So…you’ve secured an additional residential real estate license. Maybe you’ve just moved, or want to expand your territory in a metro area that spans two or more states, or you’re spending half the year in one place, half in another, and want to help people in both places.
But once you start, you’ll soon realize that merely being a license holder doesn’t mean that you’ll know what you’re doing (remember when you first started?) Agents and clients are looking for what is usual and customary to help them feel confident that you know what you’re doing.
Here are some common differences among states and areas:
1) Showing Homes: In some areas, having the buyer-agent contact the property owner or occupant directly is absolutely taboo. In other places? It’s expected. Make sure you don’t bring our old assumptions to your new location. You could be in hot water either way.
2) Lock Boxes or Not? Some states and metro areas have embraced fully the electronically controlled lockbox. Other places? The older push-button or rotating dial lock boxes are standard or agents are using some combination of the two. And in still other places, getting directions for the key is a matter of calling the agent and following the instructions. And finally? In some places, people still don’t lock their doors, and you just…go in.
3) Assisted Showings: In some metro areas, like in and around Boston, having the listing agent come to the house with the buyer and their buyer agent is the norm. This means that coordinating timing between the seller, the listing agent, the buyer and the buyer agent must be done for each showing. In many places, assisted showing are unheard of, and agents and their clients work out amongst themselves how and when the home is available for showings.
4) Attorney vs Title Companies: In some places and states, attorneys are required. In other states there is an option, with preferences tending to lean toward one or the other. This is key: if title companies are the norm, finding a lot of attorneys in an area that are well-versed in real estate closings, especially tricky or involved contracts, can be tough. Likewise, if attorneys perform most closings, title companies may not have enough volume to handle and understand what to do with last-minute sticky issues.
5) Who is at the Closing Table? Some places? The buyer, the seller, their respective agents, family members, the title/closing company or the attorney and a lender representative may ALL be at the closing table. This means a bit of a challenge in coordinating the time and place that works for all, but for a smooth deal, this can be a great time for sellers to relax and talk about the home, the neighborhood, what they’ll miss, as well as buyers to really get excited about moving.
In other locations, closings happen perhaps days and miles apart from buyers and sellers, with the two sides never actually meeting. This can be preferred if the deal was contentious, but is not always the norm.
6) Contracts: By far, contracts are the biggest challenge. Some states use a simple 4-page contract (Maine, for example); others use contracts twice as long with tiny print and more challenging date parameters. Understanding the contract in detail, what is usual and customary for dates surrounding loans, buyer and seller to-do’s is imperative.
7) What Buyer and Sellers Must Do: Sellers in some locations must prepare an extensive list of things that are wrong with the property. In other places, there are NO disclosure requirements whatsoever. In other places, sellers must provide written confirmation of pre-closing pest or septic inspections, where other places, it’s totally buyer beware. Whether you represent the buyer or seller, know that there are NO consistencies.
Some states grant new licenses to holders of licenses in other states by reciprocity without proof of knowledge of local laws! It can be full of pitfalls for everyone involved. If you’re getting an additional license, make sure you understand not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of local norms.