Most people looking to buy a house focus on the neighborhood and finding the house that they want. They talk to friends, co-workers, and family about their wish list and spend hours online. Some may enlist the help of a Buyer Agent, but I find that many people contact the listing agent directly, or whatever agent happens to be advertising on the website being used, and so they may only consider a Buyer Agent when they find what they want and aren’t quite sure what to do next. Or they even may end up with a Buyer Agent without realizing it.
As an agent and Realtor, I always try to let people know what my role is when I talk with them. It’s important, and it DOES matter. This post will tell you why it matters and why you should have a Buyer Agent.
1) Information is leverage - You need to know who you are talking to because, just like if you play poker, you don’t want to give away your hand. You don’t want to tell a listing agent for your dream home that you have to have a house ASAP because your lease is ending. Or that you are only qualified to buy a certain amount. Or that you just inherited lots of money. This information can possibly hurt you during negotiations. If you appear desperate or too eager, the listing agent will tell the seller and that seller isn’t going to budge on anything. Alternatively, if you have to sell your house prior to buying, you don’t want to say too much about your current home. Let your buyer agent advise you first before even bringing that up. Yes, you’re just buying a house, but transactions can get very complicated and an experienced Buyer Agent can see farther down the road and can foresee how certain information can be misunderstood, misused, or hurtful.
2) Contract Management - It takes money to buy a house, so a good agent will also be a good project manager. Deadlines are critical and organization is key to helping you avoid spending money that could be lost. It’s important to prioritize your due diligence period activities with your agent so that you take the approach that is best for you and for the property. This is probably the one aspect of real estate that can sometimes be learned too late. Perhaps the agent referred to you is a lot of fun and really friendly, but doesn’t have a business mind or attention for detail. Ask these questions up front:
- What is their process for transaction management?
- What tools do they use?
- How have the last few transactions gone for them?
- How would they describe their approach to a multiple offer situation?
3) Location and experience matter - Land-use changes, especially in urban areas, and upcoming development can be years away, but a good agent will be aware of all these things or at least know where to investigate to see if anything is upcoming. They’ll share the info with you and you can decide if you care. Do you want to look out your window 3 years from now and see a wall? The listing agent may not be keen to tell you what’s going to be built next door or nearby, but your buyer agent will.
Not only that, but an inexperienced agent can hurt you as well. I had a listing one time where the buyer contacted me directly for the showing and he wanted to make an offer. I advised him that my sellers wanted exclusive representation, so he needed to find a buyer agent. He did, and the offer that he submitted was on a contract that was at least 10 years old. His agent clearly had not practiced real estate recently and upon further investigation, was based three hours away. The sellers flat out refused the offer because of this inexperience and associated risk. It did not bode well for a smooth transaction, and didn’t give any confidence that the buyer had educated himself on the property and the process. Yes, things could have been transferred to a newer contract, but the sellers saw warning flags everywhere and did not see the buyer as serious. Don’t lose a property because of simple things like this. In this competitive market, having a good agent on your side can make a difference. A listing agent obviously wants what is best for their seller, but that also includes working with a Buyer Agent who is organized and knows what they are doing.
4) Avoid risk - Similar to the experience above, a good agent who is familiar with the area can help you avoid buying the wrong property. Many things impact resale value, and while that is the last thing on your mind as you look at property, it’s how a lot of Buyer Agents think. A home is an investment and a good agent will make sure you know the negative features in addition to all the positive. Most buyers are fine with a few negative items as long as they know about them in advance.
5) Legal Requirement - That’s right, it is legally required for an agent to disclose who they are working for at first substantial contact. Most agents put the brochure in their email signature, others may physically bring it with them to the first meeting, others may reference it, but however it is done, you need to know who they are working for. The odd thing is, it can sound like a sales pitch to a consumer not familiar with why they are suddenly being told about “agency” when all they want to do is schedule an appt to see a property.
If you made it this far, I hope that this has given you plenty to think about and that you understand why knowing the role of the agent is so critical and how important having a good Buyer Agent can be. Even if you are the most business savvy executive and deal with contracts every day, the local market knowledge of an agent and their experience can save you time, money and help eliminate risk.