My Partner and I Want to Hire an Agent to Help Us Purchase a Home. What is the Difference Between an Agent and a Broker?

The term ‘real estate agent’ is generally used interchangeably between both types of agents, but there is a difference. Following is a general definition and duties of an agent and a broker.

downloadReal Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a person that has passed both state and national exams to become licensed by the state where they will be working. The requirements vary, depending on state laws, but general qualifications include minimum age and education and/or experience and real estate pre-license or college courses. Once licensed, an agent must work under a real estate broker and cannot be paid directly for his or her services.

The general duties of a real estate agent that represents buyers include interviewing clients to determine the type of property they are looking for, preparing documents related to the purchase, presenting purchase offers to sellers, and acting as an intermediary in negotiations between the buyer and the seller. The agent also coordinates with lenders, home inspectors, escrow companies and others to ensure that the conditions of purchase agreements are met before the closing date, coordinates the actual closing, and oversees signing of documents.

Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is required to have more education and/or experience than a real estate agent in most states. For example, to apply for a broker license in Montana, the person must have two years experience as licensed real estate salesperson. In California, a person must have a four-year degree and eight real estate courses at the college level. Two years experience as a licensed real estate salesperson may be substituted for the four-year college degree.

Broker’s are authorized to work independently, own real estate businesses, and to employ real estate agents. If the broker hires real estate agents, he or she is required to oversee all aspects of selling and buying real estate by those agents to ensure proper representation of clients within the confines of the law.

What is a Buyer’s Agent?

When you hire a real estate agent or broker to assist you in finding and purchasing real estate, he or she will be your buyer agent. Your legal relationship in most states will be with the broker that the agent works under. Some states allow an agent to act for a buyer, rather than the broker, so that the business can take advantage of working for both buyers and sellers without creating a conflict of interest.

Along with the real estate agent general duties described above, your buyer’s agent has the duty to act in your best interests and do everything possible to gain an advantage for you. For example, he or she must assist you in paying the least amount of money possible for a home you would like to purchase. He must disclose any facts that he has about the value of the real estate and any knowledge about the seller, such as his or her motivation to sell, that may have an effect on negotiations.

How To Find a Qualified LGBT Real Estate Agent

Although you may find a gay real estate agent by looking in your local yellow pages, there is no guarantee that he or she is a good agent. The best way to find a reputable  LGBT real estate agent is to conduct a free search at The professionals listed are all highly qualified in their particular areas of expertise and have been interviewed to ensure that their approach to working with the LGBT community meets our standards.

Interview Questions to ask a Real Estate Agent before Buying a Home

Real estate agents are varied and have multiple levels of experience and motive. Finding a good real estate agent before you purchase a home is worth shopping for.

It will take time to find a home that you like, and you should be as determined to find a great real estate agent that you like and trust to keep your best interests at heart. A professional real estate agent or REALTOR® should not have a problem answering some of the following questions, and it will give you peace of mind. Communication and understanding should be a strong foundation of your relationship with your agent.

  • Is your real estate agent new, experienced in the field, full time or just part time?
  • Have they provided you a list of references with contact information?

Asking for references of past clients helps to get a good understanding of personal reviews, take the time to actually speak to some of them.

Contact people who have been home buyers working with this Realtor or company. Even if the references did not purchase a home, they will have very useful information about their experience with the Realtor.

If it is just a part time position for the Realtor, you may find it difficult to schedule meetings or viewings at times which are convenient to you. If they have a team, or assistants involved, get a list of anyone that you would likely be in contact with.

Determine the mode and frequency of contact whether via e-mail or phone. If you lack communication, you may miss important home viewing opportunities.

  • Does the agent have an informational and easy to access website for communication and reference?

It can save valuable time reviewing properties before you actually go to the location.

  • Does the Realtor represent you, or the seller?

This makes a huge difference when it comes to making a decision on the price. If they have a personal connection with the seller, they may not have your best interests in mind. Ask for a list of fees in writing, so that there are no surprises in the total cost.

When buying demand to work with a buyer’s agent (buyer broker), no exceptions!

  • Will the agent show all available properties from other companies’ listings, or just their own?

Buying opportunities could be missed, and it would be costly to have more than one Realtor.

These are just basic guidelines, but if you are not afraid to ask, it will make a much less stressful buying experience. Well constructed research builds the strong foundation of a future home.

Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of ~ Free Instant Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast-to-coast.

What is the cost to be represented by a buyers broker?

The decision to retain the services of a Buyer’s Broker when purchasing a home, is one you won’t regret.

Of course, there is a cost; Buyer Brokers make a living through representing their clients. The good news is that there is often no additional cost to you, the home buyer, if the search for a new home culminates in a purchase. For all of their time, energy, and incredible guidance they provide, Buyers Brokers fees are usually a percentage of the commission paid by the Seller to the listing Realtor at closing, so it ends up costing you nothing for full legal representation. In most instances, a Buyer’s Broker will ask you to sign an agreement stipulating payment to him or her for services rendered and/or expenses incurred in the search for a home, with or without a sale.

Given the value of their services, this is reasonable = Time is money.

Although there are many benefits to entering into a relationship with a Buyer’s Broker to represent you in one of life’s most important purchases, among the most valuable is the time you will save by letting a professional do your leg work. Advise your Buyers Broker of the “primary” and “secondary” features you want in a home, your desires in terms of location, and be sure s/he is aware of your price range. Armed with this information, your Buyers Broker can make inroads with the realtors listing those homes which are possibilities ….and tote you around to view those properties! This is a huge boon to busy buyers who are dealing with the responsibilities of their jobs, families, and those little surprises life hands us.

In addition to acting as your eyes, ears, and legs during the home search process, the Buyer Broker extends invaluable professional guidance to you on home buying. Examples include advice on avoiding common pitfalls of a home purchase, as well as information on all aspects of obtaining financing for your home and how that will play out (from mortgage application to closing). Your Buyer Broker will make sure all the “T’s” are crossed and the “I’s” are dotted in the home-purchase process and act as your advocate during the offer, the home inspection, and all other phases of the purchase. Representation by a knowledgeable Buyers Broker in a home purchase can replace the stress involved in a “do-it-yourself home search” with confidence and peace of mind.

Perhaps the question on the “cost of having a Realtor represent your best interests as a Buyer’s Broker” should be, rather, on the worth of a Buyer’s Broker acting as your advocate. The myriad merits of the services provided by this professional who marshals your interests, legally in all areas of your home purchase can be an invaluable asset in the transaction.

Acting as your scout, as your mediator between you and the listing Realtor or seller in what could be stressful negotiations, and as a proponent through the closing phase, the Buyers Broker is a home buyer’s friend, indeed.

Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of offering Free Instant Access to Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast to Coast.

When Buying a Home, How Do I Find A Good Area?

Making the decision to choose an area for your next home is a complex one.  You’ll need to consider the school district, if you have or plan to have children, proximity to work, and a vast array of other variables that making the right decision often seems overwhelming.  A good area is a very subjective idea; one property may be perfect for one family, yet a deal breaker for another. 

It’s important to identify a baseline set of criteria so that the subjective idea of a “good area” can be defined.  In our experience, this is best accomplished by initially outlining a few key areas detailed below.


By far, the most important will initially be the proximity to work.  Unless you actually enjoy the monotony of hour-long drives to and from work each day, you’ll likely want to live as close to work as possible, without sacrificing too many luxuries.

Begin by identifying a maximum travel time to work.  This will create a radius around your place of employment that will help narrow down the areas you’ll have to choose from.  You’ll discover that the larger the city you plan to move to, the more beneficial this particular exercise will be for your future home search.


Do you have any children, or plan to?  The school district will play an important role in your decision on choosing an area for your next home.  Even resale values are affected by the school district regardless of your personal desires, so spending time in this area is definitely financially smart!  We’ve already identified a target area around your work – now we’ll identify all of the school districts in this area and list each one in descending order from most desirable to least.

Some factors you may want to consider are student-to-teacher ratios, history of exemplary statuses, prior average grades in testing, and student size.  Larger schools in an area with lower education budgets may experience higher student-to-teacher ratios than average, so carefully research each district using online tools such as

As a rule of thumb, compare each district with your present school district to determine if you would be moving up or down in quality, compared to your children’s current school district.

Age of the Area:

Newer, undeveloped areas are in a constant state of change.  You may see a steady increase in home values in new areas if the supply is kept within a modest range of demand.  In some cases, the mere fact of builder competition alone will keep prices low while they are still developing an area, which can cost money if you unexpectedly need to sell right away.

Areas with older homes are opportunities to find properties recently renovated, or homes that exhibit a desirable, traditional characteristic that a new home simply doesn’t provide.  Home prices in older areas are also more stable and less subject to the ebb and flow of the real estate market.

Responsibility comes with age, unfortunately.  Older homes may be more subject to repair costs, and lack many energy efficient features that a newer home can provide.

Choosing the Perfect Area:

Work your way through the above exercise to get a clear picture of the ideal location for your next home.  When in doubt, be sure to contact a Top Realtor at to get expert guidance on the discovery process.  As professionals that do this day in and day out, we’ve developed a keen sense for uncovering the needs that ultimately drive the decision on where to move.  We are experts in the real estate market; who better to talk to?

Contact a agent today to get started.

Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of the Nation’s Largest Free Directory of Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors ~ Offering Free Buyers Assistance / Free Sellers Market Analysis and a Free Relocation Kit to Any City, USA.

Should we Remodel our Home or Sell “As Is”?

This question is a common headache for many homeowners visiting Gay Real Estate when considering placing their home on the market.  On one hand, a remodel could create a diamond in the rough, and possibly even encourage a faster sale.  On another, selling as-is in a competitive market could save months of listing time if priced right.


When You Should Remodel

Analyzing your competition can be a great way to gain insight into what buyers are looking for in your market.  It’s easy to assume a feature or amenity should immediately increase the value of your home.  In some cases it will, but many times a remodel will only bring your home to the market readiness of other similar homes in your neighborhood.

You should consider remodeling a room in your home if any of the following applies:

1) When analyzing sold history and currently active homes on the market, you find that this particular remodel is commonly found.

2) The room is in dire need of attention and a simple clean up won’t suffice to get it market-ready.

3) When analyzing sold history, a predominant higher price is offered for homes with this particular remodel.

You’re likely to never recoup the entire cost of a remodel, but getting your home up to par may be necessary to get your home sold in a reasonable amount of time.


When You Should Sell As-Is

If your home can be considered a “benchmark” home, or a home that is already loaded with amenities not commonly found in your market, you should consider selling as-is.  While a pricey remodel will certainly make your home shine during an open house, it usually costs more than it’s worth.  

You should consider selling your home as-is if your home meets any of the following criteria:

1) The average price per square foot in your market is deteriorating (down market).

2) Your home can be considered a “benchmark” home, or a home that has more features and amenities than the competition.

3) Your home is already on par with other active properties in the area.


The Rule of Thumb

First, ensure that your home meets the standard set by the competition currently for sale in your market.  If your home is not up to par, you should consider remodeling. 

If your home shares the same features and amenities as its competition, then you should consider selling as-is to avoid leaving any money on the table.  A remodel is always a nice selling feature, but many times it does not make financial sense and is simply a waste of time.

Take the time to get with your real estate agent to analyze your competition, and base your decision on what buyers are demanding in your particular real estate market.

Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of ~ Instant Free Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast-to-Coast.

Should the Realtor we hire to sell our home be from a big national company?

Although there may be advantages if a Realtor works for a big national company, the most important factor is that the Realtor is ethical, has a track record of success and genuinely has the skills, tools and expertise to sell your home.

Working for a big national company used to help with national or international exposure, but because of the multiple listing service and seamless web access, all Realtors have the same information when it comes to assisting you in selling your home. The multiple listing service (MLS) offers all Realtors computer access to listings, as long as the Realtor subscribes to this service. Because of this, it does not matter if the Realtor works for a big national company or not.

The Realtor you choose to help sell your home should be knowledgeable in all areas of real estate, including the contract, being a good communicator and excellent negotiator.

The Realtor should also have a pulse on the neighborhood in which you live and should be able to give you a list of comparable listed properties (your competition) and sales so that you know where to price your home. The price you choose should be based on your specific area or neighborhood and will help determine how quickly you will sell your home.

Are there similar homes to yours for sale, or is your home unique? Your Realtor can assist in determining the exact value your property, if you have doubts get a second or third opinion but never go with the “highest estimate”, it’s often a ploy to just get the listing ~ the numbers are clear and you’ll easily be able to determine the value… in this market, nothing is more critical than the price!

The Realtor you choose to help sell your home should also be able to give you tips on what will help make your home more attractive to buyers, thus placing your home in a bracket that is more likely to sell. Does your home need painting? Does the landscaping need work? Do any of your rooms need updating? Do any of your appliances need replacing?

Your home will more than likely have to pass an inspection, so it is in your best behalf to have a home that will not raise red flags. If anything such as a roof, plumbing or electrical work may not pass an inspection, it would be best to have those repaired or replaced before placing your home on the market.

The Realtor you choose to sell your home should be someone you feel comfortable with, someone you trust and someone whose track record you can verify. The Realtor should have a detailed marketing plan in writing, and show a willingness to do whatever it takes to sell your home. To sell your home, it needs exposure. How does the Realtor plan to get the real estate community to participate in showing your home to other buyers?

A big national company cannot guarantee your home will sell ~ follow your instincts.

Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of offering Free Instant Access to Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast to Coast ~ has independent agents and real estate agents from the nation’s largest companies, visit the site today to choose your perfect agent.

Reviving the Residential Market with the help of Real Estate Community

With easy credit and no down payment requirements, it was no surprise to see the real estate crisis in the US, the federal government has had to toss in trillions of dollars to hold off further decline in economics due to slack housing policies. Home sale prices dropped especially in the upper end market and there was a significant drop noticed in the total number of home sales as compared to previous years.

However, there are talks going on and some ideas being floated on how to give the much needed boost in the local real estate market. As per the opinions by experts, the recovery in the real estate market should show signs of improvement in the near future with the expansion of retailing, which will offer continuing good opportunities for buyers.

One of the ideas put forth is to develop surplus land as green space in both large and small cities, this economic multiplier will not only develop greener and cleaner infrastructure but also help the stagnant market of developers get moving again and show some signs of life. After all, land without buildings is still an asset. If city managers and real estate entrepreneurs work together and identify good opportunities, these types of programs will not only help revive the real estate market, but also make our communities more livable. Building such parks can help unlock the real estate market and also build employment opportunities as well.

Likewise, several ongoing construction projects will help provide a significant number of construction jobs and also stimulate the sluggish housing market. The pouring in of employment dollars as well as the expenditures during construction will help to boost up the housing market.

President Obama and congress have to take some important and speedy steps to help the housing market and the economy to recover. One solution would be to offer government mortgages at low rates with minimum qualifying, to those with excellent credit that can propel the sales of now inexpensive homes. This isn’t about going back to where we were, it about ensuring those that have a proven track record are able to purchase without the totally crazy restrictions put in place now… as usual, the pendulum has swung too far the opposite direction.

Combined, all these factors will contribute to the speedy recovery and bring back life in the depressingly low resale and new housing construction market. As the market revives we should expect to see a turn around in the current economic slump.

Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of ~ Free Instant Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors… Free Buyers Representation.

Putting Value into Perspective to Negotiate with Confidence

How much wiggle room you give yourself when bidding or asking (relative to the listed price of property) in a competitive real estate market can make or break a transaction. Too much and you might lose the deal. Too little, and you could “leave money on the table”.

To avoid morning-after regrets, plan your math in advance. After you have subtracted the emotional components from the equation you will have a better chance of putting a fair deal together. And during what might normally be a stressful process – the period of negotiation before reaching a final agreement – you can remain comfortable and calm, knowing that although the market forces are at play, you aren’t at risk of getting unfairly played.

In any market, what a buyer is willing to pay and what a seller will accept determines actual value. No matter which side of the transaction you are on, reaching the “sweet spot” of market equilibrium will involve the same dynamics, based upon the fundamental economic physics of supply and demand.

But before you enter the marketplace – to either list your property for sale or go house hunting – first determine what the market is doing, through a comparative analysis of recent sales. The more recent the data, the better. Information has a shortened shelf life during changing real estate climates. To avoid stale figures, try to get your hands on the most current numbers possible. The easiest way to locate fresh data is to ask a Realtor to provide it. Any Realtor can download and print the latest sales figures from the Multiple Listing Service with a few clicks of a computer mouse, and this is a professional favor you should expect to be offered free of charge. Most Realtors will be happy to also help you interpret the data, in order to compare the asking or “list” prices to the actual prices at closing.

The differential will show you the “spread”, which is normally going to be within a range of about 2-5 percent. For example, if a house was listed for $300,000 and sold for $290,000, the spread was $10,000, or a little more than 3 percent. A 5 percent spread on the same transaction would be reflected in a closing price of about $285,000.

Average out the spreads for half a dozen houses similar to yours, and use that percentage amount to decide how to proceed. Armed with information, you now know what to expect in terms of the space – or disagreement – between buyers and sellers when the tug-of-war over price begins. For instance, if the average difference between listing price and sold price is 6 percent, and you want to put your house on the market, you will do well to list it within 6-8 percent of the price you expect it to bring. Priced too high the house will languish on the market, because the gap between what you’re asking and what the typical buyer will pay is too great. Priced too low you might get a faster sale by giving your property away at a bargain basement price.

If you’re bidding on a house to purchase, the same concept applies. Offer a price within that same average range and you will have a better chance of getting your price. Of course if you don’t want to take a chance on losing the deal, offer full price. But in a market defined by declining prices, sellers are usually willing to entertain offers of less money.

This formula is especially useful in situations where your competitors have not done their arithmetic, and are asking too much or offering too little. Since you know the math, you’ll likely come out ahead. For example, if the market dictates a spread of 3 percent and you put your house on the market for 3 or 4 percent above what you’re willing to take for it, your house may sell faster than your neighbor’s who listed at 10 percent above their desired price. They accidentally priced themselves out of the market.

Be sure to work any unusual circumstances into your calculations. For instance, if there are needed repairs not already discounted from the price, or if you need to relocate quickly to land that high-paying job, then you should adjust your expectations and pricing accordingly.

Ultimately, buying or selling property should be a satisfying and comfortable experience. Knowing what to expect from the current economic environment can help you succeed in reaching your goals efficiently, in a practical and methodic way.

If a reasonable offer isn’t enough to clinch a deal, then you may be better off looking elsewhere for your buyer or seller, because you deserve a fair trade. But if you don’t know what constitutes a reasonable price to begin with, you will be confused and vulnerable. Do your homework ahead of time. Then enter the marketplace with informed confidence and enjoy real estate success.

What are the costs of selling my home?

It may be surprising that the associated costs of selling a home can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Selling a home is a major transition for all parties involved, and, if you aren’t properly prepared ahead of time, it may cost you an arm and leg.

Repairs are necessary for the sale to close

Potential homebuyers and lenders may insist that you fix a leaky sink, re-shingle or patch a roof, and fix a cracked foundation. Some of these fixes are native to being a homeowner, but if you don’t want to do it yourself, you will have to negotiate that in (or out) of your contract. These costs can stack up to a major investment, so be sure to exhaust all due diligence when determining the value of your home before and after repairs—you may be adding value beyond what the homebuyer has agreed to pay. 

Property taxes must be paid in full up to date of closing

There is no way around them—you will have to prorate and pay your taxes up to the closing day. For instance, if you sell your home six months into the tax year, you will have to pay half a year’s worth of taxes on your home. If you pay taxes before the closing, you will need to provide documentation of this.

Closing costs and fees aplenty

The list of closing costs is long and fees apply for—attorney, title, recording, mortgage, inspection, appraiser, etc. These fees pay the people who are responsible for ensuring that the proper legal paperwork is filed so that the ownership of your home transfers from you to the buyer.

In this market, it has become more common for sellers to pay the buyer’s closing costs. You could potentially be on the hook for some of the buyer’s mortgage, bank, and real estate brokerage fees associate with the sale, if you want to sell your home quickly. Conduct some research in advance or contact a real estate agent at to determine what closing costs are common in your neighborhood.  

Sales commission for your agent’s services

This is going to be the most expensive part of selling your home. Real estate agents can make as much as seven percent of the sales price. If you are in $250,000 home, that’s $15,000 to your agent. Of course he’s doing a ton of work to get your home sold in this market, and he’s splitting that fee with the buyers agent. Reasonably, you can expect to pay five of six percent in commission to most agents. Negotiate with your agent up front about his or her commission ~ if you’ll be repurchasing a home from the same agent, you can get a greatly reduced selling fee.

An agent should draw up a sheet the details the cost of selling your home—a net sheet– and they should calculate their fees into the cost of your home.

Transfer Fees (more taxes)

Transfer fees are state and federal taxes excised when a property changes hands. They are commonly referred to as “Death Taxes”. 

You can avoid paying the capitol gains tax by filing a 1031 exchange form (ask your agent). Capital gains taxes vary widely, but are those taxes assessed on profit from a sale.

All agent at provide sellers a FREE Competitive Market Analysis which outlines a complete marketing plan, estimated time on the market, and provided you the “Net Sheet” mentioned above to prevent any surprises.