Back in the day, buyers used to go to Open Houses or call agents from newspaper ads or signs advertising homes to find their new place. That agent would then write up the offer, present it to the seller, and a deal would be struck. Done and done.
Sounds like a pretty easy transaction, right? Well, in some ways it was. In other ways, it put the buyer at a disadvantage, because (and what many buyers didn't fully realize) the agent was only representing the seller. That is, the agent was fully on the side of the seller, and was always going to put the seller's interests ahead of the buyers.
And so the Buyer's Agent was born! This agent shows buyers homes, writes the offer, and most importantly, negotiates and works in the interests of the buyer.
Where do you meet Buyer's Agents? If you already know someone in Real Estate (like your humble blogger, yours truly), they can represent you! Just let them know that you are interested in buying a house and they will start the home buying process with you. Don't know an agent? Many people find their agents when they tour Open Houses. Little Real Estate inside secret: the reason agents do Open Houses for homes that they are not listing, is to use it as a prospecting tool. I'll be honest, I suck at doing that kind of prospecting, but many agents get the majority of their buyers that way!
Now, on to the very important Buyer Agency Agreement. This is a contract between the agent and the buyer saying that they are working together. This is the piece of paper that actually allows the agent to work on behalf of the buyer. Interestingly, if you are seeing homes with an agent - even if it is not her listing - and you haven't signed this agreement yet, she is obligated to still be working on behalf of the seller. It's technical stuff, and if you want to learn more about why, shoot me an e-mail.
So, when do you sign these contracts? Well, I like to look at it kind of like dating. You go on a first date and see if there is any chemistry. If there is, you go on a second date and delve a little deeper into what you are looking for. Things are still going well, so you decide to start a relationship. Working with a Buyers Agent, in my opinion, is a very similar process. You find out if you have chemistry because you should have a good working relationship with someone who is taking you through such an important decision. If you do, you commit to working with each other.
Like dating, you should also look for the basic common human courtesies. Does she call you back within a reasonable time? Does she listen to what you are saying? Does she seem like she knows what she is doing, or has she never been in a long-term relationship before? Well, that last analogy was kind of weak, but you get the picture!
Bottom line, signing a Buyers Agency Agreement definitely puts you at an advantage during your home search, but don't just go jumping into bed with the first agent that sends you a list of active properties!