Jim Valentine: Are you getting the most from your agent?
You know what to do when you are thinking of buying or selling real estate – you call your agent. We think it is important that you understand that there are many other times and circumstances when your agent can help you other than an actual transaction situation.
Real estate agents have good working knowledge in many areas of expertise. They aren’t lawyers or accountants, but they have basic understanding of tax and legal matters as they pertain to real estate. If your spouse or a relative passes away there are many things that occur or need to occur in the days following the event. You will likely be under severe emotional duress and your agent can help. A few of the things that need attention include continuing to make payments if you have a loan, transferring title if you are joint tenants, starting probate if your situation calls for it, maintaining the property, tax consequences of a transfer if you sell after you inherit, sorting out the rights of heirs and “supposed” heirs, etc.
Your agent will know attorneys that specialize in probate, or estate law. He can introduce you to the right attorneys and help you understand the rhetoric that you are exposed to as you deal with the legal matters. He can also help you select an appraiser so you establish an “IRS-proof” value at the date of death. That is important as it becomes the stepped up basis from which you figure any gain or loss you will have when you sell it. Like attorneys, appraisers have specialty areas so your agent can match you with the right appraiser.
While you own real estate it is a good idea to stay up with the value of your properties. This can be important with insurance matters related to the property, mortgage insurance premiums, and selling decisions. Do you have enough insurance coverage in the event of a catastrophe? Do you have enough equity to have the lender quit billing for the mortgage insurance? Are things going up or down such that you should consider selling? Check in with your agent periodically and see how things are going. Not only in the overall market, but in your niche market. Your agent should be happy to keep you updated and stay up with the progress of your family. Agents build nice relationships with families during the buying and selling process and they like to know how everyone is doing.
Your Aunt Tilly might have an easement, title, or other question about real estate and nobody to call. Your agent should be happy to help your family with perspective on the matter. Remember, we aren’t lawyers, but we can usually identify when a lawyer is needed. Sometimes we can give ideas for solutions that can avoid litigation. When the other party hears a sensible position they know that they aren’t going to push the Aunt Tillys of the world around. We have many people consult us on extended family real estate matters. It is important that your agent understand that not all areas operate the same, not all states have the same laws, and there may be key details that weren’t related in the relating of the sob story. A good agent will be objective and won’t overstep their bounds.
Our advice: Agents are generally paid by a commission when they sell something but can offer a lot without being paid. They know that it is the strong relationship they build with their customer that makes them a client. The more you work together to stronger the bond of trust becomes. Try your agent on with some questions or scenarios regarding your estate or investment. You can expand your relationship and your real estate knowledge and awareness. Magical things can happen when you work closely together with trust.
If you don’t have an agent, get to know one for your future endeavors. It will help to have a good relationship when you are ready to make a real estate move. You will be able to plan and execute with confidence. When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless!
Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-3704. firstname.lastname@example.org