Are you a discount broker?
NO! While we charge a smaller commission than most everyone in our market area, the word “discount” implies a trade-off in quality, or less than “full service.” Since we offer only the highest quality and fullest range of service, not exceeded by any of our higher-priced competitors, it is therefore more accurate to call us a top-notch traditional real estate company that just so happens to choose to charge a more reasonable fee. Simply put, there is no other real estate company that will do a better job of selling your house than us. Period. The fact that we will also save you thousands of dollars in commissions compared to our competitors is simply a bonus!
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Why do you charge less than everyone else?
Charging a lower brokerage fee is one of the ways we choose to distinguish ourselves from the many, many other realtors working in our area. The price of homes in this area are sufficiently high that even with our lower fee structure, we are able to provide unparalleled service and the utmost commitment to our clients. In addition, we don’t have as big an overhead as the larger corporate real estate offices, and are happy to pass on this savings.
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How do you split the commission with the buyer’s agent?
In most cases, we offer a 2.5% commission to the buyer’s agent, and keep 2.5% in payment for our work. This totals 5%. If we represent both buyer and seller in the same transaction, the fee is dropped to 4% or less.
Do buyer’s agents avoid your listings because of your fee structure?
No. The 2.5% commission we offer to the buyer’s agent is perfectly competitive in our market area. In fact, this 2.5% is pretty much the norm, with at least 50% of the listings shown in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) something less than 3% to the buyer’s agent. Our listings have been sold by every real estate company in the area and we have a long history of excellent relationships with our colleagues. Furthermore, its not likely that there will be another house just like yours (same price, size, condition, location, etc) on the market at the same time as yours with a higher commission.
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How do other agent’s view you?
When we first opened our doors in 1986, we know that other agents were not happy about having a competitor who called into question the traditional commission structure. But as we’re not a big company gaining market share left and right, they realize they don’t need to feel threatened by us. Over these last 35+ years, and lots of first hand interactions with fellow agents, we are known and respected as hard working and highly competent professionals who can be counted on to do our jobs well. We place a very high value on the quality of our collaboration with fellow agents.
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What exactly is full service?
This is the traditional model of residential real estate brokerage practice. The seller signs an exclusive listing agreement and agrees to pay the agreed commission in exchange for all the services provided by the broker. The commission is contingent on a sale actually coming to fruition. Realty Advocates offers this full service, and that is what most of our clients choose. The only difference between our full service and that of our competitors is the fact that we charge several thousands of dollars less.
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What is “fee-for-service” or “a la carte services?”
While the majority of our clients opt for the full service program, the a la carte menu is still an important part of our service options and one of the things which makes Realty Advocates unique. Fee-for-service is where the full-service package is separated into any number of component parts and combinations. In this arrangement, different services cost different fees, and these fees are usually not contingent upon an actual close of escrow. This arrangement may be suited to For-Sale-by-Owners who want assistance only with select parts of the process of selling their home, without having to pay the higher full-service fee.
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Is Realty Advocates part of a larger corporate entity, or a franchise?
No. We are fully and proudly independent. We are locally owned and operated, and do not have to answer to, or contribute, to the coffers of any corporate conglomerate. This allows us great flexibility and creativity to meet the needs of a more varied client base.
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Do you use the Internet to help sell my home?
Yes, extensively. We leverage the Internet to showcase your home to potential buyers all over the world — without incurring the overhead of franchise offices or national advertising. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database of all active listings is accessible through a variety of search engines (yahoo.com, realtor.com, zillow.com, trulia.com, etc), and we take great care in how we showcase your home through written description and photos. On our website, we create a Featured Listing page for each of our homes for sale. Our ads online and in print, such as The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper direct prospective buyers to the detailed listing on our website — allowing us to quickly deliver extensive sales information. Lastly, we use email to stay in frequent touch will all our clients and prospects.
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Can you help me fix up my house before it goes on the market?
Absolutely. We have a lot of first-hand construction experience, and have supervised many projects for sellers in getting homes ready for sale. That said, we often find that sellers were about to spend a lot of time and money on projects that would have not paid off in a sale. Talk to us first! We know which projects are most likely to pay off with a higher sales price. And, we know many reliable and reasonably priced tradespeople and will make referrals as needed.
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Do you stage your listings?
Most homes for sale in our market area are staged, so buyers have become accustomed to seeing houses this way. If your house would otherwise be vacant, we are likely to recommend it be staged. However, if you plan on still living in the house during its marketing, simply removing some clutter and rearranging some furniture (with our help) can do the trick. Just as with home improvements, the thousands of dollars one can spend on staging make sense to invest only if they will ultimately translate into a higher sales price, so we judge each house on a case-by-case basis.
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Do you specialize in certain neighborhoods?
If we specialize in anything in particular, it is in homes and neighborhoods in which we know from long experience to be good places to live, places that we can wholeheartedly endorse, places that we would recommend to friends and family. Every home-buyer is different, so each will bring a unique point of view when they are choosing where they want to live. Our office is located in north Oakland, on the border between the Rockridge and Elmwood neighborhoods. But in the 23+ years we’ve been open, we’ve had great success selling homes as far north as Richmond and as far south as San Leandro.
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If your business model is so beneficial to clients and you, why aren’t other brokers doing it?
There are lots of other companies offering services similar to ours, however not in our market area. We’re surprised that for all the innovation and social liberalism of the Bay Area, real estate remains a bastion of conservative traditional practice. Realty Advocates is proud of its role in providing a successful alternative model, thriving since 1986.
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How do your services for buyers compare to new firms that offer rebates?
In recent years, the Internet has put more information and tools in the hands of buyers who want to do their home-searching on their own, with little or no involvement from a traditional real estate agent. As a result, several regional and national firms have emerged that provide limited services to buyers, typically getting involved only to process an offer from an administrative perspective. Realty Advocates knows that all real estate is local. A house is never an abstract commodity where a buyer is simply putting in a “buy order” as if buying a share of stock. We take a personal, hands-on approach, utilizing our unrivaled local knowledge in combination with advanced technologies to provide complete services to buyers and leaving behind a track record of very happy clients. That said, there may be instances where we would rebate part of our commission to a buyer. Call us for details.
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Why do so many people still list with 6% charging agents?
Ah, the most perplexing question for us, but one which probably has several answers. First, we think many sellers don’t realize that commissions are not fixed by law or by industry. The big real estate companies spend a lot of effort training their agents to focus on the service-side of their pitch and not on their fees. To support their rigid pricing structure, many agents will argue that if you pay less, you will get lesser service. It’s all a smokescreen, of course. There is no shortage of sellers unhappy with the quality of service provided by agents who charge 6%. Loyalty is another reason, as sellers will often return to the agents who helped them buy their house initially. And although we certainly cherish the same long-term relationship with our former clients, we continue to work towards having sellers take a closer look at our first-class complete service that will cost them thousands of dollars less.
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