Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Being a Realtor

I am posting tonight in response to a query this morning from a lady who asked me just what it was that a Realtor does. I have given the matter some thought and it is a very reflective question. I have concluded that a Realtor is a generalist who coordinates, counsels, directs and aids compliance to the rules and regs surrounding a real estate transaction. I represented DuPont for 30 years, mostly as a sales representative. What I did then and what I do now are as different as night and day.

Practicing Real Estate is loosely connected to sales skills. Rarely do you take a person into a home and pitch them on features, advantages and benefits of a particular house in an effort to get them to make a decision to buy. If you are lucky enough to attract a buyer there is a process whereby you lead them to a choice. You conduct the buyer's interview to establish their wants and needs. Then you search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to match up their wants with particular houses that seemingly fill that need. You then schedule some showing time and take them to see the property. Once in the property the house must "sing" to the buyer, on its own. The property must convince the buyer. Rarely is it necessary for the Realtor to "sell" the property.

In selling a listing the Realtor is a counselor and advisor. The Realtor advises the seller how to stage the house for it to demonstrate its strong features to a prospective buyer. If the seller is unwilling to clean, paint, plant, de-clutter, etc. no amount of selling skills on the part of the Realtor matters.

A Realtor is a licensed professional. He must take hundreds of hours of instruction and then pass numerous tests, many quite difficult, to become licensed and stay licensed. The process is expensive and time consuming. He must be a member of a local association that will coordinate the cooperation of all agents in a geographic area in maintaining the MLS, continuing education and other matters. He is licensed by the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) which operates under the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. FREC sets forth all rules and regs that surround the practice within the state. FREC maintains a probable cause element that polices and disciplines those who would play fast and loose with their license.

A Realtor is somewhat of a traffic cop in that in the midst of a transaction he must be able to direct all the matters that will consummate in the successful transfer of Title. A Realtor must stand ready to recommend Title companies, Home inspectors, Termite inspectors, surveyors, Insurance providers, repair people, structural engineers, mold experts, attorneys, Home warranties, etc. The Realtor must be prepared to react quickly and competently when snags arise within the transaction. Most transactions are subject to exact schedules. The Realtor must assure that all parties adhere to timelines.

A Realtor is somewhat of a paralegal. Special emphasis on contract law. All aspects of the transaction are strongly tied to the sales contract, a legally binding instrument. He must be knowledgeable in how to complete this 7 page document plus all disclosure forms. He needs to know how and when to amend the contract via addendae.

Probably, above all, a Realtor must be a negotiatior. The more pronounced an agent's negotiating skills the more valuable he is to the party he represents. Agreement must be reached, most importantly, on sales price. Additionally there are concessions that can be asked for and granted relating to closing costs, repairs, warranties, closing dates, etc. When a fight erupts you want the most eloquent, smartest and coolest advocate you can find by your side.

A good Realtor is a good communicator both verbally and written. He should keep careful records as to what has been agreed upon in a deal and all correspondence between all parties. A good agent is patient, kind, thoughtful, available and consistent. To a practicing Realtor no one is more important than his client, outside of his family. He will lay it all on the line for his client.

I operate as a sole proprietor. I must have a Leon County Business license, a City of Tallahassee business license and of course, a State of Florida real estate license. I am a Broker which requires one to have a year of being an agent under a broker and then class time and passage of a tough, tough exam. I have to adhere to continuing education requirements. I must carry error and ommissions insurance. You do not want a Realtor who does not carry that insurance. You also do not want a Realtor who does not maintain a very pronounced presence on the internet. Most buyers go online to search property first before they ever contact a Realtor. I am a member of the Tallahassee Board of Realtors, Florida Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

Overall, I would say that the practice of real estate is quite satisfying. One has complete flexibility of time. The bottom line is that Realtors really help people to accomplish the dream of home ownership. A good Realtor keeps his finger on the pulse of current trends in the business and the development of new avenues. A good Realtor's success is tied to the numbers of people he has competently and effectively helped to achieve the purchase of a home or the sale of their home.

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