Living Smart: Secrets of a realtor

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Working with a knowledgeable realtor when buying or selling a house will not only expedite the process, but it can save you money. If you have plans to move in the near future, heed this advice from agents for your best chance of success in real estate.

—Hire local

Every metropolitan area has a few real estate agents that spend a lot of money marketing himself or herself to everyone within shouting distance. But if you know what part of town you want to live in, hire an agent who specializes in that locale.

Perhaps he or she even lives in the area and can tell you where to find the nearest dog park or the best BBQ joint. You want to work with someone who knows practically every nook and cranny of your desired location.

—Negotiate the commission

Standard commission rates for real estate agents hover between five and six percent, split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents — but that doesn’t mean it can’t go lower. Before you list your house, ask prospective agents if there’s any wiggle room in their commission rates.

—Go it alone

You don’t have to hire a realtor to sell your house. The "for sale by owner" route might take more of your time and energy, but you might save yourself a few bucks in the process if you know what you’re doing. Be sure to thoroughly research this option before you commit.

—Flat fee for the listing

If you do go the FSBO route, you can pay an agent a flat fee to have your house appear on the MLS (multiple listing service). The MLS is an online database of homes for sale, making it easier for realtors and potential buyers to find your property.

—You catch more flies with honey

The real estate industry is unique in that competitors have to work with one another on a regular basis. If you interview a few prospective realtors, one of those you don’t hire may end up bringing a buyer to the table.

The point is, be nice. Don’t bad mouth someone who may have rubbed you the wrong way because you could end up trying to complete a sale together.

—Get out of the house

When it’s time for an open house or a showing, take your pets and disappear. Your presence makes potential buyers feel uneasy, and they’ll more than likely leave and never return.

—Buyers are liars

It may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the secret to a successful search may be inside you. Home buyers tend to insist on a very specific list of demands or dream beyond the budget. When in the end, what they end up buying looks nothing like their initial demands.

Take some time to really review what it is you want and a realistic budget so you won’t waste your time chasing after something that’s out of your reach.

—Ask questions

A Realtor should be an open book when it comes to showing you a house. Yes, you’re given a lot of information regarding a home’s size and tax requirements and so on, but don’t be afraid to ask questions outside of the box.

Was there ever a murder or reports of paranormal activity on the property? What agents are required to reveal varies depending on where you live, but regardless, do a little digging on your own (talk to the neighbors!) before you buy.