The real estate market is notoriously competitive for real estate agents, and unfortunately, both buyers and sellers often become victims of divided loyalty. Since Realtors work with both buyers and sellers, it is often impossible for them to be impartial, and one party winds up getting the best deal from the other. A buyer agent, however, works exclusively with buyers for real estate transactions, which might be your best bet for your house hunting efforts.
What most people don’t understand is that working with a real estate agent is a personal venture. You need to find someone whose ideals match your own and whose loyalty will rest with you alone. The chemistry has to be right, and you might go through six Realtors before finding one that suits your personality. A buyer agent is no different, except the chemistry must be even stronger for the relationship to prosper.
When house hunting, you’ll want to find a buyer agent before you even start to look at properties. If you simply show up at an open house, you’ll be accosted by the Realtor who is representing that property, and high-pressure sales tactics might convince you to work with him. If you are already represented by a buyer agent, however, you can skip all of the politics and jump straigtht to looking for your dream home.
Spend Time with Several Agents
As mentioned above, it is important that you feel safe and comfortable with your buyer agent, and confident in his ability to represent you well. This usually means not only interviewing several buyer agents, but also spending time with them. Take several house hunting over several days and figure out which ones have the best chemistry with you and your family.
For example, I worked with a buyer agent who insisted on smoking in his Range Rover and eating Philly cheesesteak sandwiches while we looked at houses. The smells alone were enough to spur me to look elsewhere, even though he was a great real estate agent. You’ll find that your buyer agent’s habits can be deal-breakers even before you even start touring houses.
Talk to References
Finding the best buyer agent is not much different from finding a great employee. Not only should you interview several candidates, but you should also check their references. Find out how their former clients feel about the service they received, and don’t hesitate to ask probing questions such as, “Would you work with her again?”
A buyer agent who is reluctant to hand over a list of references probably isn’t worth your time. House hunting is an important process and you want to have the best representation possible.
Ask About Buyer Agent Contracts
It is never a good idea to bind yourself to a buyer agent, particularly when you are just starting your house hunting efforts. Some real estate agents require that you sign a buyer agent contract, which requires you to work with them alone. Ask if the agent requires them, and then request a copy. You should have your attorney look it over before signing it, if you do at all.
Ideally, your buyer agent will be sufficiently confident in his own skills to work with you sans-contract. If not, you might want to play the field for a while before committing.
Request Disclosure of Fees
A buyer agent’s fees might be slightly higher than that of an arbitrary real estate agent, largely because the buyer agent is working exclusively for buyers. They don’t have listings, which means that their focus isn’t compromised, but it also limits their income potential. Consequently, you might pay more for a buyer agent.
The most important thing is to request a disclosure of fees (in writing) before you ever start touring houses. Make sure the fees don’t increase depending on a sequence of factors, and ask about additional costs that you might incur along the way.