What Is a REALTOR®?
Every state has its own laws governing real estate licensing; there is no national license. In Indiana, agents are required to successfully complete 54 hours of instruction at an accredited school and to pass a licensing exam. They must also complete 16 credits of continuing education every two years in order to maintain their licenses. In addition, any agent who identifies him- or herself as a REALTOR® has affiliated with the National Association of REALTORS® and has pledged to adhere to their code of ethics and professional standards.
With two years of selling experience, agents may return to school, pass another class and exam, and become licensed as real estate brokers. At this point they can go into business for themselves if they choose.
Real estate agents must affiliate with a broker before they can conduct real estate transactions. They operate on behalf of the broker, and he/she is legally responsible for their professional conduct. Any listings an agent has legally belong to the broker.
Who Do REALTORS® Represent?
The answer to this question used to be somewhat complex, but in recent years, the laws have been simplified. Now, agents working with a buyer represent the interests of the buyer and those working with a seller represent the interests of the seller. In practical terms, this means that whether you are a buyer or seller, your agent is now required to:
- Exercise reasonable skill and care in performing their duties
- Deal with you as a client honestly and fairly
- Disclose all facts which are known to the agent (or may be reasonably discovered) that affect the value or desirability of any property you are considering.
- The only exception to this law is when a buyer wants to buy a home listed by his/her own agent-or by an agent affiliated with the same broker (since the listings legally belong to the broker). In this situation, the agent becomes
a “limited agent,” representing the interests of both parties. This limited agency must be disclosed, and both the buyer and the seller must give their consent in writing for the transaction to move forward.
How Are REALTORS® Paid?
Real estate agents are paid on commission, generally a percentage of the selling price of the home. The commission for a particular transaction is established in the listing agreement between the seller and his/her agent.
The commission is paid at closing. The selling agent’s broker receives a portion of the commission, and the buying agent’s broker receives the other part. Each agent’s broker then pays him/her a portion of the commission.
Why Should You Work With a REALTOR® When You Buy?
There are many compelling reasons to use a real estate agent when you buy a home:
- They have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which allows them to search for available homes that meet your criteria.
- They will handle the administrative details of scheduling showings for the homes you would like to see.
- They save you time by providing you with information about schools, neighborhoods, etc.
- When you find a home you think you might be interested in, they can use the MLS to find out the list prices of other homes for sale in the area as well as the sales prices of those that have recently sold. This can help you determine the fair market value of the home before you make an offer.
- They will guide you through the maze of offers and counteroffers, inspections and amendments-always looking out for your best interests. Their advice and insight in these areas can help you avoid potential pitfalls and may save you from costly errors. Your agent will know, for example, which items in the home need to be included in the purchase agreement; some items can be assumed to stay with the house while others must be specifically stipulated. If the inspection uncovers problems, your agent will help you negotiate changes with the seller. Most real estate agents will not tell you what to do, but their training, previous experiences, and professional contacts can help you make better, more informed decisions.
- They can help you find a reputable mortgage company.
- They will explain the closing process and all of the paperwork involved.