Home Buying Step 2, Who Needs an Agent?
We live in a time where using an agent may seem less important than ever. The ability to search homes on line, ask questions on various online sites and do lots of independent research all make it seem as if an agent may not be necessary. I will be honest, I felt this way too once.
Before entering Real Estate as a profession I had been in other sales careers. The agents we met early on in our home buying experience didn't listen well to our criteria and seemed more intent on meeting their needs than ours. Finally I got tired of these "nice" but unprofessional agents and received a referral to a top professional.
She had both experience and training. She listened to what we were hoping to accomplish and let us know we needed to follow her process if we wanted to be successful.
She listened to us, so we listened to her. We gained confidence in her abilities and knowledge and we were successful in finding our first house. We lived there 17 years, did very well on resale and were very happy with the process. I've tried to apply my own version of her system in my business.
A good agent will put your needs first. This is both part of the Law of Agency and the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics.
A good agent is confident in what they are doing, and they listen intently. I combine confidence and listening. Too many agents are confident, but don't listen. If your concerns are not their concerns you may buy what they want to sell rather than what you had intended to buy.
A good agent knows the law and can explain it well. In the State of Washington, we rely on a pamphlet called, The Law of Agency to explain what every consumer can expect of every agent. This should be supplied early in the process and explained. Knowing the law also includes being able to explain purchase & sale contracts and all associated paperwork.
A good agent is connected to good resources; Lenders, Title Companies, Escrow Companies, Stagers, contractors of various types, inspectors, etc. These are people who can fill in areas of expertise. Respect the agent who says, "I don't know but I can find out," and then does.
All Realtors are agents, but not all agents are Realtors. A Realtor is an agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and agrees to abide by a specific set of ethics. Realtors are typically higher trained than other agents and thus may have more to offer.
A good agent knows their market and can tell you about various homes for sale or recently sold. If they are out of their general market place, they will tell you and allow you to decide how to proceed.
A good agent has multiple sources of data to do thorough analysis of prices and trends. An agent can search the MLS with more filters, depth and tools than any publicly available sites. They search Title Company and County records, draw comparables from multiple sources and with variable lenses to obtain the best information for our clients. They also know how to interpret the data they gather.
A good agent is a skilled negotiator. Negotiations and successful strategies are more than buy low and sell high. They know when a home is overpriced and may be worth a low offer and when to strike quickly on an underpriced home. They can discuss various strategies to achieve your goals in a transaction.
A good agent will tell you the truth, even when it's not good news. They communicate clearly and will explain things until you understand.
A good agent is always learning. Some have a series of certifications, others are constantly learning without the added credentials.
Putting your needs first, listening ears, confidence, legal knowledge, connected to useful resources, a Realtor, market knowledge, skilled negotiator, integrity, clear communicator and ongoing learner. Find an agent(s) that meet these criteria and finally, one you can trust.
Trust is a huge component in the buyer/agent relationship. I advise my clients to trust me, because I prove trustworthy, not just because I'm nice.
Lawyers are advised to hire representation when they are being sued. "A lawyer who represents themself, has a fool for a client" so the old axiom goes. When buying a home, you need and deserve the best representation possible. Interview agents until you find one, or a team, who live up this criterion and you'll do well.
A word about commissions. We work and live in a competitive world. A high commission does not guarantee a good result, but a low one does not guarantee real savings. An agent who rebates a portion of their commission has to do more transactions to make the same living as one who does not. Do you want to be represented by someone who has more on the line for your success or less? If an agent rebates a portion of their commission and does a poor job for you, the costs could easily exceed whatever savings you hoped for. My suggestion, with so much on the line go for quality representation over budget representation. A good agent will save you much more than any rebate while a bad one will cost you much more than just their commission.