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FOOD FOR THOUGHT...

TO THE BUYER:

As a buyer, it usually costs nothing to hire a real estate professional to help you find and purchase a home--your Realtor will likely get a portion of the commission the seller pays to his Realtor. When choosing an agent, get referrals from friends, relatives, and co-workers, and then interview as many agents as possible. Pick an agent that works in the neighborhoods you're interested in. Listen to your agent, but make your own decision.

TO THE SELLER:

Some homeowners think that selling their own home will save money and give them an advantage over the Realtor-using majority. Before you start down this complicated path, here are a few reasons why using a real estate professional is important: 1) You will be drastically limiting your exposure to potential buyers, which means it can take between 10 and 15 times longer to sell your home. Houses that take a long time to sell usually sell for less because buyers believe there must be something wrong with them. 2) Most buyers find negotiating with sellers extremely awkward, and therefore avoid For Sale By Owner situations. 3) Most buyers use a Realtor in their home search, and most buyers' agents will typically not work with FSBOs because they will not be paid. This means you will have to offer a selling commission to attract buyer's agents, which will cut into your expected "savings." 4) Lack of negotiating experience can result in a lower selling price, or worse, a bungled contract and possible lawsuits. It is probably unwise to pit your negotiating skills against those of experienced professionals. 5) If you plan to use a lawyer to help you negotiate, your lawyer's fees could be considerably higher than a Realtor's commission. Unlike Realtors, lawyers do not get paid for proactively representing your best interests or mediating delicate situations. 6) You only pay a commission to your Realtor if they successfully sell your home at a price you are happy with.

Don't buy your new home until you have sold your current home.

This is generally sound advice unless you live in an extremely hot market and your Realtor is sure you'll be able to sell your home quickly. Timing is crucial, so start working with your agent to find a new home as soon as yours is listed. With a little bit of luck, the day you accept an offer on your home, you'll be able to make an offer on a new home and close both deals on the same day. At worst, you may have to live in a rental for a couple of months, but most people agree that moving twice is preferable to being stuck with two mortgage payments!