My wife and I looked at each other like “wtf?” when we first heard that. We called the first agent that we fired, and asked about this. This agent said “oh yeah there’s several MLS’s. There’s a really big one that everyone uses and there’s several smaller ones. We use one of the smaller ones”. wtf? No wonder one person came to see our home in january/february. No one knew it was for sale. Glad we fired this agent, even though this agent is super nice, but we don’t think this agent quite understands how to do their job or what is best for the client.

We chose the agent that charges the flat fee. We paid this agent $1000 up front, pictures are taken, a great description is listed, and the listing goes live on the big MLS that everyone uses. Massive interest. I think there were 17 viewings in the ten days it was on the market before we had a contract. There were thousands of clicks on sites like zillow. We ended up having two offers come in and we sent them back with a multiple offer notification. The next day, a third offer was made and we again sent that buyer a multiple offer notification. Our agent did an excellent job explaining all the legalese in the documents and identifying vague umbrella terms that he’s seen buyers use against sellers in the past. 48 hours later, we had the three offers, made our choice, and the house sold for more than $10k over asking price at nearly $300k. That’s a big difference from $240k. That’s nearly 60k very real dollars we might have left on the table had we chosen the other agent, and then paid more than $10k in fees on top of that.

To answer the title of this thread, I think it depends. I’m very glad we chose an agent we did, and I think it pays (no pun intended) to shop around and interview several. This agent seems to me to no longer be chasing profits, and is in it to guide clients honestly in a realm where some not-so-savory individuals work, helping prevent people from being taken advantage of. We asked our agent about the $240k listing price suggested by another agent we interviewed. They said it’s unfortunately common for agents to list a home under market value so it sells fast. Some agents are more interested in more sales taking a smaller fee rather than trying to make maximum fee by selling a house at maximum price. They make more money by turning more homes quicker that way. This isn’t proof of what that agent may have been doing, but this whole journey was eye opening to my wife and me. Both of us had never sold a house before.

 
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This is a great thread and thanks Michelle for your great explanation of why agents *can* be beneficial.  I'm a new realtor myself and as I've done my training and gotten into the business it is scary how many stories I've heard, from people (not realtors) of things that have gone VERY wrong because people did not use an agent or had a bad agent.  Michelle is absolutely right, it really depends on the agent.  Having bought and sold several homes ourselves in different states, and different types of properties, my husband and I have had good, bad, ugly and indifferent realtors.  But we would almost always use one for the many reasons that Michelle mentioned above, especially when we are doing a transaction in a state whose laws we aren't familiar with.  The job of any type of "agent", real estate or otherwise (my husband is an actor and has an agent) is to be an expert in the legal matters governing a particular area, a good negotiator, an effective marketer, and someone who generally handles all the annoying details you don't have time or expertise for and who is loyal to you exclusively and looks out for YOUR interests.  And for those efforts they get a commission.  In our experiences with GOOD agents, they've been well worth the fee.  

I am actually building my business around serving people interested in permaculture and homesteading and from what I hear and what I've experienced myself the main issues are a) finding a reputable realtor who takes their job of representing your interests seriously, and actually listens to what YOU want and need, as opposed to what they know and what's convenient for them  and b) finding a realtor who has a clue about permaculture and homesteading and likes working with clients who have these interests when buying/selling a property.  I know a lot of people who take a cookie cutter approach to real estate, they aren't the type of agent I'd want to work with myself, and not the type of agent I want to be.  

AND if you really really want to just do a deal directly without an agent, and you can find a buyer/seller who wants to do this too, then go for it.  Just do your legal homework, get surveys and inspections done and protect yourself.  
 
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