(NOTE: Under the "Essential Businesses and Operations" section of the
Safer at Home Order, residential real estate is considered an essential business so homes are still being bought and sold throughout the greater Milwaukee area. While continuing to conduct business, local Realtors are implementing precautionary best practices to reduce or eliminate contact with others and help prevent further spread of the coronavirus.)
In a way, the role of a Realtor can be summed up pretty concisely.
"We provide irreplaceable knowledge on today’s market and we are trusted advisors to our buyers and sellers in that they look to us to guide them through the process," says Courtney Stefaniak of the Stefaniak Group.
But, hold up, it's not quite that simple.
"I think as Realtors we do more than just the listing and selling aspects of the transaction," Stefaniak adds. "We sell more than houses; we also sell customer service and expertise in an industry that’s constantly changing."
What can you expect when you sign an agreement with a Realtor?
For buyers, Realtors are typically a cost-free service offering a wide range of skills and expertise that can make the process considerably easier and more rewarding.
"An agent working with a buyer receives the commission from the brokerage that is listing the property and ultimately it comes from the seller," says Jeremy Rynders, Lifetime Realty Group, Keller Williams Realty-Milwaukee Southwest, though he adds there are some cases in which a Realtor may have a fee (ask your prospective Realtor up front).
The benefits of the service are many, Rynders points out.
A good buyers agent, for a start, will do research on the property and similar ones that have recently sold.
"A comparable market analysis on the home prior to submitting an offer ensures the home is fairly priced and therefore justifies making an offer at the asking price, or even above the asking price," says Rynders.
"It also could show the home is overpriced and the agent can guide the buyers to not agree to offer the asking price and in fact pass on the home, or make an offer at a lower price that is more of a 'fair market value.'"
An agent will also educate the buyer on a wide range of considerations beyond price, including some that a buyer – especially an inexperienced buyer – might overlook, and that may affect the future value of the home, including location, layout, square footage, the home’s condition, potential repairs and their approximate costs, area developments that may impact the neighborhood and more.
"A good agent will guide buyers through all of the contingencies like: home inspection, radon testing, financing and appraisal contingencies," says Rynders.
"Some homes also have water, well and septic/mound testing that needs guidance. There is also the ability to do additional testing for things like mold or air quality, basement and chimney inspections and sewer lateral inspections. These are all items that can be easily forgotten or mismanaged when working without an agent, or working with an in-experienced agent."
In order to be able to find the right homes to visit, Realtors will work with buyers to get a feel for what they’re seeking in a home – what they want and what they need – and seek out appropriate properties and schedule showings.
"An agent can be a great resource for life," says Rynders. "We constantly add value to our past clients with various events that we host, contractor referrals and consulting on additions, remodeling, etc."
"As a listing agent, a lot of our time, energy, expertise and advice shines well before we even list a property," says Rynders, who has helped more than 250 sellers list and sell their homes over the past 10 years. "Working with an experienced and quality listing agent has many benefits."
First, there’s the advice up front, before listing. Are there things that need to be fixed, or should be changed in order to boost the value of the property? What are the expectations of the homeowner in terms of selling price? Is there staging and de-cluttering to be done?
Next, a good Realtor can help set an appropriate asking price for the property.
"While there are many online resources for automated valuation models (AVM) they can be wildly inaccurate, especially in a market like we're in now," says Rynders.
The Realtor will tour the property and sit down with the sellers to learn about the home, the neighborhood and more.
"There are many factors that go into pricing a home," Rynders says, "including the city, micro location of a street/subdivision and/or school district, condition, finish and current market conditions."
Factors like competition for homes in the neighborhood – the supply of available homes and the demand for them – is also something a good Realtor can navigate.
Once all that is complete and the home is listed for sale and is on the market, says Rynders, "our value as a listing agent Realtor really shines."
The Realtor can use marketing strategies like "coming soon" status – during which time there are no showings – to boost interest, by creating a buzz around a home that’s about to arrive on the market.
This helps get the word out about the property and gives interested buyers time to do their research and homework and arrive for a showing with a little education.
"The more interested and educated buyers we have on the first 1-3 days on the market, the more offers we'll receive and the more offers we receive the better terms we'll be able to negotiate for our seller clients," says Rynders. "This is a popular strategy lately."
Of course, Realtors also help manage showings of the home, including answering questions from buyers and their agents, and adjusting stagings and other things based on showings.
They can also help sellers understand terms and contingencies included in offers from buyers and what the repercussions of those can be. This, along with other knowledge Realtors possess, can help sellers decide which of multiple offers are best. It’s not always just about the price.
"When there are multiple offers it can be very confusing on which offers are better than others and what the proper response to the various offers can/should be," Ryders says. "Having multiple offers can be a very advantageous situation and the proper paperwork and strategy is required to take advantage of this."
Once the property is under contract, there is a lot to think about, including earnest money, home inspection, radon, mold and air quality testing, appraisal, financing, closing and occupancy dates, title policy order, final walkthrough, the closing and more.
"While under contract a listing agent will become a seller’s best friend," says Rynders. "There is constant activity (and) there are a multitude of scenarios that play-out, and a listing agent is there to guide a seller/homeowner the entire way.
"They're a resource, friend, consultant and advisor during all of it."
Remember, however, that Realtors shouldn’t be confused with magicians, reminds Stefaniak. They can help navigate the market, but they don’t control it.
"I think buyers are looking for a good deal and in today's real estate market, the good deal is in their historically low interest rate," she says.
"Sellers can sometimes have an emotional tie to their home and they place an emotional value on the home that doesn't always line up with the market value. It's our job as Realtors to provide the service, expertise and knowledge to help work through those common misconceptions."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.