There are more than 1/2 a million real estate licensees in California alone! Department of Real Estate is reporting that as of the end of August 2009, there were 514,320 licensed real estate practitioners. Last month, over 1,500 real estate agents and real estate brokers received their license and close to 3,000 took the real estate exam.
What does that mean to you? Well... it means that you have a choice as to who to work with when looking to buy or sell a home.
It's not too difficult to become a real estate agent in the state of California. You do not need to have any experience, just have to pass an exam and take a few courses. Having said that there are variety of agents waiting to serve you all with different levels of education and expertise.
Most home sellers do a pretty good job interviewing agents before they choose an agent to sell their home. They usually schedule appointments with several realtors to get a better understanding of the experience, marketing plan and reputation prior to signing a contract with any individual agent.
Home buyers though seem to have a bit of a different approach. Most usually find their realtor by chance. They will either run into a real estate agent at an Open House or will call on an ad or an internet inquiry. Some work with multiple realtors justifying it by saying something like "whoever finds me a home I like FIRST will be my agent". Not the best approach, but one that is used by many with lack of understanding of the value that a buyer's agent brings to them.
The natural question here is what exactly is a buyer's agent vs. a seller's agent? Are they different from a regular real estate agent?
It's easier to understand who a seller's agent is. It's a real estate agent that has been selected to sell a home, condo, townhome, land or income property representing an individual seller. A seller's agent has only one goal to represent the interests of the seller ONLY and to gain him/her the highest possible price and the best terms for the property. A seller's agent usually has an exclusive contract with the owner of the property and a fiduciary responsibility to that owner ONLY in selling the property in question. The seller's agent will share their commission with the buyer's agent - an agent who brings an offer to purchase a home from a home buyer and successfully closes the transaction.
A buyer's agent, on the other hand, is someone that works with a particular buyer to represent their interests only. Their job is to ensure that the buyer gets the best possible property at the best price and terms. Buyer's agents just like seller's agents are not equal. Some will work with a multitude of home buyers hoping that they will find stength in numbers. Others take a more targetted approach and work only with a few home buyers at a time.
Since there are so many different agents, each working differently, I thought that I'd take the time to explain how I work with my home buyers.
Here's an overview of what to expect when you contact me to help you buy your next home.
First of all, I look at a home buying experience holistically. It's not just about finding you a property. Anyone, for the most part, can do that. Home buyers have multiple resources right now including individual agent sites like this one allowing them access to see all the homes for sale, as well as huge aggregators like Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. But, it's not just about finding a property that you think will work for you. It's about being prepared and being knowledgeable enough to understand how to position yourself to buy the home of your choice.
Step 1: Set up a Buyer's Consultation
This can be done in person or over the phone. Usually, I prefer to meet in person, but do have clients contacting me from overseas or clients that are relocating and are not physically in Pasadena or have other conflicts - phone is the next best thing, but remember if you are local and are too busy to meet with a realtor, how do you know that they will be the right one to help you? It's as much about connecting (human interaction - seeing whether or not you're comfortable with an agent) as about their expertise.
During the consultation, I will ask lots of questions so that I have a very clear understanding about your real estate needs, short term and long term goals and your financial situation. I will also explain what is going on in the local real estate market and most importantly I will educate you about the process involved in buying a home. By the time you leave my office, you should have a clear picture of what to expect and what your next steps should be. Knowledge is power!
At this point, we will also set up a home search so that you can get familiarized with your home buying options and the types of homes available for sale.
A buyer consultation should take about 45 minutes to an hour.
Step 2: We will get you pre-approved with a reputable lender.
You can not be seriously looking for homes unless you are fully approved for a loan. Not only do you have to be approved for a loan, but you have to be approved with a lender that can do what he or she says they will. Unfortunately, there have been so many changes in the lending industry that getting a loan is not as easy as it was before.
8 out of 10 home buyers that I meet, tell me the same thing - "I am not worried about the loan. I will not have any problems getting one." Well, it's my job to worry about your loan for several reasons.
First, it's important that you consult with a lender to see what kind of options are available to you as far as down payments/closing costs, monthly mortgage payments and the price range that you are looking for.
Second, get the paperwork out of the way so that there are no unpleasant surprises in escrow and you can fully concentrate on the house that you want to buy - not on your loan.
The moment you see a home that you like and get your offer accepted, you will put a deposit (in Pasadena - it's customary to have a 3% deposit) and you start incurring some costs like inspections and appraisal fees. You do not want to put your money in jeopardy or start spending your hard earned $s only to find out that you are unable to get the type of loan you thought you could or get a funky request from a lender that you can not satisfy.
It's my job to protect your pocket book. So... don't argue with me, get pre-approved with the lenders that I trust and recommend to ensure that you are protected.
By the way, you can get pre-approved over the phone and fax or email over supporting documentation to the lender.
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Step 3: Once you're pre-approved, we will start scheduling home showing appointments.
To ensure that you are able to view homes at a time that is convenient for you, I have a team of showing agents that assist me with showing appointments. If I am unable to meet with you personally, one of my showing agents will be available to take you out to look at homes. Since I know what my clients are looking for, I usually preview most of the homes for sale that fit your criteria and in most instances, chances are I have already seen the home that you might fall in love with. So no worries... if I'm not with you when you see a home of your dreams and I did not see it yet, I'll make sure to see it before advising you on how to approach writing an offer on it.
Step 4: Get together to write a Residential Purchase Agreement.
You found a home that you really like, now it's time to strategize on how to get it for you. We will take a look at the comparable market analysis for home sales around that home. I will call the seller's agent to probe about the seller's needs, activity on this home and anything else that I can find out which can help us in writing our offer.
We will strategize on how to position us in both price and terms. We will also present a complete, clean package to the seller and her agent including proof of down payment funds, a pre-approval letter, a letter to the seller from you amongst other items.
I will also review the purchase contract with you explaining the different contingencies involved to ensure that you understand what you are signing. Expect to meet for about an hour - maybe a bit longer depending on how many questions come up or how complex the situation is.
There's nothing better than a clean, well written and thought through offer from a qualified buyer. Seller's agents are looking at both the proposed buyer and the reputation of the buyer's agent. If they are not familiar with the buyer's agent (there are over 1/2 a million agents in California) then they look to see how well the offer is written, how complete it is and how it is packaged. It speaks volumes!
Step 4: Open escrow!
I will oversee all the transactional details and ensure that you are focused on the appropriate steps. We will order a physical inspection, a sewer line inspection if needed, an appraisal, shop for insurance etc. Our goal here is to ensure that you understand all the critical timeframes and that our process flows smoothly with no surprises.
We will coordinate all activities with the escrow company, seller's agent and the title company.
I have a Transaction Coordinator overseeing all the paperwork to ensure that we get everything we need timely for us to review and return.
We will sit down together or over the phone to review the escrow package and how to complete it. I will track every step of the loan process through full loan approval and funding.
The first 10 days or so are going to be very busy for us, as well as the last week before closing.
Step 5: Congratulations - you bought your home!!!
Once the loan is funded and the property title is transferred to your name, I will help you with references to moving company, contractors, utility information and anything else that you might need to settle in to your new home. It's amazing how many questions come up after the sale. No worries, you are not alone. We're here to help.
The last question that seems to come up a lot is about how busy I am. I get calls or emails asking me if I have time to work with new home buyers. Yes... I do. It's very important to me that my clients get the best possible care and attention. That is why I structured my team of real estate professionals a little differently from other real estate agents. After we meet for our consultation, you will get a very clear understanding of how I work. So... no worries. I am here to help you find your next home.
If you are looking for a real estate advocate to guide you through the process of buying or selling your home in Pasadena, please give me a call to discuss your needs. I'd love to help!
IRINA NETCHAEV & ASSOCIATES
Pasadena Real Estate Agents
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