What is the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a REALTOR®?

Most people outside the real estate industry use the terms REALTOR® and real estate agent interchangeably — like facial tissue and Kleenex®.  This is incorrect.  Although both terms are similar, there are two basic differences between real estate agents and REALTORS®:  REALTORS® are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and must adhere to its Code of Ethics.  Real estate agents do not.

The Code of Ethics, which is based on professionalism and protection of the public, is strictly enforced and consists of 17 Articles and related Standards of Practice.  It’s mandatory for REALTORS® to take the Code of Ethics orientation and they are also required to complete a refresher course every four years.

Here are the 17 things that REALTORS® pledge.

  1. REALTORS® protect and promote their clients’ interests while treating all parties honestly.
  2. REALTORS® refrain from exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts related to property or transactions.
  3. REALTORS® cooperate with other real estate professionals to advance their clients’ best interests.
  4. When buying or selling on their own account or for their families or firms, REALTORS® make their true position or interest known.
  5. REALTORS® do not provide professional services where they have any present or contemplated interest in property without disclosing that interest to all affected parties.
  6. REALTORS® disclose any fee or financial benefit they may receive from recommending related real estate products or services.
  7. REALTORS® receive compensation from only one party, except where they make full disclosure and receive informed consent from their client.
  8. REALTORS® keep entrusted funds of clients and customers in a separate escrow account.
  9. REALTORS® make sure that contract details are spelled out in writing and that parties receive copies.
  10. REALTORS® give equal professional service to all clients and customers irrespective of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
  11. REALTORS® are knowledgeable and competent in the fields of practice in which they engage or they get assistance from a knowledgeable professional, or disclose any lack of expertise to their client.
  12. REALTORS® paint a true picture in their advertising and in other public representations.
  13. REALTORS® do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
  14. REALTORS® willingly participate in ethics investigations and enforcement actions.
  15. REALTORS® make only truthful, objective comments about other real estate professionals.
  16. Respect the exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other REALTORS® have with their clients.
  17. REALTORS® arbitrate financial disagreements with other REALTORS® and with their clients.

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At the time of writing, Mark J. Kiklis, License #9090469, is the Broker-Manager at Kiklis Real Estate, LLC in Methuen, MA.

How To Use Google Alerts In Your Real Estate Search

The first thing you need is an account with google. If you don’t one, click here to create one. I don’t know a single person without a google account, and in the event someone needs that link, I will be shocked.

Log in to Google Alerts to get started. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest Google results based on the queries you identify.

Most first-time buyers search for months, if not years. I recently closed a real estate transaction for a couple that had been searching for nearly four years. I wanted to hand them a B.S. degree in residential real estate, but I’m not an accredited institution of higher learning.

The platform is extremely simple and intuitive. I know how wonderful the accessibility of the MLS pictures and data has been for real estate sales professionals and clients, but after months of daily digest emails from the same realtor, the content may finds its way to the trash bin and not make it to your eyeballs.

You can control what, how often, and how many results are e-mailed to you when you set them up. Here are some ways you can use Google Alerts immediately:

  1. If you like a property, flag the address in the search query. You will receive the updates when there are open houses, price drops, news articles, etc.
  2. If you have a broad search (metro-Boston) and want to learn more about a town, enter the town, and keep up on what is newsworthy.
  3. If you have a soft spot for a particular street or condominium complex, save the name! Maybe another house or condo will come up for sale.
  4. Google alerts will catch chatter and the MLS will not. If someone comments on an newspaper article, or posts something on a public twitter profile, facebook page, LinkedIn account, or Google+ page, you will know about it!
  5. If you have been working with multiple real estate agents, enter the names of the agents and brokerage companies they work for. Its a great way to compare skill sets.
  6. If you have been pre-qualified with 2-3 loan officers, enter the banks information and the loan officers name so you can keep up with interest rates, offers and promotions, news, etc.

Its not 1985. Take advantage of all of the tools available to you as a prospective home-buyer.

Jack O’Donohue, Real Estate Attorney at Dalton & Finegold, LLP
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Buying A Foreclosure? Order the Title Exam Before You Sign

Buying a foreclosed property can be an excellent investment in today’s economic climate.  Roughly 3% of all real property for sale in Massachusetts is bank owned, down from approximately 8% in October of 2010.  There is still plenty of inventory to chose from.

The sellers obligation is to convey the property to the buyer with good and clear record and marketable title. Many banks (and counsel) have been sloppy with the requisite paperwork these last few years.

In a typical situation, Buyers uncover title mistakes weeks or months after the purchase and sales agreement is signed by all parties. What a waste of time!

If you have located a bank-owned house that you want to buy, research the title to the property before you sign the purchase and sales agreement. Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish. Preliminarily review the land records and if you don’t have any experience reviewing a real estate title, hire an attorney to review the title for you.

The $200-$350 expense will be well worth it.

Mark J. Kiklis, REALTOR® at Kiklis Real Estate, LLC

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#Howto Build A Real Estate Team

In any business, its important to have a great team. Buying real estate is no exception. You need to make sure from the outset that you are working with competent real estate professionals. Nobody is looking out for you, more than you!

There may be more than a dozen people involved with your deal! There are real estate agents, assistants, appraisers, loan officers, loan processors, underwriters, paralegals, and attorneys (to name a few). So who are the key players? What do you have to know about them? How do you decide who to work with?

1. Network: If you know people in the real estate business, talk to them and ask for referrals. We want to help you! Ask them for the names of 3 or 4 lawyers, agents, or loan officers. Ask everyone who they prefer to work with. Its always better for a transaction when the loan officer, real estate agent, and closing attorney have a history with one another. When you think you are done asking, keep asking! This is the critical point of the team building process.

2. Research: Take the names you have accumulated and “google” them. Check out their websites, online profiles, recommendations, ratings, reviews, sales histories, etc. I’m not recommending you fully investigate each person and park outside his/her house to see what time they get home at night, but take 10 minutes per person to research carefully and take notes.

3. Test: Send some emails or make some phone calls to people that you might want to work with. Real estate is a 24/7 business. Did the person promptly acknowledge your email? Did he/she call you back within a reasonable time? When you spoke with him/her did he/she sound professional and seem to have a handle on things…Ask the tough questions.If the sales person doesn’t respond to leads quickly, just imagine how long you will wait when you are a client and need some help with a complex situation!

4. Trust Your Judgment: At the end of the day, you are going to be the person working with the professional, not your contact who recommended him/her. Don’t let advertisements and ratings websites manipulate your instinct. The best real estate people are worth their weight in gold. The bad ones may leave you homeless…literally!

5. Make a Decision Already!!!!!: You’ve done the hard work. You have networked. You have researched. You have tested these people and now its time to pick a team of professionals to work with. You’ve made it to the finish line. Congratulations! Don’t hold up your deal.

Jack O’Donohue, Real Estate Attorney at Dalton & Finegold, LLP
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