If you are a home buyer in this market, we cannot stress enough how important it is to have someone representing you in the transaction. You want a buyer’s agent. An agent that will represent you from the start to the end of the purchase. We see and hear all the time of people calling the listing agent to show the house. Or of buyers putting offers in through listing agents. We see people at every open house tell us that they don’t have an agent. And then they spend 45 minutes there and love the house. Two days later an offer comes in through those buyers from an agent that the buyers called after seeing the open house. That is either a family member or someone they called the day before. And there is nothing wrong with that. But please hire your agent first. What we advocate is to absolutely use a buyer’s agent to show your offer. Interview your agents before you start looking. There are some good reasons for this.
You want to know that your agent has been through the process before, and knows the market and local norms. A good buyer’s agent will not just know what’s out there, but he or she will know who else is looking and what the bid side of the market is. A proficient buyer’s agent will know what is ‘hot’ in this market and your neighborhood. Let him help you with local color.
You want to know that your agent is a good negotiator. The listing agents that you will be facing most likely will be. You may be a good negotiator. But buying a home is a negotiation throughout the process. And the negotiation is not just about price, and often that isn’t even the most important variable to the seller. From offer to acceptance to inspection to repairs to appraisal to commitment to closing. Each step will have your agent talking to numerous parties and hopefully working some magic for you. Some of the parties that are being negotiated with the agent will have a good working relationship with. That will help you. There are a lot of moving parts in a transaction, and a lot of personalities. Let your agent work on this for you, you aren’t paying them – the seller is out of sale proceeds. Let your agent do the negotiating and you do the preparing to move your family. Honestly moving your family will probably keep you busy enough.
You want to know that your agent has a list of people that you will need during the 90 or so days of the transaction. We closed a transaction for a friend we met at an open house six months ago. We became friends with him and his fiance’ very quickly once we spoke at the open house. Over the six months we’ve known him we have referred him to a banker, an attorney, two insurance agents, a surveyor, a financial planner, a contractor, a dock builder and now that he’s closed, a painter. We have good working relationships with all these vendors. Sometimes time is of the essence and getting someone to the property quickly is important. Let a buyer’s agent run your interference and keep your transaction on the rails and moving forward.
You want to know that your agent has a handle on what is for sale where you are looking, how appraisals are running in that area, and what is coming on the market. You will not get this from Zillow. Are prices firm and moving up? Is inventory growing over the last few weeks or shrinking? Are there any regulatory situations in your desired neighborhood that a local agent should know about? Has a big parcel just sold and maybe a box store is in the planning stages down the block? You want local knowledge that sometimes can’t be revealed from websites.
We suggest before you start looking at houses you take two weeks to do a couple of things first. We get it, it’s exciting to couch surf and start thinking about your next (or first) home. The photos look great, you can picture yourself in certain rooms or the backyard on Friday nights. You are dreaming of a 12-minute commute instead of the 45-minute drive now. But please, do this first – it’s only two weeks.
First weekend, go to your bank and talk to your banker. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. We hear all the time “I am in a great financial position, I can get pre approved when I find a home”. Unfortunately, that will not work. You are setting yourself up for failure. And if you hire an agent that will take you around without a preapproval, you are absolutely behind the eight ball. You have hired an agent that won’t be taken seriously by listing agents. We know you’re in good financial position. But the listing agent and the seller do not. Let’s have all our ducks in a row before we go out shopping. Let’s not let the lack of a pre approval be an impediment to an otherwise excellent offer.
And on the second weekend, interview three agents that you have either called or emailed with during the week. Ask for referrals from friends and check out the agent websites and social media profiles. Then actually go to their office and ask questions, like:
-How many times have you acted as a buyer’s agent in the last 12 months?
-Does your broker utilize dual agency, and if so, where does that leave me, the buyer?
-How many homes are listed right now in this zip, what’s the average days on market, etc. See if they have a handle on the market.
-Can we call some of your past buyers? As for us, we want nothing more than to have you speak to our past clients.
Find an agent you and your others are comfortable with and let them know that you would like to work with them. If they are like our team, they will start asking you a lot of questions. About lifestyle, and budget, and about your needs and wants in a property. We want to know a lot about what you need so we don’t have to see a million homes to find out. This way, we don’t have to drag you around on your weekends to see properties you won’t like. We want to narrow our focus down and will want you ready to pounce with an aggressive offer once we see your home. And we will see your home soon.
One more thing. Ask around to find out if you or someone you know tried to buy a home without a buyer’s agent. And ask how that process went. The real important question here is….were they able to buy the first home they put an offer in on or were they outbid?
We want you to buy the home of your dreams. We are comfortable saying take the hiring of a buyer’s agent seriously. Remember, you are paying for this representation in every listing whether you use it or not. So why not find someone to advocate for your needs?