By Kathy McSherry | Ask Kathy
My husband and I recently moved to San Diego and are interested in purchasing our first home. I am originally from Sweden and met my husband in Europe who is in the military. He is a Navy pilot/doctor and has been relocated to San Diego. He is originally from New Jersey. In my country, I can go online and purchase a home. I do not understand all the benefits of having a real estate agent and what services you provide?
— Petra T.
First, welcome to America! Without getting into politics, the United States runs our government and policies different, our taxation system different, our education system different, and also our real estate. Here, when real estate becomes your profession, and you represent people in a legal and binding contract, it is required in most of our 50 states, to be licensed. An agent will need to complete schooling and pass both a national test and a state test to receive their license. Additionally, you happened to land in the state of California, which is one of our most litigious states, and I would strongly recommend the guidance and advice of a licensed Realtor.
Typically, sellers pay the commissions for a Realtor in a basic residential real estate transaction. So, if you are interested in buying a home, this should not cost you anything. The benefits to you are probably more than you may realize. Here are some of the basic services that a good Realtor can provide:
- Help in understanding the financing process, should a loan be involved. Many people new to home buying need to understand that unless they have the cash to pay for a home, they will need to borrow money from a bank and obtain a loan. Your Realtor should be able to guide you through this process and possibly direct you to one or two lenders that you could actually use when you apply for your loan. In the United States, we have many different types of loans to know and understand. With your husband being in the military, you are probably familiar with a special type of loan called a VA loan that has better terms, interest rates and down payment options due to having served in the military. Your Realtor can help you pre-qualify and explain the lending process. Getting pre-qualified helps everyone understand what you can afford before you start your search, and often required by a seller to be submitted with your offer to show that you have completed this first initial process in financing.
- Find your home. A good Realtor will ask the right questions to narrow down what your needs are and help you to locate a home in your price range and in an area that meets your family’s needs.
- Representing you in a legal and binding transaction. A residential purchase agreement consists of many legal documents and disclosures. Your Realtor should be able to explain everything that you are signing as there are liabilities due to all sorts of information that must be disclosed and acknowledged by both parties to the transaction.
- Explaining the process. Your Realtor should help you understand the timeline involved and be able to walk you through a typical real estate transaction. A buyer has specific timelines where they must complete a home inspection and obtain full loan approval per the contract. We also use escrow companies in California, which are neutral third parties that hold all the monies involved in the transaction; and escrow is responsible for making sure the contract is executed exactly the way the contract is written.
- Helping you hire a home inspector and attend the home inspection. Your Realtor will help to explain this detailed report regarding any items that may be of concern or need repair.
- Managing the entire process and keeping you informed. Your Realtor should be in constant communication with you, your lender, the other agent, and doing their best to ensure a smooth transaction.
I recently visited Stockholm and fell in love with your city, and your beautiful country. I think the weather in San Diego with our all-year climate will be a wonderful experience for you. Regarding real estate, people pay for that lifestyle here in the United States. San Diego has been considered prime real estate in the United States for many years and has a nickname of “America’s Finest City.” Thank you, Petra.
—Kathy McSherry is a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 702-328-9905.