The most important real estate decisions are yours to make

Don't put your agent in charge

Buying or selling a home can be rewarding, although often stressful. To ease the pain, assemble a group of professionals to help you get the job done.

A good real estate agent can make the project a lot easier. Be sure to make your agent selection carefully. If you don’t already have an agent with whom you’ve had a good prior experience, ask acquaintances who live in the area where you’re buying or selling to recommend a well-respected, local agent.

Rapport is a very important component of the agent selection process. Your agent will act on your behalf with prospective buyers, other agents, contractors and inspectors, to name a few. Pick an agent you trust, respect and who has good communication skills.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Your agent can help coordinate the many details that need to be managed before and during the sale transaction. However, never forget who’s in charge. Your agent works for you.

You rely on your agent’s recommendations, intuition and skill based on years of experience working in your marketplace. But your agent is not the decision-maker — you are.

Most buyers and sellers are busy. You usually don’t decide to make a move when you’re sitting around with nothing else to do. Buyers’ dream homes often come on the market at the least convenient time.

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As much as you’d like to turn the decision-making over to your agent, you need to stay current on what is happening during your transaction. Some agents withhold information from their clients because they know they’re busy and they don’t want to bother them.

This can lead to problems if you find out too late that you can’t fix a problem that you could have if you’d only known earlier. Make sure your agent knows that you want to be kept informed throughout the transaction.

The same goes for your dealings with the rest of your team. For example, if you’re having your home staged, it’s best to meet with the stager and your real estate agent to look at the home and discuss the staging strategy. It’s fine to leave this step to the stager and your agent if you really don’t have time.

When you see your home staged, be aware that it won’t look like you live there. That’s the point. You want buyers to feel that they can make your home their own.

However, if you don’t like something about the finished job, make your feelings known. A good stager will make changes in furnishings or remove accessories if asked to do so. Check with your agent first to make sure you’re on target. Emotions can get in the way.

Today, working with lenders can be one of the most difficult parts of the home purchase transaction. Buyers don’t feel they’re in charge. Harassment might better characterize the loan approval process. Mandatory forms are ambiguous. Lenders ask for an ever-increasing amount of documentation. If you don’t provide it in a timely fashion, your loan may be denied.

However, you choose the lender or mortgage broker you want to work with. You are the decision-maker when it comes to what kind of mortgage you want: fixed-rate, adjustable-rate (ARM), or a fixed/ARM hybrid.

Your loan professional should provide you with all the information you need to compare the various mortgage options available, but you decide which one is best for you. You also decide how much to borrow, even if it is less than what you can qualify to borrow.

Select expert local inspectors and take the time to read the reports. Sometimes there are mistakes in the reports. If so, contact the inspector and have the report corrected.

THE CLOSING: If you can’t stay involved, make sure you hire an agent who will keep you up to date and who won’t make decisions for you.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide."

Contact Dian Hymer:
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