Real Estate Brokers
Real estate brokers and agents can be indispensable if you are facing foreclosure and want to do a short sale. The major difficulty in doing a short sale is that you often must get a solid offer from a potential buyer before your lender will tell you whether or not it will accept the terms. A local broker or agent who is familiar with a particular lender’s practices will have a good idea of what kind of terms the lender will accept.
The broker can also negotiate with your lender for the final terms. Pushing a short sale through can require experience with the lender (or lenders) and experience in negotiating real estate deals.
If you don’t already have a broker or agent you trust, ask around for reliable names. Most communities have real estate firms with well-respected brand names, and I see no reason not to trust agents working for those companies.
Real estate brokers and agents are subject to regulation by every state. To find out whether your broker or agent is licensed, check the website of your state’s real estate regulatory agency.
Mortgage brokers, as a group, have taken a lot of heat for the housing slump. Honest and ethical brokers are lumped in with the ones who misrepresented to their customers the nature of the loans they were getting and who handed out loans to people who couldn’t afford them. Unfortunately, during the housing bubble, unethical mortgage brokers easily out-competed those who were ethical, because by all accounts it was comparatively easy for just about anyone to get a mortgage. In fact, the fault is better laid at the doorstep of the banks, which themselves were usually just an intermediary for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Wall Street investors who bought mortgages on the say-so of rating agencies.
It’s also hard to blame mortgage brokers for the generally held belief that real estate prices would continue to appreciate forever. After all, the high wizards of our economy—including Alan Greenspan himself—saw no reason to worry.
My advice is to use mortgage brokers for what they are best at: finding a source of refinancing at the lowest available interest rate. But when it comes to understanding how the mortgage works and whether or not you can afford it, keep the old Latin phrase caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) firmly in mind.