Buying a house? While many houses are bought without the assistance of a real estate broker, the chances are you will do better by utilizing the services of a professional.
It can be someone who was recommended to you or whose name you found in a newspaper distributed in the area where you are interested in buying. It can be a member of the National Assn. of Realtors, the National Assn. of Real Estate Brokers, a group that has a multiple listing service or an individual broker with no affiliation.
Probably the greatest advantage in having a good broker is that he or she knows what is available in what price range, and can save you a lot of time and trouble. The key to finding what you want without too many headaches is to tell the broker the truth. Some people hold back facts because they believe they might wind up paying too much or not getting what they want. That's a good way to waste everybody's time.
Another advantage is that the broker knows what the financial market is in a particular area. He knows what kinds and types of mortgages are available and whether the house on which you have your eye is likely to produce the financing you will need.
A broker should also know the answers to all or most of the questions you are likely to ask--where the nearest schools are, the location of the main and secondary shopping centers, how far it is to a hospital, and so on.
William G. Connolly, author of "Guide to Buying or Building A Home," gives this advice:
"The broker may also have a good deal of information about the seller--why he's selling, when he wants to close the deal, how long he's owned the home. That information will save you some time and, perhaps, some embarrassment. Some people just don't like to ask such personal questions; you can rest assured the broker won't mind. Finally, when the time comes, the broker may be able to help you with the negotiations for the purchase and help you find a mortgage. They are all useful services."
Connolly says that, in addition to giving the broker honest information about yourself, there are certain standards of conduct that should be observed when dealing with him or her. He says:
"Understand that, while it's perfectly acceptable to consult more than one broker, it's not ethical to let one broker show you a home that you have already visited with a competitor. Once a broker or agent shows you a home--or maybe even tells you about it--he or she has a right to a commission if you buy. As soon as you realize that you're about to be shown a place you've seen before, explain why you don't want to see it. The salesman will understand; he doesn't want to get involved in a fight over commission, either."
Some other advice:
"If matters get to the point where you're dickering with an owner over terms, keep the broker informed of what you've been discussing. Reject out of hand any suggestion that you and the sellers get together and do the broker out of his commission, splitting the differences between you. That's not only unethical, it's illegal. The broker can sue for his commission, and most brokers won't hesitate to do so."
Connolly brings up a point about such phrases as "needs work" or "handyman's delight" in an ad for a house. As he puts it:
"In that case, you'd better visit the dump on an empty stomach. The terms can be translated to mean 'about to collapse' or 'a disaster area; get it before the health department condemns it.' "