Shopping for a Real Estate Agent
Scenario 1 – You are driving through your favorite neighborhood, you see a for sale sign on one of the properties. Grabbing your cell phone you frantically punch out the number on the sign and speak with Agent X. Agent X rushes out to the house and gives you a two and a half second tour of the home, moving you through quickly and gushing on and on about what a great find this home is, and how she showed it only this morning, and the couple was very interested and would be writing up an offer this evening. Agent X then pulls out a contract and the next thing you know, your John Hancock is on the bottom line…. and you were just looking. This couldn’t happen right.
You are mostly right, although I have seen it a couple times. Most Real Estate Professionals are extremely ethical and truly want to see you in a home that you will enjoy for years to come. The most important thing that I want to point out about scenario 1 is this – the real estate agent you called works for the seller. His/Her job is to protect and promote the sellers interest, and to sell the sellers property. He/She does not work for you, and in this scenario I doubt that Agent X had your best interest at heart.
Shopping for a real estate agent is extremely important, perhaps the most important prospect of the whole home buying endeavor. You want someone who will work for you. Who will give you sound advice, even if that advice is to seek legal counsel. And someone who will not shuffle you through the home at break-neck speed, shielding you from the flaws, or problem areas of the home. You need a Buyers Agent.
How, can you find this miraculous paragon of virtue, who will no doubt cost you an arm and a leg, but protect you against all manor of ruthless home sellers, and find you the home of your dreams? (OK, so maybe I was a little heavy on the sarcasm but you get my drift). To answer your question — ASK!
That’s it. Ask your friends, co-workers, your family, anyone who’s judgment you trust, that has recently gone through a real estate transaction. Ask them about their agent. Were they helpful, did they answer questions completely, did they respond quickly? Are they familiar with the area that you are looking in? Ask questions, you’ll be surprised at how many people really like their real estate agents, and how many would happily and without reservation recommend them to a friend. That in itself will tell you a lot about the agent.
Your next step is to interview them. Call and set up an appointment, you don’t have to go look at homes, but you should have a list of what you want with you. Ask how they do business. Are they a Buyer’s agent or Seller’s agent or both? How long have they been in business? How do they like to communicate? What kind of time frame should you expect on returning calls or emails? How often do they send out update of properties in the area to their clients? What type of properties do they specialize in? Talk to them about area schools or other area concerns or interests. Get to know them. That is the only way you are going to find one that is in sync with your wants and needs. Interview a few agents before you pick one.
You may be asked to sign a Buyer’s Agency agreement. Not to worry. This contract states that you will work solely with this agent, and she/he will work for you. That way, you know for sure, who’s interest the agent is working toward. This agreement often has a percentage fee in it. Don’t panic. This fee is generally for homes that are for sale by owner, where the agent wouldn’t be getting a commission fee from the seller (which is usual) Discuss this with your agent and come to an agreement that is satisfactory to both of you. If nothing else, don’t look at homes that are for sale by owner (FSBO), thus avoiding the fee.
Give your agent a list of what you are looking for in a home, along with a general price range. She/he will let you know if you are on track or if what you’re looking for is beyond your reach as far as price. You agent will help you hone your list, getting rid of the pie in the sky wants and bringing you down to what is in reality the best for you and your budget. It’s ok to want a mansion, but unlikely you’ll find one for $150K that still has a roof attached.
Keep in touch, let your agent know that you are actively looking for a home, and keep them informed of any changes that you’ve made in your list. If he’s looking for two story homes, and you’ve set your heart on a rambler but didn’t tell him, your home tours are going to be less than satisfying.
Respond quickly to emails, sometimes a new property comes on the market that isn’t going to last. If your agent can’t get a hold of you, you’ve just blown an opportunity! Never a good thing. Remember to let her know if you’re going out of town, or if something has come up to postpone your home search for the moment.
Your agent is an expert in her field. Treat her as such, and listen to her advice. Ask for referrals to mortgage companies (look for at least 3 options). And get qualified for a loan (if needed), it can be a major bargaining point when you begin negotiations for your home.
Your research and dedication will help you find the agent that is right for you.