Tips on finding real-estate agent that fits you best
A reader writes: "I am curious whether there is an unbiased rating system for real-estate agents. My wife and I are looking for a diligent real-estate..."
Seattle Times staff reporter
Q: I am curious whether there is an unbiased rating system for real-estate agents. My wife and I are looking for a diligent real-estate agents with expertise in the Renton and Kent areas.
A: Stephen Klaniecki, communications and marketing director of Washington Realtors Association, says he's seen some blogs occasionally comment on individual real-estate agents, but he's never seen anyone develop a rating system for all of them.
To do so would be a very tall order. Now more than 45,000 individuals are licensed by the state to sell real estate. About 25,300 of those are Realtors, meaning they're members of the state Realtors association. But those numbers aren't static. Real-estate agents generally work on commission, and that makes it a high-turnover business.
So how can you find a diligent real-estate agent? Start by looking for a person who specializes in your target neighborhoods. Preferably you'll want a full-time agent (many work part time and do just a few deals a year) who's handled numerous transactions.
Klaniecki suggests asking friends and associates for recommendations. Then check out the agents' Web sites and look for professional designations.
Someone who lists GRI behind their name, for example, has completed Graduate Realtor Institute coursework — "sort of graduate school for real-estate agents," Klaniecki explained.
There are numerous such designations. Earning them "demonstrates a commitment to learning and their professionalism," he said.
You should interview three agents before deciding on one. Ask each to make a presentation explaining how they'd market the property and what services they'd provide. Then compare them. You also should get references and call them.
Lastly, look for personal compatibility.
You want to feel confident and comfortable with your agent.
Q: I own a rental house. If I sell it, how much capital gains will I pay? What's the percentage?
A: The maximum is 15 percent of your "gain" or profit. But there's no way to know exactly how much you'd pay without factoring in several variables, said Patricia Schmick, a Federal Way enrolled agent (tax specialist licensed with the federal Treasury) and past national president of the National Association of Enrolled Agents.
The variables: how long you've owned the property, if it's ever been your personal residence, how long it was used as a rental, your income bracket, how much you've depreciated it and what those depreciations have been.
If you've lived in the house at least two of the five years before the sale, you may qualify for a personal-residence exclusion and therefore pay no capital gains. (That's unless your profit exceeds $250,000 for a single owner or $500,000 for a couple.)
Whether you've recently lived in the property or not, you'll have to recapture depreciation. It can be taxed up to 25 percent; the amount depends on your tax bracket.
Q: I'm interested in finding a source for information on the breakdown percentages that go into building a home in the city of Sammamish — primarily raw-land costs, land improvements, construction costs and profit margin.
A: There are so many factors involved that it's impossible to find a one-stop answer to your question.
Just for starters, are you talking about the costs a developer incurs in buying raw land, finishing it into building lots and constructing a number of houses?
Or are you talking about what it would cost an individual to purchase a finished lot, then hire pros to build a custom home?
That said, here's some insight into costs in general. Bill Hurme, president of Teambuilder John L. Scott, which deals with new construction, said you'll pay $300,000 to $400,000 for the average 6,000- to 7,000-square-foot lot in Sammamish.
The current rule of thumb is that the lot cost will be about a third of the total project cost.
Thus if a lot is $400,000, the finished house and lot together should cost about $1.2 million. But it really depends on how large the house is, how many amenities it has and whether it's a custom or mass-produced home.
A person who hires a contractor to build a custom home will incur building-permit costs.
In Sammamish the fees depend on the size of a home. For example, a building permit for a 5,200 square-foot home built recently cost just over $10,000. Various impact fees, for parks, schools and traffic, may be added.
Lastly, builders' profit margins "are all over the board because each builder tracks profit a different way," said Suzanne Britsch, senior analyst for New Home Trends in Mill Creek.
But in general, expect 4 to 15 percent will be profit.
Home Forum answers readers' real-estate questions. Send questions to Home Forum, Seattle Times, P.O. Box 1845, Seattle, WA 98111, or call 206-464-8510 to leave a question on a recorded line. The e-mail address is email@example.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.