Byline: Alison Trinidad
DID YOU KNOW?
-- Most sellers find agents based on word of mouth, according to the National Association of Realtors' 2004 survey of buyers and sellers. The most important criteria reported were the individual agent's reputation and his or her knowledge of the market. Those factors were rated higher than which firm the agent worked for or how they are paid.
-- Rick Thomas and Joe Danese, the owners of Sunshine Title Corp. in Jacksonville, said it's no easier or harder for them to close a real estate transaction no matter the type of real estate firm involved.
"We'd rather work directly with the homeowner," said Danese, who sold his home in May without an agent in a week. "Working with a Realtor, Assist2Sell, or Buy Owner company just adds another person. You have more miscommunication between us and the parties involved in the transaction."
"It really depends on the [agent]," said Thomas, who sold his house in 2000 in a month by using an agent. "It really depends on the person. There are some really good Realtors who are on the ball who have all their stuff ready to go -- and there are others [who don't]."
-- Assist2Sell offices offer a menu of services for a flat fee. The fee, which does not include the multiple listing service, can vary from franchise to franchise, but is paid upon sale.
Jeff Middlekauf, a Realtor who owns three Assist2Sell branches in the Jacksonville area, charges $2,995. If the seller wants to be included in the multiple listing service, he charges a 4 1/2 percent commission instead..
For his agents, Middlekauf said the lower commission is preferable because the business is more consistent.
"We deal with so much more volume," Middlekauf said. "Our agents close from 5 to 15 deals in a month, whereas traditional agents ... don't close as many. We have a lot fewer agents, but they make a more consistent living. It's feast or famine for traditional agents."
-- As discount brokers threaten to take a larger share of the market from traditional real estate brokers, there has been talk about making real estate service standards more stringent across the nation.
Supporters say the move will protect the consumer while those in opposition say the proposals are anti-competitive.
For example, some states have passed laws that would make it illegal for real estate agents to participate in programs that offer a rebate or prize to consumers involved in a real estate transaction. Meanwhile, anti-trust enforcers like the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have sued some state real estate commissions and warned others for proposing to do the same.
The Florida Association of Realtors has not endorsed any changes to the state's real estate laws involving levels of service, but it has appointed a committee to study the issue.
"We have been looking at what the other states have been doing," said John Sebree, vice president of public policy for the Florida Association of Realtors in Tallahassee. …