· Check your credit report for accuracy and completeness.
· Use the Internet wisely.
Many buyers use the Internet to research mortgage lenders. Be careful when sharing financial or other personal information over the Web - predators can steal this data and the user's identity. Realtors® can refer buyers to reputable, reliable lenders.
· Educate yourself about mortgages and mortgage fraud.
According to Fannie Mae, mortgage fraud has increased five-fold in the past 10 years. Unsuspecting home buyers who aren't familiar with an area's property values can be victimized by scam artists who have bought a property at a bargain-basement price and have made minor cosmetic changes to sell the home for much more than it's worth. People with blemished credit can also fall prey to unscrupulous individuals who pose as real estate agents or mortgage brokers, offering promises of a new home and mortgage qualification. These buyers end up assuming a loan they can't afford, and the lender forecloses.
To protect yourself, work with a Realtor® who knows the local market, and check his or her credentials with the Realtor® board or association in your area.
· Hire the right real estate professional for the job.
As a buyer, you want someone who knows the market and who has experience handling the particular needs of home buyers, whether it's identifying homes and neighborhoods, negotiating for the best deal, or coordinating the 20+ steps between contract acceptance and closing.
Realtors® who have earned the Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) designation have demonstrated their commitment to and expertise in serving home buyers. To earn the ABR designation, Realtors® must successfully complete a two-day designation course that covers agency, service delivery, marketing and promotion, and negotiation and risk management; take an approved elective course, such as buyer representation in new homes, second homes, or relocation; and have completed five transactions in which he or she acted solely as a buyer representative.
Some real estate professionals offer rebates or may work on a fee-for-service basis, in which buyers may be responsible for their own property searches, negotiating strategies, or other tasks. These different business models give consumers a degree of choice in deciding how they want to work with their real estate professional. Just make certain you know what services are provided and what you can expect from the business relationship.
Remember that you're not just buying a home; you're investing in your future.
· Know your home's value.
· Protect yourself and your home.
· Understand the purchase contract.
· Hire the right real estate professional for the job.
Today, home sellers can choose from nearly 80,000 real estate brokerages and more than 1.2 million Realtors® with a number of different business models, including full service, fee-for-service, and discount brokerage.
Full service brokerage is just that - agents handle all aspects of the transaction, including marketing the home, qualifying buyers, negotiating offers, and coordinating settlement.
Discount brokers typically offer a reduced package of services at a lower cost to the seller. This may be a good choice for experienced sellers or those who do not need to sell immediately - a recent study by Pennsylvania State's Smeal College of Business and the University of Texas at San Antonio found that homes listed by discount brokers are 12 percent less likely to sell than those listed by full service brokers.
The fee-for-service business model offers consumers a variety of services for specific fees. Major facets of the buying or selling transaction, such as competitive market analysis, counseling and negotiations, are separated.
NAR encourages innovation and competition, and recommends that home sellers interview at least three Realtors® to evaluate their qualifications and fit. Examine each professional's level of experience and service, ask for referrals and talk to past clients. Don't make an agent's commission the sole deciding factor - you wouldn't put your life in the hands of a doctor because he or she had the lowest fee; why would you want to do that with your largest financial investment?
How to Choose a Real Estate Professional
The recent real estate boom has encouraged an explosion of real estate licensees. But getting a license and succeeding as a professional in the industry are two very different things. To find a true real estate professional - one who will represent your interests and provide valuable insight and advice regarding what is likely your biggest investment - follow these steps.
· Do your research.
Visit www.REALTOR.com to search for Realtors® across the country. This site allows visitors to search for either a specific Realtor®, or for those who specialize in specific neighborhoods or have specific certifications and designations.
· Ask trusted friends and relatives for referrals.
· Interview at least three agents.
· Make sure your agent is a Realtor®.
Realtors® also have access to educational opportunities and training in real estate specialties that are not available to other licensees. This includes accredited subspecialties such as buyer's representation (ABR), residential real estate expertise (CRS), or Internet readiness (e-PRO).
Through membership in NAR's affiliated institutes, societies, and councils, Realtors® devote themselves to continuous study of the most recent trends in their fields to stay abreast of industry developments in their specialized areas and better address industry issues.
A real estate licensee has passed an exam; Realtors® are real professionals.
For more buying and selling tips, visit the National Association of Realtors®' Web pages: