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A Day In the Life- Real Estate
A real estate broker or agent is a person who acts as an intermediary between the potential seller and buyer of a property or home. Many different aspects of the law correlate with this career, and it is imperative to know the specific laws in the state or region in which a real estate agent resides before seeing their services.
Some facets of a career in real estate are tricky: certain services intersect with separate legal requirements. Real estate appraisal, for example, cannot be carried out unless the broker in question is also licensed as an appraiser. Some state’s laws also prohibit real estate agents from preparing contracts and leases. In other states, lawyers are allowed to real estate sales for compensation without being licensed as brokers or agents.
Typical job duties for a real estate agent include: comparative market analysis, exposure and marketing of the home, facilitating a purchase or sale, exchanging and auctioning property, negotiating price on behalf of the sellers, FSBO (For Sale By Owner) document preparation, pre-screening buyers for financial ability, scheduling showings, and in some cases organizing “open houses.”
A real estate salesperson’s license is required in most states in order to work in the state in which the agent will practice. In order to obtain a real estate license, a candidate must take specific coursework which is between forty and ninety hours in length, as well as pass a state exam on real estate law and practice, though the specifics vary by state. In each successive year thereafter, a license holder must participate in continuous education to remain up-to-date with statewide and national changes. The sale and purchase of a home is a very complex and time-consuming venture that requires careful thought and organization- not to mention task delegation and prioritizing.
Sara Lavagnino is an affiliate broker for The Southern Land Company in Franklin, TN and has kindly agreed to be interviewed for one of the six career profiles in my Business Law Course Project. She moved from the Eastern Sierra Mountains of Mammoth Lakes California to Nashville in 2000 and became certified as a REALTOR? in 2006. A fun fact about her that I learned after our interview is that she is an avid singer-songwriter and musician who has performed at venues all over Nashville, TN. She also has an identical twin and appeared in April 2013 on several episodes of NBC’s new reality television show called “Ready for Love.”
Interview Q & A
Q. First and foremost, what do you think the key is to being a successful real estate agent?
A. I think the key to being a successful real estate agent would be loving what you do and loving people. Selling real estate is all about building connections with others, and this is one of the biggest decisions they are ever going to make in their lives. If you make your clients feel comfortable, they will continue to use you and they will continue to tell all of their friends. I mean, if you love your job it’s going to show, and I think that if you make your clients feel comfortable- that’s the most important thing.
Q. When there are several different buys bidding on the same home, what is the counteroffer process like?
A. When it comes to counteroffers and what that’s like- if there’s bidding and it comes down to two or more people writing an offer for a home- it’s really going to depend on the seller. If someone comes in and we are in the middle of writing up an offer and someone else comes in and decides that they want to write a duel offer, we would then need to present that to the seller, and then it’s really up to the seller’s discretion. If they want to tell the other person that there’s currently another offer, or if they want to take both of the offers and look at them side by side together, we would actually go back and tell the prospective buyers that we’ve received two different offers. Then we would explain that the seller has decided to take so-and-so’s offer, and that “we will continue to work on this” sort-of-thing. It’s not the same concrete process every time; you have to ask the seller.
Q. I’ve noticed that there are no two houses in Westhaven that look alike. Are there certain building requirements that buyers have to follow to ensure the individuality of the community?
A. Yes, there are. Southern Land Company is the developer of the Westhaven subdivision, so they have their own architectural design review committee. Every single builder that builds in the community has to go through this committee, and if there several houses being built on the same street at once, the plans have to be submitted so that Southern Land Company can make sure that every house is different. All of the homes have to look different, they have to be a different color, and they do not want the same architectural style on the same street. Now, if it’s on a different street, a similar home can be built, but otherwise they need to be unique.
It’s something that they’ve done since the very beginning, building in Westhaven, and it’s something that they’ll do until the very end. Having these building regulations prevents the community from becoming too cookie-cutter and really makes it more charming and beautiful. The design committee is even responsible for approving updates and renovations to homes already standing. As a resident, any exterior alterations to your home need to be submitted to the architectural design committee for review as well.
Q. What kinds of contracts do you deal with on a regular basis?
A. The main contract that we deal with on a regular basis is going to be just a regular builder-contract purchase agreement. This includes all of the buyer’s information as well as their offer price, the closing date, and other miscellaneous details. We also deal with listing agreements, which is a type of contract written up for a person who wants to sell their house. The process is like this: you enter into a contract with the seller and we sit down and discuss what they want to take with them and keep in their house, like light fixtures, and they state what kind of commission they are willing to pay to the agency for selling the house and all of that. Those are the two contracts that we’d most likely be dealing with on a daily basis.
Q. What is the mortgage and loan process like for a potential buyer?
A. Because I’m a realtor, that is something I know a little bit about just being involved with selling real estate and the banking and finance portion of it, but the lender is really the one who’s responsible for all of that. There are so many different types of loans; I mean, the list could go on and on. A potential buyer could come in, and they might not have even spoken with the lender yet, but they would be able to write up their offer and they’d have five to seven days to bring in a pre-approval letter from the lender. The lender can do this fairly quickly- in about 72 hours, probably.
All you have to do is give the lender your tax and finance information- those kinds of things- and provide information on the loans you’ve had in the past, and from there they are able to run all of the numbers and get an idea of whether they can approve the loan or not. If the potential buyers aren’t approved, they get a denial letter, which they can send to us. In this situation, they are out of the contract and there is a contingency that states that they can get their down payment back. All of this happens within just 5-7 days of writing the offer. If you are financing and not paying cash, basically the lender is going to require that they have at least 30 days to get the loan approved at the stage where a buyer can actually move into the house. The real estate agency will know within 5-7 days, however, whether or not the loan will be approved.
Q. How does the buying process differ with land properties versus estate properties?
A. I am not familiar with land listings because Southern Land Company represents the builders who have already purchased the lot before it’s even in our hands, and from there the builder comes to us and says “this is the house that we’re going to be building.” I do know that there are completely different contracts involved with land listings, and even the lending process is completely different on a land contract versus an estate contract. There are different stipulations, there are different requirements, but I don’t know the exact degrees because I don’t deal with that on a daily basis.
Q. Does Westhaven Realty handle commercial sales or strictly residential sales?
A. Westhaven Realty is strictly residential, but we do have a commercial division that’s not a part of Westhaven Realty, but is owned by Southern Land Company. The commercial division deals with all of the buildings in the Town Center, which includes the grocery store, the hair salon, and the restaurants. People are coming out to Westhaven Realty all the time, wanting to bring their business to the Town Center of Westhaven, but they have to go through different steps of the approval process and the rules state that the Town Center is strictly non-compete. The commercial division would never allow another bank or doctor’s office to be built because those businesses are already here, and there is no way that that would be allowed.
Commercial is a whole different ballgame than residential, and even the way that they price things out is, for the most part, leasing. Southern Land Company actually owns all of the buildings in the Town Center, and the businesses are the “tenants” that rent them. It’s a totally different deal. No one is actually buying those spaces. The commercial side of Westhaven is very slow, and that’s because you have to have a certain percentage of houses in order for the developer to get a loan to build the commercial structures. A certain percentage of houses have to be built up before you can have the intricately linked percentage of commercial space within the area. There are certain restrictions that they have to go by, and that’s the reason that there aren’t more buildings in the Town Center- our community isn’t large enough to support them yet. We’re going to keep building more residential homes in order to get those commercial buildings; they do coincide with one another.
Q. How is a “For Sale by Owner” home sold versus a home sold through a real estate agency?
A. The only difference is that, if your house is “For Sale by Owner,” there is no one representing you. You are basically selling the home on your home. You’d have to market the house yourself because you wouldn’t have any access to the multiple listing service (MLS), so you maybe wont be able to reach the kind of a market that a real estate agent could. You have your house for sale, but you aren’t working with someone who’s representing you. If you have a buyer come in with a contract and it says somewhere in the small print that they’re going to lease the home for six months before buying it, but you maybe missed that part because you didn’t understand the way it was stated, you have no kind of representation to back you up- you are in that alone. Real Tracks is a website that only licensed Realtors? can use that has all of the authentic, updated listings. Websites like Trulia and Zillow pull from the MLS, but they aren’t updated as quickly and aren’t very dependable.
Q. On average, how long does the purchasing process take from start to finish?
A. That’s going to depend on the state of construction. If someone comes in here and wants to build a house from the ground up, it is going to depend on the size, but I would say it’d take maybe six to eight months- depending upon how detailed the construction plans are- from the initial contract to the point where the buyer moves in. That’s how long it takes to finalize that entire process. If someone comes in and finds a home that is already built and they’re paying cash, they could move in as quickly as they could-usually two weeks. If they’re financing, it’s going to be at least thirty days. It’s going to be a different process depending upon the state of construction. On average, it takes two to three months for a person to write their offer when the home is almost complete, to go through different walkthroughs with the builder and then finally, to sign off on the home. Some of the largest homes in Westhaven have taken over a year to build- such as the one on Morning Mist Lane which is 12,000 square feet.
Q. Have you ever had to testify in court as an expert witness on behalf of a homeowner?
A. No, thank goodness! It’s never happened to me and I pray to God that it never does. If I made a mistake or I did something to jeopardize a person’s future or wellbeing, I wouldn’t be able to deal with that.