A real estate agent can put those special touches on a home to help raise the aesthetic value.

When it comes to real estate it’s currently a buyer’s market, but home sales are still on the rise despite the turbulent economy. According to an Associated Press report, home sales were up 7.7 percent in August, but the median sale price of homes fell more than 5 percent.

Websites like forsalebyowner.com attempt to assist potential home sellers — and save agent commission rates — by helping navigate through the deluge of painting, pricing and paperwork, but local agents say there is no substitute for a professional agent on your side.

“The biggest thing an agent can help with is pricing,” said Wanda McMullin, a real estate agent with Murney Associates, Ozark. “We know the market, we know the area and we know the type of people who would be potential buyers.”

With home prices down overall, McMullin said a real estate agent can put those special touches on a home to help raise the aesthetic value.

“You only get one first impression,” she said. “Buyers who don’t like the look won’t stick around to find out the details.”

On average, McMullin said an experienced agent can help sell a home for 8 to 9 percent more than selling it on your own, and they can do it a lot quicker, too. A recent National Association of Realtors study showed 82 percent of real estate sales are the result of agent contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, family and personal contacts.

In the business since 1972, McMullin said there is also a safety factor involved for sellers.

“Agents only deal with buyers who have been pre-qualified for a loan,” she said. “There is an element of safety there. You never know when selling your home on your own what could happen.”

Aside from staging the home, pricing the home and finding a potential buyer for the home, McMullin said the biggest headache for sellers is the paperwork process.

“It’s a lot of paperwork,” she said, “and if you’re not familiar with it, it can be a daunting task. But having an agent there to help can make all the difference.”

On the flip side of the market, Murney Associates agent Frank Lorenz said buying your home through an agent is just as essential.

“When an agent walks into a home they know what to look for,” he said. “All those little things that a homeowner might not notice, an agent will take note of.”

An agent since 2001, Lorenz said a second set of eyes can become your best friend. “Agents know how to negotiate, we know how to compare area prices, we ask for inspections and we can navigate through paperwork,” he said. “We are there to assist you with anything you need.”

When it’s all said and done, real estate transactions involve one of the biggest financial investments most people experience in their lifetime. With transactions exc eed ing hundreds of thousands, the best advice is always to have a professional on your side.

“It’s a small cost to use an agent, but it’s a large risk not to,” McMullin said. “It’s our turf and we are here to help you.”

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