When we were all little and starting to gain our independence, one thing that was a big deal was dressing ourselves. In our haste and excitement, I'm sure most of us were guilty of not paying attention to the order our clothes were supposed to go on. Sometimes, our underwear ended up on the outside of our pants.
Thanks to the first-time home buyer tax credit, our market is starting to hop with first-time buyers. Since we have a few listings in this price range, we get a lot of calls. It seems like in their haste and excitement to buy their first home, some buyers are putting their "pants" on first and their "underwear" on second.
What I mean is this - the first thing a first-time home buyer should do is educate themselves about how the process works. Don't call the listing agent to see every house that meets your needs. See, there is something called agency - and in the home buying business it's really important.
Agency works like this:
- Every agent that you call off a sign is working for one person and one person only, the seller. Unless... (and here is where it gets tricky) you authorize that agent to act as a dual agent and work on the behalf of both parties.
- Any agent you call from an ad or a sign is working for the seller, and the proper term is the Listing Agent. The listing agent is there to help the seller market the home, price the home and handle negotiations on behalf of the seller. This agent is also allowed to perform "ministerial acts" for any potential buyer. This means that they can help you fill out a purchase contract and submit your offer to the seller, but after that you are on your own. This can be dangerous territory for any buyer, but especially a first-time buyer. There are a lot of time frames in the contract, contingencies and other important information that you will be on your own to keep track of. Home inspection turns up a lot of problems? You are on your own to negotiate them with the listing agent, and this is second nature to a savvy agent.
- A buyer's agent is an agent that you pick to represent you in the purchase of your new home. Your agent will work with the listing agent of the home you purchase and act in your best interests. Your buyer's agent will help you write the offer, suggest what a fair price for the home would be after running comps, track the time frames, help you fulfill contingencies, negotiate the inspection response for you and oversee the process from the first showing all the way to closing. The best part of buyer agency is that in our market the buyer's agent is paid by the seller - costing you nothing out of pocket. You get the expert help of a professional agent for free. Pretty cool, huh?
- In a dual agency situation, the listing agent can also represent you as a buyer, but their role is more limited. A dual agent can not tell you what you should offer, or give you any confidential information about the seller.
As you can see buying a home is a complicated process. It's very important to educate yourself before you start the process. The best place to start? Shop for a good buyer's agent. Many agents will offer you a consultation before your search starts. This allows you to let the agent know what you're looking for, and in turn the agent can explain to you how the process works.
So, first-time buyers - don't wear your underwear on the outside of your pants. If you're starting a home in search in Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Collinsville, Troy, Maryville or any other Madison County communities give me a shout. We'll sit down for a consultation and get the process started.
About the Author: Kristina Pratt is a Realtor with the Just Ducky Homes team at Coldwell Banker Brown Realtors in Edwardsville, Illinois. She and Nancy Milton help their customers buy and sell homes and investment properties in St. Louis' Illinois suburbs of Madison and St. Clair counties with special emphasis on the communities of Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Collinsville and Troy. For more information, visit their web site at http://www.JustDuckyHomes.com or e-mail Kristina@JustDuckyHomes.com