Home sellers appreciate it when their Realtor takes some of the workload off of their shoulders. In some places, we are seeing real estate licensees overstepping their professional boundaries, though, and acting as if they are general contractors and overseeing the complete rehabilitation of properties before they go on the market. Unless those agents are also licensed contractors, they likely are acting illegally, though.
A few years ago, I had a listing appointment in Milpitas with a home owner who felt that my job, as a seller’s agent, would be to get the home ready for market. “I work full time, I cannot supervise all these people coming in to fix up my house,” she said. I explained to her that I am not a licensed contractor and it would be illegal for me to take responsibility over the plumbers, electricians, and the rest of the trades. She truly believed that these functions were part of a real estate agent’s job and nothing I said could convince her otherwise, so I told her that I could not work with her in the sale of her home. Where did her expectation come from? Most likely, she’d heard stories of other people selling their homes and having the listing agents do the lion’s share of organizing and supervising the fixup-to-sell jobs.
When is a contractor’s license needed? It’s simple. Here is a quote from the California State Contractors Licensing Board:
“In California, anyone who contracts to perform work on a project that is valued at $500 or more for combined labor and materials costs must hold a current, valid license from CSLB.”
When in doubt, check with the Contractors State License Board!
What can the Realtor do legally to assist a home owner in preparing a property to sell?
As a listing agent who is not a licensed contractor, I can give my clients a list service providers and contractors whom I trust and have found to do a good job at a fair price. But the home owner must sign the contracts, provide access, and oversee the job to his or her satisfaction. Yes, I can come in and have a look and tell my client if anything looks amiss, but I am not a professional in those trades, and I can neither hire nor fire the contractors and ultimately it is the seller and the providers who are responsible for the outcome.
Why has this issue of Realtors sometimes acting as illegal general contractors coming up? Most of it, I believe, has to do with the overheated sellers market. The competition to get listings is enormous – there are many Realtors and few homes to sell. This puts pressure on the real estate community to provide more and more “value” for the commission dollars spent. Some of these real estate sales people believe that by overseeing work done on the home (as opposed to staging), they are helping their sellers to get more for their money.
Finally, I need to note that there are a FEW Realtors who are also licensed contractors. It’s easy enough to find out if someone has a current, valid contractors license in California. Just visit the State Contractors License Board to verify the license or call (800) 321-CSLB (2752).