Homebuyers: here are 4 advantages of working with a buyer’s agent
Buying a home is a complicated process. Aside from finding the best listings to tour in person—and in our current seller’s market, that part is challenging enough—you need to have your mortgage pre-approved, look at comps, check the school district, pay attention to taxes, etc. The list is too long for one person (or family) to contemplate without feeling overwhelmed.
Thank goodness you don’t have to do it all. Enter the buyer’s real estate agent.
Yes, you need one. You might think you don’t, but trust us, you do.
Read on to find out why an agent is critical to your search, along with how to find an excellent one and how best to engage with them.
Why should you work with an agent to buy a home?
When it’s time to start shopping for a house, we recommend enlisting the services of a pro real estate agent who has significant experience representing buyers. (Yes, we’re fans of learning new things by taking on projects ourselves, too, but not in this case.) Trust us, save yourself the headache and hire a pro from the start. Here’s why.
Agents have the inside scoop.
With everything available on the internet, the average person has access to the same information real estate agents do, right? Nah, not so much.
Home listings appear on websites, yes. But those listings change pretty fast, and your agent will have access to them before they’re released to the general public. A multiple listing service (commonly referred to as the MLS) is a members-only database that is a home listing’s first stop before being released to other public real estate websites.
While you’re at work making money to pay for your eventual new home, your agent is also at work, able to pounce on new properties as they come through the MLS. Especially in today’s post-pandemic scorching hot real estate market, the ability to act quickly is vital. Without an agent, you’re likely to get shut out of new listings before you even knew they were available. (Ouch.)
Agents know things. (But don’t drink, we hope. Any GoT fans will understand.)
As you’re wandering through a house oohing and ahhing over various upgrades and unique features, you’re also aware of whether those snazzy aspects are up to code, right?
Unless you’re in the construction biz, we’re guessing that’s a no. But what luck! Your real estate agent is considering those factors on each and every house tour, along with plenty of others you don’t even know exist. Among them:
- Does the seller have all the necessary permits for renovations? If the ‘upgrades’ aren’t up to code and something breaks or leaks, you could be looking at a pricey out-of-pocket problem. Insurance companies are finicky about permits and will likely deny a claim made on unpermitted work.
- Does the home come with huge one-time expenses? …like what, you ask? Some older homes, for example, might not be connected to the city sewer line and come with a requirement for the new buyer to make that happen. Since that process typically costs tens of thousands of dollars, it could be a deal-breaker. Your agent will make sure you know that before making an offer.
- Does the septic tank serve the size of the home? This is one crappy (sorry, couldn’t resist) situation you want to avoid if possible. It’s illegal to have a smaller septic tank than the size of the home requires. Knowing whether your area bases that size on the number of bedrooms or the number of toilets will save you from, ahem, wasting time and money down the road.
Agents have connections.
We’ve all heard the old adage: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Like it or not, your real estate agent’s connections can help you close the deal.
Grace Henrikson, a top real estate agent in Marysville, Washington, told Homelight: “Our relationships and rapport with other professionals in our industry really can make or break a client’s offer getting accepted or not.”
In addition, those connections can also come into play if you need repair work done. You can avoid spending hours scrolling through online reviews and emailing contractors by letting your agent tap into their already existing network. (Who needs more time in their day? That’s right; you do.) You might even get faster service from a contractor who enjoys repeat business from your agent.
Agents will handle the paperwork.
Show up, sign some papers, and hand over the moola. OK, it might not be quite that easy, but without a real estate agent, you’ll be (almost literally) wading through papers, deciphering legalese, and hoping you haven’t missed something. For this reason alone, a good agent is worth their weight in gold, or paper, if you will.
What should I look for in a realtor? How will I find a good one?
Assuming we’ve convinced you of your need for a competent real estate professional. Even if we haven’t yet, humor us and read on. We have more wisdom to share.
Look for exclusivity.
Seriously. Most of the time, we’re big fans of inclusivity but in this case, we want you to be selfish. By that, we mean get your very own buyer’s agent. In real estate speak, there are two types of agents: listing agents and buyer’s agents. Listing agents are, logically enough, the people who list a seller’s home on the market. When you make an offer on a home, that’s the person who negotiates on behalf of the sellers.
Your buyer’s agent, on the other hand, works just for you. You’ll discuss your budget, goals, and deal-breakers with them. When the negotiating starts, your interests will be forefront in their mind.
Both agents are paid, typically splitting a commission that the seller funds.
Sounds simple enough…so what do we mean by look for exclusivity? We recommend avoiding agents who work for both the buyer and seller in a single transaction, a practice known as dual agency. While this is perfectly legal in some states, it’s easy to see how it could present a conflict of interest. You don’t necessarily need an exclusive buyer’s agent—that’s an agent who never works with sellers at all—but you do want one who isn’t representing the sellers of homes you’re attempting to purchase.
Check their credentials.
To call themselves a realtor, someone who is licensed as a real estate agent must also belong to the National Association of Realtors. This indicates they’ve met additional requirements including ethics courses and exams. The ethics standards of this group are even more sweeping than those required by federal and state laws.
For you as a buyer, that’s only a good thing. When your rights as a client are an agent’s highest priority, you can be even more assured of their good work.
Great! I know what I need in an agent. How do I find them?
The internet is your friend here. A Google search of realtors in the area you want should turn up plenty of prospects. Be sure to read reviews from past clients as well as agents’ own websites.
Other great ways of finding a real estate agent include:
Word of mouth. Ask your friends! See who they loved working with and why, but keep in mind that the personality of your agent is also an important factor. Your friends might have enjoyed working with an agent, but you may not have the same connection. Since you’ll be putting all of your home buying eggs into their proverbial basket, pay attention to your gut feeling. If the chemistry isn’t there, move on.
Bus benches, billboards and newspaper ads. Take a look around the area where you want to buy a house. If a realtor is advertising locally, chances are they might be a good fit for you. You can do some initial reconnaissance by visiting their website, reading up on their credentials, and seeing what homes their agency has available. If they pass the initial test, pop in for an interview.
For more tips on how to find the right real estate agent for you, check out our piece: Interviewing agents? 5 questions to ask.
Yay! I have an agent! How should I ensure we’re working well together?
Once you’ve found your agent, the real work can begin. Since you interviewed your realtor and decided they were a fit for you, it probably won’t be too difficult to achieve a productive working relationship. Still, it’s helpful to know the basics.
Have the same expectations.
This is a good guideline for any relationship in life, whether it’s business or personal. If you share the same expectations, you’re more likely to avoid miscommunications that lead to disagreements. The same holds true for a working relationship with your real estate agent. A few examples:
- Explain how you would like to communicate. Text or phone? Or maybe email?
- Are you hoping your realtor will drive you to showings or do you want to meet them there?
- Ask your agent how you should best provide feedback.
Determining small things like this as you start working together can save headaches moving forward.
Respect their time.
This is yet another basic life skill, but one that’s especially key in a fast-moving business like real estate. With homes selling quickly, time is of the essence. Your realtor will do their job by setting up the appointment and showing up. You need to do yours by also showing up—on time. If something unavoidable arises, contact your agent immediately and let them know what’s going on. (It’s just common courtesy.)
Remember, too, that your real estate agent is running a business. While you are, of course, a very important client and deserving of good service, you won’t be their only client. Don’t be so demanding that you’re unreasonable, i.e., temper your annoyance if they don’t respond to your text messages without delay or drop everything to return your call within a half hour. Yes, you want excellent service that will land you a new home, but a modicum of politeness and patience will help you win the day (and the deal).
Ask plenty of questions.
If you don’t understand a form your agent says you need to sign, ask them to explain it to you. They see these forms every day and might forget how confusing the process can be for those who aren’t immersed in it. A good agent will be happy to explain what’s happening. After all, they don’t want things to fall apart later when you realize you signed something you wish you hadn’t.
This should go without saying, but just in case it doesn’t, we’ll say it: If you’ve committed to an agent, you should have your mortgage pre-approved and be prepared to plunk down the cash tomorrow. No realtor wants to take precious time showing houses to someone who really doesn’t intend to buy.
Your buyer’s agent is a vital part of the homebuying experience. A good agent will not only get you a great deal, but can act as a sounding board, confidante, and even a therapist. Take the time to find an agent who fits your style and can meet your needs. You’ll be (really) glad you did.