The following opinions are written by the agents, brokers and staff of AREC, and as such, do not constitute legal opinion or advice.  For that, contact an attorney (we can help you find one). As in life, matters in real estate are often not always black and white, but we’ll strive to be as clear and concise as possible, and to ground our responses within the context of our local market whenever possible.   For really thorny questions, we may invite opinions from local real estate attorneys and other real estate professionals.

When should I list my house if I want to sell this year?
Several sellers have asked me recently about timing the listing of their home to sell in Spring or early Summer. My answer is – As soon as possible!

We actually have quite a few buyers looking in earnest right now. Mortgage rates are still low, and prices are rising – this info is in all the national news. For those planning to buy, this is not lost on them. Motivated buyers are getting into the market now!

Also since Ohio University switched to semesters this year, staff and faculty recruiting is in high gear right now. Second semester ends in early May instead of early June so our whole selling season is going to probably happen earlier by at least 1 month. If you plan to sell in the next few months, let’s talk very soon and get the ball rolling!

What is the difference between a real estate sales agent, a broker, and a REALTOR?
In Ohio, a person must be licensed by the state in order to assist others in buying or selling real estate. A real estate sales agent has taken the required classes, passed a state exam, and has earned a professional license. An agent can not work independently but must work for and be supervised by a licensed broker.

A real estate broker has been and may still be a sales agent, but in addition he/she has acquired a required level of transactions, taken additional training, and passed the state broker’s exam. A broker can work independently and can also supervise sales agents who work under his/her broker’s license.

All sales agents and brokers are required by The Ohio Division of Real Estate to complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years (including legal, ethics, and fair housing courses) in order to maintain a professional state real estate license.

A REALTOR (actually a trademarked term by the National Association of REALTORs) is a sales agent or broker who belongs to the local, state (OAR), and national associations of REALTORs, and who has taken required ethics training, and adheres to the national code of ethics.

What is the MLS?
MLS is an acronym for Multiple Listing Service, which is a marketing database set up by a group of cooperating real estate brokers. Its purpose is to provide structured data about properties for sale, and is also a way for listing brokers to offer compensation to buyer brokers who bring a buyer for their listed property. This allows an agent to show a buyer not only his/her own company’s listings, but ANY listing that is advertised for sale through the MLS. Visit the board page–www.athenscountyrealtors.org–for more information on the Athens County Board of Realtors.
I’m a buyer. Who pays for the services of the agent who is representing me?
When a property is listed on the MLS, the seller typically offers compensation to the buyer’s agent. In this way, the representation that you will get from your agent is essentially free and your agent will be paid when the property eventually closes, typically from the seller’s proceeds from the sale. Another way of thinking of it is that the seller is agreeing up front to pay a commission to the agent who brings a buyer to the property. Some real estate agents require that a buyer sign a contract that will “bind” the buyer to work exclusively with that agent. Other agents operate more on a handshake basis–i.e., if the buyer feels comfortable with the agent’s style and temperament, and thinks that the agent is providing expert guidance through the process, then the buyer will simply continue to work with that agent without a signed contract. This relationship is negotiable in the beginning, and a good agent will clarify that potential range of agency relationships at the very first meeting.
What is a “closing”?
A closing is the formal act of executing the final sale of the property. For the seller, this means that all liens against the property have been satisfied and that the property is deeded over to the buyer with clear title. For the buyer, it means that the deed has been accepted in exchange for some consideration–usually money. In Ohio, closings are usually held “roundtable,” which is a visual metaphor that means that the closing agent, the buyer, the seller, the real estate agents, and sometimes the lender, all meet together in one location (and at a literal table) to “close” or complete the real estate transaction. Many states practice closings “in escrow,” but in Ohio, roundtable closings are the norm.