Home buyers are searching every day on Zillow/Trulia and Realtor.com and may question the need for a buyer's agent. After all, properties are easy to find on the Internet and you may (mistakenly) believe that since you can find the property yourself, you have no need for a real estate agent.
I hear this misconception every day so let's talk about it so you understand why you do need a buyer's agent to help you buy a home.
A bit of home buying history
In the old days of home buying, a real estate agent was the gatekeeper of the information. There was no Internet. In fact, the information was contained in a big multiple listings book that only the agent had access to. You had to go through the agent to find out what was on the market. Obviously those days are gone. So what does a great agent do these days to help with buying a house?
How a buyer's agent helps you with buying a home
First, remember that the majority of the time, the buyer's agent is paid by the Seller so there is no additional cost to you. I know that this may appear to be a conflict but great agents knows their fiduciary responsibility to the buyer and adhere to their tasks regardless of who is paying them. I will write about this topic at a later date.
Here are a few things that great buyer's agents do for their buyers:
1. Listen intensely to understand you, the home buyer
A buyer's agent will meet personally (or at least over the phone) to have a detailed conversation with you about your needs and wants. The agent should ask lots of questions and get you talking so she can hear what you say, watch your body language and really get to know you as a person. All adult buyers should be present at this meeting. So if there are two buyers or if there are co-signers, they should all be involved in the process. Anyone with influence over the transaction should be in on this initial meeting so that a strategy can be set.
Often agents think that buyers don't "say what they mean or mean what they say". Buyers don't do this intentionally. It is just that the thoughts can be confusing and by speaking them out loud, a good agent can hear excitement, anxiety, listen for patterns and, if there are 2 or more buyers, see how the parties interact so that a plan can be put in place with all parties on the same page. This takes a lot of listening skills and some psychology.
Look for an agent who is a great listener and who asks great questions. If your agent dominates the conversation the entire time, look for a new agent.
2. Have money conversations
A good agent is going to have you speak with a few lenders before looking at any homes. Unless you are paying cash, you must understand your financing options, ask lots of questions and have a trusting relationship with your lender. The lender/underwriter/appraiser can make or break your deal, so this relationship is critical to success. I know that money conversations can be confusing and may not be fun for you. But you have to do it and you really have to understand your options and all of the terms. Do not move forward until you are completely comfortable with the money side of the transaction.
3. Narrow down the search.
An agent helps you narrow down the house-hunting search. Often, buyers come to us with a lot of information from the Internet. Some of it is correct and some is not. It is now time to sift through all of this information, provide clarification and narrow down a search based on wants/needs and finances.
Usually adjustments are made after the financing discussions so that we have a more realistic home search. A mediocre agent tells you what you want to hear; a great buyers' agent tells you what you have to hear, even if you don't like it, so that you are set up for success.
4. Go shopping for a home, online and offline
Now is the time to focus on finding your new home based on the parameters above. Work in partnership with your real estate agent and share thoughts and information freely so that all parties are on the same page. With technology today, emails can be sent back and forth freely and you should comment openly about your likes and dislikes. You will not hurt your agent's feelings. Be honest and truthful so that your agent can truly help you.
5. Find a home and make an offer.
Contracts are lengthy these days so you need to take your time and review all of the terms with your agent. Think about settlement dates, loan commitment dates, inspection dates, all of these terms matter. Speak with your lender about what is realistic and work as a team with your lender and agent to write the strongest offer possible. A great agent will know how to write an offer that leverages your strengths and puts you in the best negotiating position possible.
6. Your agent will now negotiate the offer.
Keep your phone charged and be ready to make quick decisions. Depending on the pace of your market, sometimes negotiations move very fast. Stay calm and get ready to go. You have already become an expert on your loan, have done a lot of homework and have a trusting relationship with your agent so you child be calm and good to go during what can be a highly emotional time. Keep calm and carry on.
7. Vendor coordination.
Once you are in contract, a great agent is going to help you coordinate all of the various parties to satisfy the terms of the transaction. Inspectors, title company, lenders, co-op agents, appraiser, etc. Any vendor (and there are many) who has a hand in this transaction will go through your agent for coordination and updates.
Your agent should be highly organized and experienced to make sure that all of these moving parts and parties are coordinated in a timely fashion per the terms of the contract. This is where most transaction issues occur and this is a very complicated real estate market, so your agent's experience with this pending and contract phase is critical to the success of your transaction.
8. Closing preparation.
Your agent will help you prepare for closing. The walk-through, checking for repairs, making sure that the home is in the same condition as when you ratified your contract, the closing documents, answering your questions and whatever else comes up during this highly emotional time. Once again, keep calm and carry on. Your agent will handle the details while you pack and get ready to move. Issues do occur during this time period but a great agent will guide you calmly and thoroughly through this phase of your journey to home ownership.
With the help of your buyer's agent, you can enjoy your new home!
Congratulations! Have fun and enjoy your new home. You, your agent and your lender have worked hard to get to this day. Enjoy your new home and moving on to the next phase of your life.
We would be honored to help you find your new home. After 22 years in the business, helping buyers find their new home never gets old. We love it and would love to help you get started. Give us a call today!