Episode 2- REALTOR®, Real estate agent, Broker...Is there a difference? Does it really matter?

Dated: 05/02/2020

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To experience this episode of the podcast, take a listen here:

Welcome to Ya Don't Know What Ya Don't Know. I'm your host, Desiree Merriweather thanks for listening. For those of you who listened to our first episode, welcome back. For those of you who are first time listeners, we'll hope you'll be tuning in regularly with us.

Today we want to talk about the importance of working with a Realtor®.

What is a Realtor®? What's a real estate agent? What is a broker? Is there a difference? And does it really matter? The answer to your question, yes.

So, what exactly is a Realtor? Simply, a Realtor is not just your standard real estate agent. They are professional members of the National Association of Realtors®, and we have to subscribe to a strict code of ethics that regulate how we behave and what we do when we're working with clients and customers. That’s makes us the Realtor® difference when you're a buyer or when you're a seller.

The easiest way to help you understand the difference between a Realtor®, a broker, or a real estate agent, is to put it in some terms that would probably make it very easy for you to understand. So let's talk about cars. Everyone is pretty much familiar with the Toyota brand of vehicles. You know, Toyota has their entry level vehicles, and then they have their luxury line. So let's think about their Toyota Corolla, the Camry, the 4-Runner, the Avalon. If you use Toyota as your standards for trying to compare the real estate agents or Realtor®, you're working with the level of education, time, expense, skills, upgrades, if you will, that our real estate professional has chosen to invest in their career is what makes them different.

Your average Realtor® who has taken time to be a member of the National Association of Realtors®, who has invested money in education and training would be the equivalent of your Toyota Avalon. They've got upgrades, they've got attributes, they've got skillsets, they've got features in their personal profile that make them the top of the top, the best of the best, better than average.

Your real estate professional who has gone to school and continue to do their continuing education every two years as required, but has not spent any extra time or money investing in their career or investing in different ways to educate themselves to better assist you in your purchase or your sale is more like your Toyota Corolla. Does that mean you can't get from point a to point B with a Corolla? No, but we all know there's a big difference between being in a car with power steering and heated seats and air conditioning and being in that luxury vehicle that seats move for you, and they sense when you're there and the bells and whistles go off when your seat belt’s not fastened.

It's intuitive. It knows what you need. It's feeding more of your wants. That's what you want. When you're working with a real estate professional who considers themselves a Realtor®, you're getting the upgrade, you're getting someone who's going to be intuitive. You're getting someone who has attributes and upgrades that are better suited to assisting you and what you're wanting to do in your real estate transaction.

So those upgrades that I talked about, that you find in realtors, we call them designations. They're also known as education, very similar to the letters and credentials you'll see behind medical professionals. Realtors®. have the ability to take classes, to take different education opportunities to improve their ability to perform their career in ways that ultimately help them become better agents and help you through your processes more easily.

A lot of those, esignations show you how your agent has chosen to specialize themselves in their business. For example, if you see an agent who has the initials ABR behind their name, that's letting you know that they're an Accredited Buyer's Representative, that means they've taken a couple of classes and they have done enough production or have sold enough houses to where they can say they can be an expert in helping buyers get into their homes. If you see an agent with the initials SRES behind their name; That means they're a Seniors Residential Specialists. That means they've taken extensive training to help those who are a little bit advanced or mature in age with their needs when buying or selling a home. And to be very honest, the needs of someone in their fifties sixties or seventies when buying a home is going to be very different from someone who is in their twenties or early thirties when buying a home. So you want someone who knows about those differences; who are sensitive to your needs. Another set of initials you might see is SRS which is a Sellers Residential Specialists. That's someone who has taken extensive training to be able to help sellers navigate the processes of getting their home ready on the market, sold, listed, staged- Everything that comes into play when they're getting ready to sell their home Those things are important because everyone's experience when they're getting ready to buy or sell a home is going to be different.

What happened when a family member bought a home five years ago or a cousin brought her home or a friend bought her home even as recently as 60 days ago, is going to be different than your process. You want someone who is going to be in tune with what's going on in the market. You're going to want someone who's going to be familiar with what's happening in the economy in relation to what's changing with credit. You want someone who knows that sellers and buyers deal and experience different issues in their processes, and you want them to recognize the difference. This is important. Your time is important. Your money is important. You're about to make one of the most expensive purchases or sell one of the most expensive pieces of property in your lifetime, and you want someone who is going to be very well versed in knowing how to deal with you and what comes with your particular transaction.

There's nothing wrong with having general real estate knowledge. Even the experts started with general knowledge. You don't immediately walk into real estate being an expert. You walk into real estate with the training you needed to be able to get licensed and to start working. But it's time, it's experience, it's mistakes (and trust me, we've all made mistakes), that help shape your real estate agent or the Realtor® you choose to work with into the person that you're working with. At some point, they're going to become an expert guide in getting you through that process, whether it's explaining the forms, walking you through disclosures, helping you with some of the technical aspects of your process. That skill comes from investing in themselves and in their education so they can in turn be a better asset to you.

Many times, your agent will have some specialized knowledge to assist you in your real estate process if you are looking to buy. A home. You literally don't know what you don't know. So, you want someone who is going to be able to guide you through the potential pitfalls that can occur, as well as provide objective information and opinions and guidance on how to navigate your process. Your Realtor® should be able to, and often provides you information on zoning and utilities and schools. They're going to be able to do in depth research on the different properties that you're viewing. They're going to be able to look at the data in the MLS or in the tax records and let you know if that property is going to suit your needs.

And if it's going to be financially feasible for you to move forward on that property, if you're a first time buyer, your Realtor® is going to be knowledgeable about financing opportunities, and if they don't personally have the knowledge, they're going to have resources and vendors and contacts who are going to provide the expert knowledge that they may not have, to work with them to get you through the process when they specialize.

You may find a Realtor® out there who is strictly working with first time buyers. There are programs and needs a first- time buyers that you don't have once you buy your first house. Once you buy your first house, you kind of think you know what you're doing. You feel a little bit more comfortable. The terms are not as foreign. The process is not as strange. You may not feel as rushed once you've done it the first time. But that first time, everything you hear, everything you see, the majority of the terms that come in front of you are new, and you want that person who can clearly and concisely break down the wealth of information that will be coming at you as a first time buyer.

If you are working with the government loans. Say you're a veteran, say you're looking for a rural property and you're looking at a U S D a loan. There are requirements and restrictions for both of those loan types and experienced Realtor® should be able to let you know whether or not one is going to be better for you than the other, or even if you'll qualify. You have to be a vet or have a military affiliation to potentially qualify for a VA loan. That's not something that everybody's going to have access to. You don't want someone to get you excited about 100% financing and then find out after you found the house, you love that that's not the loan for you.

Unfortunately, there are properties out there that are considered distressed. People have lost their homes due to hardship. People have been foreclosed on and those properties are now back on the market ready to be purchased. There are special steps and special ways that you have to navigate that process if you're looking to buy or even sell one of those homes. If that's where you are, you want a Realtor® or a real estate professional who is skilled and versed with handling the different nuances of those types of sales. So that's why the designations are important, and that's why being a Realtor®  is important.

You don't have the designations without being a Realtor® and those designations, when you see them, we'll let you know. Is that person a military specialist? Is that person a short sale specialist? Is that person specialized in doing marketing on the internet? And we are social media. Those are some things that you can see just by looking at their website or their business card to see if they're carrying those designations or those certifications. Being able to use those designations and certifications means that we're held to a different standard.

So, I mentioned earlier that Realtors® are those professional members of the National Association of Realtors®.

But also locally, there are associations that work in conjunction with that National Association to ensure that the Realtor® that you're working with is honest and ethical and professional. So, in our local market, we have the state association as well as the local association. Although they're separate, the three of them work together to ensure that their membership are treating the public;  you, our customers, our clients in a manner that is conducive to how you want to do business, and that is reflective of our bigger goal and our larger function, which is being ethical, being an expert, and assisting you through that process in the best way possible.

So why does this all matter? What is the big deal? Well, it matters because those checks and balances that are put in place by the National Association of Realtors® is an additional layer of protection for you on top of what housing and urban development, the state licensing board, and even the equal housing regulations have put in place to ensure that the person in charge of helping you make one of the most expensive decisions of your life are properly trained and educated to do so.

And they're doing it in an honest, ethnical, nondiscriminatory manner. These checks and balances, make sure that your time and money are taken as seriously as you are taking the process of buying or selling your home. You need that expert there to help you. We're not there to push you or to prod you into doing something you're not comfortable doing.

We're there to be that voice of reason, that Jiminy cricket on your shoulder whispering in your ear because you came into the process telling us what your goals were, what your needs were, what your wants were. And oftentimes when you start looking at homes, you get excited about the beauty, the aesthetics, the floors, the location, the proximity to the school, the proximity to your job, and you often can forget that you said you needed an extra space for a family member to spend, or you absolutely had to have a room to work out in, or you've got a backyard need because you have large, furry family members who spend a lot of time outside and you get so caught up on the pretty, you kind of forgot your needs. Those checks and balances are so ingrained in us that when we see you getting excited. We don't have that same emotional investment in that particular property, but we are emotionally invested in you. So when we see you may be deviating from what you told us previously you needed, you want it, we speak up and say, “Hey, but did you notice it doesn't have the garage that you said you needed? Are you okay with that?” We're there to remind you to help you stay in budget, to help you stay focused so at the end of the day you are still satisfied with your purchase.

There's nothing more distressing to me as a Realtor® to help someone find a home and I'm doing it according to the guidelines, they, my clients gave me with what they wanted and what they needed, and I'm listening and then they move in their house. In three months later, I get a phone call saying ‘Desiree, I hate my house’… don’t say that!

“Tell me why, what happened?” And, on the one time that I can really recall that something like that happen, they sacrificed something they really wanted in a home because they saw another feature that was just so beautiful that they thought they couldn't live without. And even though I said, but “what about the item you want it?” They'd be like, Oh no, I'm okay. I can make do because this bathroom is so great. I can't live without this bathroom. Come to find out they could have lived without the bathroom ‘cause they needed the other bedroom. They gave up a little bit more. That's why you want someone who's been trained in that manner to remind you to not be caught up emotionally in the house and the look at the bigger picture and see is this fitting your needs; Does this have the things that you told me it needed to have?

Could you get that from someone that doesn't carry the Realtor® designation. You absolutely could. Just like that Toyota Corolla; if you need to get from point a to point B, it'll get you there. But sometimes it'll get you there and you got a lot of hardship and a lot of sweating and an uncomfortable ride versus getting there and feeling good about the trip as well as the in destination.

So how do you know if you're working with the right individual? At the end of the day, the only way for you to properly answer that question is for you to do your research. Ask questions. Ask your Realtor® how long you've been in the business. Isn't your full-time job? Is it a part-time job? Ask them, look to see, go online. See if they have designations or certifications. Ask them how many buyers they've worked with in the last year. Ask them how many sellers they've worked with in the last year.

There are so many factors and decisions that have to be made during the course of your real estate deal. We want you to ask questions. We don't expect you to know everything. The more questions you ask, the more comfortable you'll be during the process. Remember, you don't know what you don't know, but knowledge is your power.

Thanks for listening. We'll talk to you next week.

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C. Desiree Merriweather

With 17+ years of real estate experience, my career has given me more than the ability to take care of my family. It has given me an awesome opportunity to assist anyone who wishes to have a piece of ....

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