Agent Advice

Five things you should know about working with a real estate agent

If buying or selling a home is one of the biggest financial transactions you’ll ever make, shouldn’t you have complete confidence in the person who is helping you do it? We asked Tracey Saizan, a real estate agent with Realty World in Elk Grove and president of the Sacramento Association of REALTORS®, for some tips on working with a real estate agent.

1. Just do it
If you think you can wade through the paperwork and legalese involved in buying or selling a home without a real estate agent, think again. According to Saizan, agents are familiar with the reams of forms and disclosures involved and they are insured to protect both buyer and seller against any mistakes that may occur.

2. Understand buyer’s versus seller’s agent
It’s pretty self explanatory, but not all homebuyers realize it. If you walk into an open house and meet an agent, remember he or she is representing the sellers and their interests. If you’re house hunting, you need to contract your own agent. “Buyer’s agents fight for the buyer’s rights and make sure documents are signed in a timely manner,” Saizan says. “It’s difficult for a realtor handling both sides to remain completely neutral.

3. Know when to negotiate
Seller’s agents rely on commissions to market their listings by posting them on Web sites, printing fliers and more. “Some people think agents just plop a sign in the yard and wait for the phone to ring,” says Saizan, who currently spends up to $2,000 per listing on marketing. Agents may negotiate a five percent commission, instead of the standard six, when the market is strong and homes sell quickly. “But today, properties are on the market longer and agents are having to work harder, so it isn’t a good time to negotiate commissions,” Saizan explains.

4. Do your homework
Visit the California Department of Real Estate Web site ( to see how long agents have been licensed and if they’ve faced disciplinary action. Find a realtor who specializes in the area where you are selling or buying. Certified residential specialists (CRS) work in only one community, live in that community and can advise buyers about school systems, crime and other details.

5. Interview
Saizan recommends that sellers in particular interview three agents before contracting with one. Make a list of questions you want to ask ahead of time. How an agent plans to market your property—especially in the current market—is among the most important to ask. “Ninety-one percent of buyers shop the Internet before looking at homes,” Saizan says. “If an agent isn’t going to put your home on at least 15 different Web sites, they aren’t doing their best to expose it to the marketplace.”