Questions You Should Always Ask
The Real Estate Business remains diluted with over 6,500 local BLC/MLS members selling 26,000 homes in the Greater Indianapolis Metropolitan Area in 2009 according the the BLC/MLS PropertyLinx System (volume was down about 20% from 2007 and up just a bit from 2008). That was the equivalent of each agent participating in less than 8 sales over the entire year. A number of agents sold far more than 8 houses. Many agents sold far less than 8 houses. With an average sale commission of approximately $2,500 less expenses, many agents were earning approximately $20,000 per year and they were paying their own taxes, insurance and expenses from that. Perhaps one could have had a better net income by working at McDonalds for $10.00 per hour (you get benefits at McDonalds). Many agents are full time, many more agents are part time, many agents just work whenever. Now, the real estate agent population is down by about 18% and sales are down about 18%. Many other agents have just switched to other jobs with real estate becoming a part-time career.
These are very important considerations when it comes time for you to sell or buy a home.
The State of Indiana requires a Real Estate License for a person to list and sell real estate. There are unlicensed people who list and sell real estate and then have their boss (the licensed person) sign the respective paperwork. Against the law, but, so what? The Real Estate Commission apparently has done little to enforce the law (which was designed to protect you, the general public) ... it is often too complicated for the public to file formal complaints. Hopefully, things may change sometime soon in that regard.
There are many business models in the market place today. Traditional brokerages remain dominant but are losing market share. There are reduced fee companies, discounted fee companies, flat fee companies, for sale by owner companies, aggregative referral companies (like Lending Tree, Home Gain), etc. Many of these companies have less than 5 or so years in the marketplace, many have come and gone in the last few years and many have changed their names and business models multiple times trying to figure out how to make a profit to exist. The public often does not understand the variations in services … what will be done, what will not be done, what is a seller agent, what is a buyer agent, what is a limited agent. What will this really cost?
You should ask these twenty-two questions:
1. What precisely will your company do for me … get it in writing, step by step and in detail!!
2. What EXACTLY is the buyer agent compensation offered (if any) and what is customary for the particular area … get it in writing! This is not legally negotiable once offered!
3. Who is actually listing your property? Is it that person in front of you or someone else? Who is someone else? Why? When will you meet them?
4. Is that person or agent licensed… the Real Estate Commission no longer provides printed licenses so you must call them at 317-232-2980 to find out if and how long they have been licensed.
5. Who will collect the property information and take the photos of your property?
6. Who will insure that the property information collected is CORRECT? Errors in address, room sizes, numbers and dimensions of rooms, legal descriptions, school systems, amenities are just too typical! Will the address be spelled correctly? Will the square footage of the property be verified and presented correctly? Bedrooms, baths, amenities ... will this information be presented correctly?
7. How long will it take to put your listing into the BLC/MLS if you are using that service?
8. Will you have an opportunity to proof read the listing for accuracy? If you do, make sure that you proof read every word and question anything you do not understand.
9. How long will it take to input photos of your property into the BLC/MLS and Realtor.com? Poor quality pictures are of little benefit in the marketing of your property. Out of date pictures (snow on the roof in July) are just not acceptable and will detract from the marketing of your property!
10. How long will it take to input your listing into what web sites?
11. Do you use the 'Enhance' Realtor.com program providing up to 25 jumbo photos, a gold ID border, a personal headline, and up to 2500 personal characters of description for the property?
12. How long will it take to set up the newspaper advertising program and get the first ad (if any) published?
13. How will other agents access the agent to set appointments to see your property? Does the company use a typical 16 year old high school part time person to control the appointments and security of your home? Does the company farm out the appointment setting function to another company (even another company in another state)? Who, what, when, where, how and why? Does everyone in the world have access to the lockbox or key for your house? What does the word 'security' mean?
14. Will the person handling the call be able to effectively discuss your property and set an appointment? Is that person legal in the eyes of the real estate licensing law?
15. Will the person handling the call be able to promptly route the caller to a licensed agent who can effectively discuss your property and then show it?
16. If someone called in to see the property, how soon could an agent arrange the Appointment to show your property to the prospective purchaser?
17. How soon would you get feedback on the showing?
18. When an offer arrives, who will present it to you and how quickly?
19. Who will monitor the transaction as it moves through the steps toward a successful closing?
20. Who will attend the closing with you?
21. Will you be charged an undisclosed Transaction Fee of from $195.00 to $695.00 at the closing? ... and what is it for?
22. What is the track record of the company? Have you called the Better Business Bureau? Why Not!
Of course, the most important question is YOU ARE CHARGING ME HOW MUCH TO SELL MY HOME?
The second most important question is "WHAT ARE THESE EXTRA CHARGES AND WHY DID YOU NOT DISCLOSE THEM WHEN YOU ANSWERED THE FIRST QUESTION"?!
Real Estate Marketing and Sales is a professional business for the business professional. YOU and only you can determine if you are really working with a business professional.
Ken R Fisher, Realtor®, Broker, GRI, CRS, RECS, SRES, e-Pro
Member: MIBOR, IAR, NAR Since 1973
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Last updated: 12/31/12.