The Experience of an Experienced Realtor
by Tomeka Givens
Realtor: "If you sign these documents, you get the keys to your home."
My mom: (((deep nervous sigh))) “Okay.”
Realtor: "Sign here… here… sign here… initial there. Congratulations, here are the keys to your home.”
My mom: “Oh, oh my God!” (((look of shock))) “That's it?”
Realtor: “Yes, that's it.”
My mom: “Oh, okay.”
And BOOM! Just like that, my mom was a homeowner. She was more shocked than excited or happy. I was only 17 and had absolutely no clue as to what had just taken place as it was my first encounter with real estate.
One mantra my mom taught me is, “don't sign anything not knowing what you're signing.” And here she was, at the instruction of this real estate agent, doing the very same thing she taught me never to do.
Thinking back now, as a Realtor, I completely get why she was more nervous than excited. I now understand why this process was so scary… to the point where she lost nearly 25 lbs from stress and nerves during the experience. I now understand why her reaction, when handed the keys, was more of shock than excitement.
Simply put, she had a horrible agent. In fact, I believe her agent, who may have also been the listing agent, had just helped her purchase a bank-owned property using a fixer-upper loan. Her rights and obligations were not explained. She was not given a synopsis of the process, nor had she taken a homebuyer workshop. The realty is, my mom “didn't know what she didn't know.”
Unfortunately, this is the case for many new homeowners. In fact, this was the case for just about every homeowner I'd known growing up as a little girl -- my mom, my aunt and a host of other family members and friends had shared similar experiences. Of course, this had an impact on me and formed my view of what the home buying process was.
Later on, even though I had been college educated, I still saw the process as a big unknown and was in no rush to purchase a home. I didn't know it was possible for me. I thought I had to wait a certain age to do so.
It wasn’t until the birth of my son that I was motivated to really consider my assets and the possibility of becoming a homeowner. Like my mom and others from my community, “I didn't know what I didn't know.” I literally thought I had to have a 1,000+ credit score and a million dollars in the bank in order to qualify to buy a home.
And, due to lack of experience and knowledge, I’d acquired bad credit during college and thought I would always have poor credit. So, I’d buried my head in the sand, working under the assumption I would have to live with this issue forever. Even having a career as a chemist, making "good" money, paying bills on time, depositing a minimum of $100/week into my savings and paying my new credit card balance off every month for roughly 8 years, I still thought I had the same bad credit from college.
This held true until I first applied for a mortgage... unbeknownst to me, I was highly qualified… and had been for years. I started reading books about investing, saving, and spending money wisely. The situation was not what I thought it was.
Remember this sent me into a tailspin when I decided to switch careers and started taking my pre-licensing coursework to become a Realtor. During these classes, I heard even more horror stories like my mom’s. This sealed the deal for me. I was going to learn the process inside and out, be able to explain it completely to my clients, and put an end to the horror stories in the real estate game.
Fast forward from then to now, knowing what I know as a licensed Maryland Realtor: I can't help but imagine how many others out there might still have a similar thought process about buying a home.
Whether it’s the importance of credit, just understanding that home ownership is an option, knowing the difference between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent, why one should hire a Realtor, or just understanding that the seller will typically pay for the buyer’s agent -- there is a lot for me to communicate.
With this in mind, I’ve volunteered my time partnering with various housing agencies teaching home buyer workshops. I'm also currently serving as Vice Chair of Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors (GBBR) Equal Opportunity Committee where our goal is to educate the consumer about their rights and obligations throughout the home buying process. Another project I’ve undertaken is pushing for better financial education in our public schools.
Knowing and understanding your own capabilities for buying a home or managing your finances is empowering and it is my mission to spread this message.