Last February Bob Smith thought he had figured out a way to beat the real estate market.
At a time when apartment prices were soaring, he assumed it would be cheaper, and easier, to simply offer to buy his neighbor's apartment and combine it with his own.
Even better, he would deal directly with his neighbor, thus avoiding having to use an agent and keeping everything as simple as possible.

Or so he thought.
Eight months later Bob (not his real name) still hasn't closed on his apartment, much to the frustration of himself, his wife and his neighbor, who calls him to complain on a daily basis.

"If I knew then how slow it would be to do this without using a broker, I would never have done it," he says.
"They may be expensive and pushy, but agents certainly know how to navigate the waters of real estate.
They know how to get mortgages; they can put pressure on the closing department.
They are necessary."

Buying or selling a home is one of the most important decisions an adult can make, and it shouldn't be left up to an amateur--namely yourself. Just as it is often folly to prepare your own tax returns for the sake of saving a few bucks, it is equally penny-wise and pound-foolish to not use a real estate agent.

"It can be a nightmare to do on your own and a very difficult maze to find your way out of,'' says a broker, who sells real estate in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Realtors and their colleagues in the industry certainly have a reason to defend their livelihoods, but many of them offer strong arguments for the necessity of the broker, especially in complicated, multimillion-dollar deals.

First and foremost, the broker offers security and a shield from the aggravation of routine tasks, from scheduling property showings to the more crucial ones like determining whether a potential buyer has the wherewithal to buy your home.

"I serve as a buffer,'' says, a real estate broker in Miami. "It's a privacy issue.
My clients don't want to be face-to-face with the general public, nor do they even want it disclosed they are the seller.''

In more cases than not, brokers can also negotiate a higher price for a property.
With for-sale-by-owner listings, buyers think they can get a deal on the property and will lowball offers by lopping at least 6% (the broker's fee in most instances) off the asking price to account for the non-existent commission.
However, the seller's asking price often already includes that discount.
For an owner, it can also be difficult to do the hardball negotiation necessary to get deals done because the person is emotionally invested in the property.

A real estate agent in Malibu, Calif., says last year he was hired to consummate a deal that had been brewing for six months.
The buyer and seller were haggling over a host of issues including the most important one:
The selling price for a million-dollar Malibu home. "Personalities had gotten in the way, but then   I came in representing one side and we are able to get it done in a matter of days.

Once you find a qualified buyer and settle on the selling price, the paperwork onslaught begins, and brokers say it just may be worth it to hire them to play traffic cop for all the documents necessary for a transaction.
In California, for example, there are at least 50 documents that must be filed and completed. These include the actual contract, loan application, transfer deed plus a myriad of disclosures for lead-based paint, earthquake faults, sewer lines, smoke detectors, termites, non-foreign status of the seller and the like.

Deals for co-op apartments offer their own unique complexity.
The paperwork tidal wave can be just as challenging with the added element of politics in presenting your deal and buyer for co-op board approval.
"It's like walking a minefield, and when people are anxious to get things done quickly on their own, they can get tripped up

And what about Bob Smith, Is he ever going to close on his new apartment? "I'm hoping it will be next week," he says with a weary grin. "But I've been saying that for months now."

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