I’ll admit publicly to watching the following programs on a somewhat regular basis (normally by TiVo): 24; Prison Break; Heroes; Sopranos; CSI:Miami; CSI: Vegas. I will neither admit or deny regularly watching: Grey’s Anatomy; Ugly Betty; and Lost. I wound never admit to ever watching Desperate Housewives, except every time it’s on a Sunday night. I don’t watch any lawyer programs, I get enough law firm drama at work.
A couple weeks ago there was a Desperate Housewives scene that caused me to nearly snort my diet ginger ale through my nose. The blond bombshell, Edie, who is a real estate broker and generally heartless person found a paramour in the recently divorced Carlos. The only problem is that Edie has a child living in her home that isn’t ready to know about him Mom’s extracurricular activities and Carlos has a roommate that wouldn’t quite understand. So, Edie and Carlos needed a place to call their own for their afternoon trysts. Edie’s plan? Well, of course, she has the keys to the finest homes in town! Yes, that’s right, Edie and Carlos toured the master bedroom of several of "Fairview’s" lovely Stepford-like homes in the pursuit of prurient joy.
It’s no secret how I feel about conniving, dishonest real estate brokers. Check out my cover story interview in Boston Magazine. As a result I’ve become an effigy for many real estate brokers in Massachusetts – hey, if the shoe fits wear it. Not all real estate brokers in Massachusetts are bad, but the bad real estate brokers are out there.
What’s the best way to work with a real estate broker? On the home buying side, my advice is to focus on publicly available information first, like Realtor.com or even Craigslist for information about what homes are on the market. From there I recommend finding a real estate broker to represent you in the transaction, it won’t cost you anything out of pocket and it will put someone between you and the listing agent who is clearly not working in your best interest. The buyer broker is paid normally 1/2 of the commission on the property – this could be as much as $15,000 for merely turning a key in a lock on a typical $600,000 house. My suggestion is to ask the real estate broker to rebate part of their commission to you in the form of a closing credit to help offset lender closing costs, attorney fees, moving expenses, etc. There are new companies popping up all the time that offer some variation of this program or another. So long as you have done your own homework on the neighborhood and hired a competent home inspector and real estate lawyer to keep things legit, there’s no need to pay the full commission.
So you need to sell a house? Here’s where my legal advice might surprise you: pay the commission, the whole whopping 5% (which is typical for most properties, couple be 4% or 6% under different circumstances). Why? Well, in today’s real estate market in Massachusetts there is so much competition that your real estate broker must have sufficient financial resources to advertise and market your property beyond merely listing it on MLS.
But if they charge the same rate how to pick a good broker? First off, don’t hire your friend, mother-in-law, or cousin’s first husband to list your house. See The Gosselin Theory of Relativity for a detailed explanation. Second, don’t be the real estate broker’s first listing – hire an experienced real estate broker along with an experienced real estate lawyer. Last, and most importantly, have en entire cup of coffee with your real estate broker in your kitchen and make sure that the real estate broker is the kind of human that you like to spend time with, because at the end of the day the real estate broker is in the people business and you want good people representing you.