“Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” — Abraham Lincoln
In a time bursting with information and technology like social media and Google, it is easy to become distracted so that we confuse what is the tree and what is the shadow. In the real estate profession, character and accountability are imperative. Unfortunately at times, it can be difficult to discern the intent of the person or business one is dealing with. Gone are the days when a handshake or an individual’s name meant something. Today every aspect of a transaction must be inspected, internalized, and questioned. Buying and selling real estate is one of the largest financial decisions a person will make in their lifetime. Knowing that you are working with someone you can trust is paramount. It can be daunting as the real estate investing world really has no regulating bodies. Outside of attorneys, there is no one to step in when a deal goes badly.
So, to help protect themselves there are 2 important steps that an individual can take before entering into an agreement with a real estate investor or home buying company:
1st Investigate! Experienced and established real estate investment companies are going to have a strong online presence and should be fairly easy to look into. Check out online reviews such as Google or Yelp. The Better Business Bureau is a great resource as well. There you will find not only reviews and whether or not the company or individual is BBB accredited but other valuable information such as the organizational structure of the business and longevity of the entity. Business history is important. You want to work with someone who is experienced and is a full-time real estate professional. Because of the lack of regulation and accreditation for investors, anyone can “hang out a shingle” in their selfish hopes of “getting rich quick”. Therefore, make sure the individual or company that you engage to purchase your home has the experience and knowledge to complete the sale! This is accomplished by our next step:
2nd Inquire! Ask questions in regards to the investor”s plans for the property you are selling. Are they going to be the end buyer or are they wholesaling the property to another investor? If they are the end buyer, what is their purchase plan? Cash, financing, or bank line of credit? Do they work with a professional title company to facilitate the closing and title work? Ask for references and if “paying cash”, ask for proof of funds. You’re NOT asking too much!
Although certainly not an exhaustive list, here are a few red flags to look out for:
- The investor doesn’t use a standard TREC contract.
- Vague answers to questions regarding the investors exit plan.
- Not wanting to go through a reputable title company.
- High pressure tactics, “If you don’t sign this contract by 5pm, I’ll rescind my offer.”
- A long option/inspection period (more than 7 days) on the contract.
- Small earnest money deposit, such as $50, $100, or $200
The bottom line is that you should enter into a working relationship with someone you can trust. Someone who has the character you demand to purchase your home. In an industry that is unregulated, it is important to take the proper steps to learn who you are working with, not who they say they are, but the actual tree of their character and the fruit it produces.