No man is an island, and no real estate agent can single-handedly get you to the closing table. What we can do, however, is assemble and coordinate the "dream team" of professionals you will need. One of the most daunting challenges for any home buyer is making sure they have top-notch professionals to make sure the transaction goes smoothly. A critical function for real estate agents is to develop relationships with stellar partners to do the heavy lifting for you. Here are some of the other players on the team*** and their functions:
Real Estate Attorney: A great real estate attorney is crucial, especially in this market. As I've discussed before, in New York, an accepted offer is nothing more than a starting pistol to begin due diligence and contract negotiations. Your real estate attorney's familiarity with the process and ability to aggressively work within it could make a world of difference. An extra day or two before contract may cost you the entire deal or tens of thousands of dollars to beat out a new, higher offer. Not only does your attorney have to be fast, he/she has to be thorough and make sure that your interests are adequately protected.
Mortgage Banker: Not all mortgage bankers are created equal. Even within the same bank, different bankers have vastly different abilities. Some are better at moving along the process and getting exceptions granted. It's no coincidence that these bankers earned superior access through a proven track record of hard work on behalf of their clients, which not only means you will get the deal done, but receive professional and diligent service in the process. Someone may be a lovely friend, but an ineffective mortgage banker who could jeopardize your purchase.
Inspector: Depending on what type of property you are buying, it may make sense to bring in an inspector prior to signing the contract. The inspector can make sure there are no major defects with the apartment or building, and can also help you understand smaller repairs that you may consider bringing up during negotiations or that you would want to fix yourself upon closing.
Property & Casualty Insurer: Your lender and the building will likely require you to have insurance prior to closing. A capable insurance broker will guide you toward obtaining the protection you need.
Title Insurer: You will probably never meet your title insurer, but your attorney or the lender will retain them anytime you are buying real property (so condos and houses, but not coops). The title insurer not only checks for defects in title to make sure there are no issues, but if an ownership dispute does arise, the one time premium they charge covers you against any future claims.
Architects and General Contractors: Unless you are buying a turnkey, perfect home, you may be considering doing some work, whether it's painting or refinishing floors or a total gut. Many people vastly underestimate the cost of renovations -- call it the "HGTV syndrome." So in some cases, you may want to get an estimate prior to signing the contract to allocate your resources appropriately. This may require bringing in an architect, general contractor, or both.
Once you've closed, the list of services/professionals you need may increase: Movers, floor refinishers, cleaning services, interior designers, painters, you name it. It really does take a village, and you can think of your real estate agent as the mayor or chamber of commerce who can refer you to the best fit.
*** This post does not cover the other players in the process who are associated with other parties, such as the building management, underwriters, seller's agent and team, and more. Of course, any transaction requires communication and coordination among everyone.