Whether you are buying or selling, you are about to engage in one of the most important financial transactions of your lifetime. Being honest and upfront with your Realtor from the start will keep things running smoothly and avoid bumps in the road that could derail the transaction. Here are ten important things to tell your Realtor.
- The truth about your financial situation. If you have ever filed for bankruptcy, had a bad credit report, had a short sale or a foreclosure—even if it was 20 years ago, tell your Realtor. Negative information has a funny way of reappearing after you think it is long gone.
- The truth about your relationship. This can certainly be done in a lighthearted way, but if you and your spouse (or any other individual involved in the transaction) have widely differing opinions about budget, needs vs. wants, neighborhood, or any other critical matter, say so. Realtors are great at finding compromises, as long as they know what to look for.
- What’s your credit rating? If you are a savvy buyer, you will request a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus before you even call a Realtor. Share this information with your Realtor, so that he/she knows you will be able to qualify for a loan amount that’s in your requested price range.
The three items above relate specifically to buyers. And now for the seller’s truth checklist, keep reading.
- How much you owe. It goes without saying that you probably have a first mortgage. How about a second? A home equity line of credit (even if you’re not using it). All these could affect the listing price of your home, as well as your ability to qualify for a new mortgage when the time comes.
- Why you’re selling. There are many reasons why people sell; divorce, illness, job transfer and job loss are only a few. Communicating your reasons for selling to your Realtor will let him or her know your sense of urgency as well as how to price your home for sale.
- Who’s on the title? If a husband and wife are selling their home, the Realtor may assume that both their names are on the title. But that’s not always the case. Maybe one party owned the home prior to the marriage and the other party just moved in and the title was never changed. Or maybe your Great Aunt Martha loaned you money for the down payment and her name is on the title. Matters like this can delay the closing so make sure you say something early in the process.
- What else is on the title? Lawyers and others use a term called “cloud on the title.” This means there is some claim or lien against your property that could prevent you from selling it. This might include an old mortgage or deed of trust with no record showing that it’s been paid off. Other clouds could include a tax lien, a mechanic’s lien, or a previous deed which was improperly written or signed.
- Skeletons in the closet. Family relationships are often complicated. Here’s an example: Jane had two children—Jack and Jill. She owned her condo free and clear, and in her will she left the condo to Jill because Jill had been her primary caregiver for 15 years. However, when she passed away, Jack (being somewhat jealous and unscrupulous) called a Realtor and listed the property for sale. You can’t sell what you don’t own.
- Other Realtors in the picture. If you are now working or have previously worked with another Realtor on selling this property, be honest about it. If you’re dissatisfied with your current Realtor and want to make a change, you may have to wait until your contract has expired. A good Realtor will not steal another Realtor’s client, no matter how unhappy you may be.
- Do you have invisible defects? Things like cracks in the ceiling or a leaky roof may be clearly visible. But there could be any number of invisible issues, such as dampness in the basement, termites or other pests, or even neighbors who are rehearsing their garage band every night until 3 a.m. You may be tempted to conceal such items temporarily and hope no one will notice. Don’t do it. Your Realtor is obligated by law to disclose any defects to a potential buyer and you could both end up in a lawsuit. Um, for clarity living next to a garage band isn’t a defect, but it may feel like one.
A Realtor views his or her relationship with clients like the relationship you would have with a doctor or an attorney. What you tell the Realtor stays with the Realtor. Realtors can be trusted, but don’t make them dig for information that is important to the success of your transaction. Tell truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and tell it right up front.