Many buyers today are missing the benefits of working with a professional real estate agent, preferring to search the internet and visit Open Houses to see homes on their own. Possibly there is a mis-conception that using the listing agent will save them money because of reduced commissions when they find the home of their dreams and make an offer. However, the listing contract signed by the seller long before these buyers appeared specifies what commissions will be paid even when the listing agent is used in a dual agency situation and it generally saves the buyer nothing.
Before buyer agency, some brokerages would give larger commission splits to their own agents if the home was sold "In-House". The introduction of buyer agency created a situation where it does not matter what broker or agent sells a listing there is no difference to the seller or the agents involved, and if there is this must be revealed to all parties, agents and buyer and seller so the playing field is even for all parties.
Attorneys shake their heads in confusion when real estate agents practice dual agency on a personal level because of the implied conflict of interest and lack of fiduciary responsibility.
But which agent do you use if you are going to work with a buyers agent? Here are some questions you can use to help you in your selection of the right buyers agent.
Do you work full time in real estate? With the increase in the number of real estate agents and the downturn in the housing market many real estate agents have taken part time jobs, is the agent you are going to use part time of full time. Part time agents are often difficult to reach and hard to schedule for showings which with the current lack of inventory can end up causing you to miss a property.
What area do you primarily work in? Every agent has a preferred area in which they work, I work primarily the Philadelphia Main Line and some distance north and south of that, and would never consider showing properties in Jenkintown or Horsham although my license allows me to. So make sure where they will be showing you homes where they know the market and understand what is happening today.
How easy is it to cancel the buyer agent representation agreement? Of course it may not work out, or you may feel you made a bad decision, and want to look elsewhere. How restrictive is that buyer agency agreement?
Can you supply a list of people we will need to reach settlement? A good real estate agent will have lists of local mortgage providers, home inspectors, contractors and title companies, with multiple choices in each field. Don't get steered into only using the one name an agent can provide. Make sure any relationships are also disclosed up front for any of these referrals.
How quickly do you respond? Horror stories abound of buyers not being able to reach a buyers agent at a critical stage of negotiations. With the advent of smart phones, there is no reason for an agent to be missing in action. We always ask clients their preferred method of communication, be it phone, texting or email, it varies from person to person, and whilst we may follow up in writing that preferred method is probably what we use the majority of the time.
Are you a Realtor? Why or why not? Many buyers today think that all real estate agents are Realtors, whilst many are not all are and there is a difference. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, and as such a member of the local and State associations as well. Realtors operate under a code of ethics that is actually higher than that demanded by The Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission, it is one of the features that allows you to bring a complaint in the case of a breach of fiduciary responsibility
Have you had any specific training in Buyer Representation? There are many designations that real estate agents can carry, ABR Accredited Buyer Representative, SRES Seniors Real Estate Representative are just a couple and many are promoted by the National Association of Realtors, (NAR) but there are also other non NAR designations as well. Make sure you understand what if any courses your potential buyers agent has completed. Some designations require continued payment to maintain a designation and whilst the agent may no longer carry the designation that they have completed the training can still be important.
What other advanced training have you had? Is your potential buyers agent merely a sales person, or are they an Associate Broker, or Broker of Record both of the latter indicate they have completed advanced training of many hours in many different practices, taken and passed an exam set by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission.
What type of buyer have you represented in the recent past? Is the agent representing down sizing buyers with cash, move up buyers who are using conventional mortgages, first time buyers with little or no down payment who are utilizing FHA financing, have they represented any Veterans who have used VA financing? Their experience of different buyers or a buyer similar to you can make all the difference.
Do you practice personal Dual Agency? As explained above partially, cases may arise where an agent is representing both parties. To do this both parties must agree in writing. Whilst a brokerage firm may be a dual agent where the listing is listed by one agent in one office and sold by an agent in another office, the two agents are designated agents representing the buyer and the seller but if one agent does it that agent must do nothing that harms either party or weakens their position, of course this means that they now can make only limited disclosure of what they might know, and that might help either party. We prefer not to handle dual agency and will with both parties acceptance arrange designated agency representation.
How do you get paid and who pays you? Most brokerages today charge buyers a flat fee commission to cover work done preparing for settlement. There are ways to work around these fees, does your buyers agent know how to do this.
Do you also list homes for sale? If we have a home to sell as well can you help us organize and coordinate the two transactions? Will that save us any thing when we list?
Finally how well do you get on with other agents? How a real estate agent interacts with other agents is important, a listing agent who finds your real estate agent difficult to work with may be obstructive and personalities may get in the way of you obtaining the home of your dreams.
So here are twelve questions to help you decide if the real estate agent you are interviewing and who you hope will help you buy your next or first home is the right one for you. One last thought to consider is this you also need to get on with the buyers agent, you are going to be revealing a lot or personal and financial information about yourself and you need to be comfortable with the agent you choose. I hope this has helped and if you are looking for a home on or around Philadelphia's Main Line I hope you will consider interviewing us to represent you, we look forward to working with you.