The Buyer's Agent


You wouldn't take on a case of international intrigue without an super agent, so don't even think about buying your first home without one. (The stakes higher because it's your money on the line.) A buyer's agent can guide your hand through a very complicated process, educate you about the market and help you negotiate a fair price.

But while some agents are 007, some are more like Austin Powers and not in a funny way. Learn about choosing a buyer's agent.

The Buyer's Agent


    What is a home buyer's agent?
    During the sale of a home, it is customary for both the buyer and seller to be represented by an agent. A buyer's agent is a state-licensed professional who will work with you during each step of the process. They'll help you shop for suitable homes, negotiate the price and terms and sit with you at closing to make sure the deal goes through with no surprises. Your agent is required to look after your interests as the buyer and put those interest above those of the seller and their own.

    Compensation
    Unless you are buying a for-sale-by-owner property, the seller will be represented by an agent and a commission will be paid on the transaction. The commission is based on the selling price of the home and is typically split between the buyer's and seller's agents. Your contract with your agent should specify that all commissions are paid by the seller in this manner. However in some cases, the buyer's agent is paid a fee directly by the buyer.

    Exclusive buyer's agents and disclosed dual agents
    In addition to having an agent who is experienced in the market, you want one whose allegiances are not split. "Disclosed Dual Agents" can represent both buyer and seller in a transaction, whereas an exclusive buyer's agents will only represent you, the home buyer. First time home buyers should look to work with an exclusive buyer' agent, but this is not always possible. In smaller markets most agents will represents both buyers and sellers. In that case, you will be given a dual agency agreement to review and sign off on.

    Functions of a good agent
    The best agents will take care of you like a mama bear. It's important to know what the responsibilities of the agent should be so you can set clear expectations when you sign with on. Here's the minimum that your agent should do for you:
    • Learn about your specific situation; including finances, lifestyle preferences and buying concerns.
    • Outline their responsibilities in a written agreement.
    • Evaluate the local market to determine the most appropriate neighborhoods for your search.
    • Identify individual properties that best suit your needs.
    • Drive you around and show you the best homes.
    • Negotiate purchase price and terms
    • Present your formal offer to the seller
    • Review all legal documents with you
    • Sewage/septic systems

    Additional services
    In a competitive market, most agents will go beyond the basic call of their contract. Your agent may help you find financing, refer you to qualified contractors for home repair and improvements and even get you that bottle of champagne to celebrate your new home purchase. While your agent will have experience with many service providers in the market, you should never blindly accept offers of service referrals from them. Take their advice but still shop around for the best mortgage, the best plumber and the best furniture store.

    Choosing an agent
    Evaluate an agent like you would any professional whose work will affect your financial future. Ask them about their experience; how long have they been licensed and do they do the job full time. Get references from their recent clients. Google them.

    Try to find out about their availability. How many clients do they have at one time? Do they have email, a Blackberry or cell phone? What hours will they be available for you? If an agent is not willing to sit through a detailed interview with you, don't expect them to be more responsive once you've signed a contract. Don't be bashful. A good agent is in the business of marketing homes. They should be able to market themselves to you.

    Use your gut, too. In the end, you will be spending a lot of time with this person. Choose someone whose personality and style works with yours.


    Other Buyers Guide Topics


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    An article from RE/MAX: Choosing an Agent.