So you’re getting ready to start the home hunting process and you’d like to enlist a professional- great! But where do you start?
The first thing to ask: is this property represented by an Agent? If it’s not, if it’s a For Sale By Owner, if it’s someone you’ve met through the grapevine that you heard wants to sell their home, then the truth is you do not need an agent! You can lean on your attorney and mortgage lender more.
However, if the home is listed, you’re going to end up with an Agent one way or another.
What are some tips you could use to better help you land the best agent? No need to worry, we got you covered! Below are some steps you can take to help navigate the real estate waters so you may obtain your dream agent!
Step 1: Understand the difference between agents (and selecting one correctly).
So what are the different kinds of agents and which one is right for you? Well, we’ve broken it down by the laws of agencies, there are technically three types of agents:
The Buyer’s Agent
Their sole duty is to represent you, and only you - the Buyer. The great news is, it’s free! It doesn’t cost you a dime out of pocket. No matter how long it takes, no matter how many homes you see, no matter how many times you call them... Well, you get the picture. Why is this? Because their commission is paid for by the Seller - you can’t get any better than that!
*It’s also recommended for first-time homebuyers to utilize the services of a Buyer’s Agent since this is their specialty.
Their responsibilities are plentiful and they include:
Helping you find a home - They’ll be on the hunt for properties you may be interested in (based on the criteria you provide them with) plus you can bring homes to their attention and they can set-up a viewing.
They’re going to facilitate the sale for you.
Their job is to make sure you see the good, the bad and the ugly of every home that you go into.
They walk through the overall process of the transaction for you.
They’re the Intermediary between the Seller’s Agent (who’s working with the Seller) and the Attorneys.
They’re responsible to help manage everything in the transaction from the contract, the inspections, etc.
The Seller’s Agent
Their responsibility lies in representing the Seller; meeting the Seller’s needs and fiduciary responsibility. They have a direct responsibility to the Seller so this means that anything you say to that Agent has to be disclosed to their Seller.
Multiple times within the industry Seller’s Agents will have a Buyer contact them directly -- even when they’re working with a Buyer’s Agent! They’re usually looking for advice or insight and may sometimes converse about their wants, needs and financial situation. Be careful what you convey to that Agent as everything will be relayed to the Seller; By law, they can’t provide you with privy information on their client.
A Dual Agent
If a home is “listed” that means it’s listed with a Seller’s Agent aka “Listing Agent” in some areas. The key of the crossover there is that if you, the Buyer, connect with the Seller’s Agent who is under contract with the Seller of the home, then that becomes Dual Agency.
The Cons of working with a Dual Agent: The responsibility of that Agent becomes split. You no longer have that one single agent working for you and only you. They have to spread their attention across both parties and represent both parties equally. They may not be able to dedicate as much time showing you homes as a Buyer’s Agent would and work with you on other personal matters.
The Pro of working with a Dual Agent: There is more incentive to want to please you as there’s more money at stake. (They earn more commission since they’re working on both the selling and buying side.)
So what’s the best choice for you? Well, a Buyer’s Agent can give you advice on ANYTHING; The price, condition, and qualities of the home, but a Dual Agent cannot. They can do a comparative market analysis and give you the statistics to make your own decision, but according to the law, they become a mediator and cannot directly advise you on an offer price. It’s pretty logical when you think about it- they have to represent the seller too so they know the inside scoop of how low they’re willing to go (and not go) and that’s an unfair advantage to you. The opposite is also true if they know the details of your finances and how high you’re willing to actually go above your initial offer, they cannot advise the Seller of that either.
Based on this information, it’s really up to you and what you’re comfortable with.
Step 2: Finding & Interviewing Agents
Find an Agent and do a “Buyers Consultation” with them.
To find an Agent:
Look for a referral, networking opportunity, family member or friend.
You can always go online and search out any of them and read the reviews, learn how long they’ve been in business, how many buyers they’ve helped find a home. One of the more specific ways to perform an online search includes using Zillow by visiting the Zillow homepage, going to the top left section labeled “Agent Finder Tab”, enter the town/state, select “specialties”, then select “Buyers” and click-on “best local reviews”.
If you’re in an area, where you might not know anyone:
Microfocus on an area where you want to be.
Pull-up online for general listings, doesn’t have to be in your price range exactly, but you’ll start seeing familiar faces popping up which means they’re doing a decent amount of business in the area.
Inevitably, they’ll be hosting an open house. Go to it! You can see how they interact with people and see how they deal with you.
You can easily go to 5 or 6 open houses in one day.
Choose the top few you’d like to have a private meeting with.
When you meet with them, you may want to consider asking them the following questions:
How long have they been a licensed real estate agent?
Is real estate their full-time career or part-time? You’re looking for how available to you they can be and how much time you expect them to dedicate to you.
How many homebuyers are they currently working with? What about Sellers?
How much business they’ve done in that specific area?
How many homes did you help buyers purchase last year?
On average, how many homes do you generally show your buyers?
Can you provide testimonials or past client referrals I can connect with?
What is your preferred method of communication
Do you attend the home inspections?
What type of support staff, team or resources do you have?
DO you work with homebuyers who have pre-qualification letters? BIG TIP! IF they say yes, not a good sign - you As there is a big difference between a PRE-APPROVAL letter and a Pre-Qual letter. A “Prequalification” letter is based on a very loose process where the forms of financial documents are not closely screened or vetted. A “Pre-Approval” is more solid in that banks carefully monitor and fact check all paperwork and finances.
Ask what’s important to them when working with you? At the end of the day, that’s what they’re doing, they’re working for you.
Another HUGE TIP: You’ve GOT TO LIKE THEM! If you interview them and you don’t click, keep moving.
However, you also want to steer clear of BEING CAREFUL to not get TOO casual in your choice. You might really like the person, but, if you feel they are rushing you into buying a home too quickly or they’re trying to talk you into paying a price you’re not satisfied with paying (Based on reason; For example, comparable homes selling within the same neighborhood at a lower price.) It may be time to seek an agent that has your best interests in mind.
With that being said, you also want to be sure that the Agent doesn’t mind taking their time to properly vet the properties you’re interested in (or they think you’d be interested in) based on the guidelines you supplied them with.
On the flip side, you might get REALLY lucky and find your perfect home as the very 1st home you walk into don't GET SCARED and force yourself to go look at others. Snatch it up! If you don’t, it’ll become “the one that got away”. In some markets, if you drag your feet for a few months, and homes are appreciating, you might have to spend more for that home than you would have previously!
Bottom line is that you don’t feel the need to drag out the process, but you also shouldn’t feel rushed to the finish line either. In the consultation with the Realtor, it should be clear that they do not NEED you to buy the first or second home that you see, but if that 1st or 2nd home is THE ONE, they’ll have the ability to guide you as a professional; Telling you whether or not it fits the criteria.
Now, if you end up looking at 25+ homes on multiple trips and still feel wishy-washy, there’s an issue as well. You should take the time to sit down and more clearly define your priorities on your own, but also make sure your Agent understands what you’re looking for (That way, you’re not wasting each other's time.).
You also want to be sure that the agent is up-to-date on the newest digital solutions. Having access, and the ability to navigate real estate listings, mortgage processes and contacts by using the newest technological advances will give you a leg-up and streamline the homebuying process.
Thank you so much for reading!
At Get A Rate, we understand the importance of finding a great agent. We’re passionate about the home buying process which is why we open our doors to anyone in need of suggestions in regards to agents and mortgage solutions. Feel free to reach out to us anytime at 888-562-2611.