Ten common myths about real estate (and why you should not believe them)

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1. Im still just looking at homes, so Ill keep contacting different agents until I find one I like.
I implore you to choose a Realtor first and then find your new home together. It upsets me to see so many buyers driving around and calling whatever name and number is on the sign outside of a home they like. You know absolutely nothing about that agent, except that he or she is working for the seller and therefore charged with protecting the sellers best interests (not yours). Rely on and stick with the Realtor you have chosen to represent you, and your loyalty will be well rewarded.

2. As a buyer, I have to pay a Realtors commission.
The sellers pay a commission, traditionally 6 percent, to accommodate a split between their own agents and the buyers agents. The sellers are giving you (the buyer) the opportunity to have professional representation at their expense (the exception being a For Sale By Owner). Choose well, and consider the risks of dual representation. Your representation is just as important, if not more so, than the sellers. Not only are your current finances and lifestyle an important consideration, but also your future ability to re-sell or rent your home.

3. Realtors can only show me thier own listings.
Any Realtor can access every single home listing for sale or rent that is entered into the Multiple Listing Service for its district. Their electronic lockbox key or special agent instructions in the listing provide ANY Realtor access to ANY home during acceptable hours.

4. All Lender Letters are created equal.
There is a difference between a Pre-Qualification, a Pre-Approval, and an Approval letter. There is also a difference between a Mortgage Broker and Direct Lender. As a buyer, you need to know these differences and as a seller, you need a competent Realtor to screen the financial strength of all offers you receive.

5. Selling my home myself will save me money.
Time is money is an important concept to consider. How valuable is your time? Throw in the cost of advertising, storage units, and mortgage payments made on a house that sits empty and it all adds up. The quicker you get an offer, the more profitable you will be. Does your work and life schedule allow you time for the marketing, networking, and showing your home that will get you there and then all the way to settlement? And are you comfortable being home alone with strangers?

6. A home is priced below assessment, so its a good deal.
A tax assessors purpose is to evaluate property for the purpose of taxing it. The job description does not include viewing the interior and exterior of every home within the assigned area. The value on record with the County does not reflect updates or negligence of a home. It can be inaccurate in number of finished rooms, square footage, or additional structures such as decks. These values are also assigned annually while the real estate market remains fluid and subject to seasonal and financial trends. The tax assessment of a home should be considered primarily in budgeting for your annual property taxes.

7. As a homeowner, I know the best price I should ask for.
A Realtor is trained through education and experience to estimate the current value of a homes features to the average buyer in a specific area. Realtors provide expert advice after evaluating nearby homes that are for sale, under contract and recently sold. As a seller, you ultimately set the list price but the market determines the actual value of your home. A seller may insist on a high price because of what a neighbors home sold for in 2004 or to allow room for a price reduction, but this means that fewer prospective buyers will even find it. Dont be afraid that you will give your home away because a well-priced home could even yield multiple offers above your asking price.

8. My best bet is to choose a Realtor who lives in my neighborhood.
If you notice a Realtor living in your neighborhood, he or she could provide additional insight and motivation for the sale of your home. You should still be cautious though because mere residence does not automatically make anyone skilled, resourceful or a good match for your personality and expectations. Consult with your neighbor Realtor first, determine how actively he or she participates in and promotes your community, and count yourself lucky if that Realtor meets your expectations for representation.

9. All Realtors are created equal.
Different real estate companies provide different resources, support, and brand recognition to their agents. Each individual Realtor then has different motivations, skills, personality traits, backgrounds, talents, areas of expertise, priorities, and personal standards. Take your time to evaluate characteristics such as responsiveness, creativity, technology awareness and Internet savvy.

10. Realtors are not really professionals.
Full-time Realtors are licensed professionals, who take their careers very seriously. The successful ones must be skilled entrepreneurs with a working knowledge of accounting, time management, marketing, graphic design, financing, law, communication and negotiation skills & and a psychology degree doesnt hurt. They are accountable to a Real Estate Board and a high Code of Ethics, and are required to maintain and update their industry knowledge through continuing education.

As a buyer or seller, do your research, choose someone you feel comfortable with and confident in. The best resource for a Realtor is always to ask your friends, family, or co-workers. You will be surprised by how many have a good or bad Realtor story  and both are equally important!

Karen Hall is a Realtor with Century 21 New Millennium in Alexandria.

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