If I drive by a house that I really like, can't I just call the Listing Agent that's on the yard sign?
That's a question we hear quite frequently and it's one that seems to cause some confusion.
The short answer is: Yes, of course you can call them. You can call and invite them for coffee, or ask them what the weather will be like tomorrow, you can even call them Maurice but NEVER EVER call to ask to see the house or give any information about yourself or your home buying plans.
So SHOULD you call them? The right answer is NO.
There are a lot of very valid reasons why calling the listing agent on the yard sign would be a really bad idea for any potential buyer because it could really hurt your chances of getting the home at a reasonable price and on reasonable terms.
Some buyers believe working directly with the listing agent will actually save them money. The opposite however is closer to the truth. Generally when a buyer works with the listing agent, it ends up being more expensive for the buyer in the long run.
Here's a scenario.
You see a house you really like and you call the number on the yard sign to set up an appointment to see it. The listing agent tells you that they are working for the seller but that they would be happy to show you the house. You set an appointment and off you go.
The first thing the listing agent does when you meet, is give you a one page form called Information About Brokerage Services. It states the services provided by the 3 types of representations, buyers agent, listing agent and intermediary.
Now you're already thinking that you're going to try and do all of this through the listing agent so you can get a deal by saving that commission, so you just ignore the legal notice that you were given for your own protection. After all, remember you know best!
Then you start looking at the house and you're chatting to the agent and the agent begins to notice that you seem to be really interested in this house. So they start asking you questions. Little things, like trying to figure out if you could financially qualify to purchase the house. What your home buying time line is. If you are currently living in the area or maybe it's a job related move. Have you talked to a lender. Is your employer relocating you. Do you have another house to sell. And so on.....
These are all very valid questions. They are issues that will need to be answered and addressed if you are to proceed with a home purchase with any agent.
Nothing wrong so far......
After touring the house and falling a little bit in love with it, you decide you want to make an offer to buy right then and there. However, first you want to find out how low the seller will go but here's the first problem. The listing agent can't tell you because remember, that agent works for the seller and not for you. They are legally obligated to provide confidentially and duty to their client, the seller, NOT to you.
Here's where one of the money costing problems kicks in......
You've just spent the last 30 minutes telling the listing agent all about your financing, whether you are qualified to buy, when you are planning on moving, if you have another house to sell, if your employer will be picking up some of the closing costs and all kinds of other great information and you did it all with a smile on your face.
You know what you got.......... you got duped!!!!
Essentially you've just put the seller and the listing agent in a great position of strength. You've disclosed your motivation, your ability to buy and your intended need to buy. You've just lost all your negotiating strengths and handed them over to the other party.
You can't cry foul, you can't claim you didn't know, you can't even say you were tricked into telling the other party all your information. After all, you were told at the very beginning by the listing agent that they work for the seller, NOT YOU.
The listing agents fiduciary responsibility is to their client, the seller. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the home seller wants as much money, under the most favorable terms as possible for their home. The home seller is not concerned that you, the interested buyer, decided to use the same agent as they did, they just want the best deal they can.
If you got a notice that you were being sued in court, would you contact the attorney for the party that is suing you, chat with him, give him all kinds of personal information about yourself, all in the hopes of hiring him so you can get a better deal? No, you wouldn't. That attorney works for and is hired by the person that is suing you. Why would you give them any other information than what is legally required?
It's certainly not going to save you any money but more likely it will cost you more and that's just the beginning of where additional expenses can start to occur.
So, the bottom line is........
If you come across a house that you really like and you want to see it and get more information about it, hire an agent that represents you. That person will keep your information confidential and they will have a fiduciary responsibility to you. They will work in YOUR INTEREST and not the other parties interest.
For additional information on the benefits of working with your own agent when buying a home, take a look at one of my other posts Working with a REALTOR to buy a house.
As they say.............. Penny wise, pound foolish!!!!!
So there you have it, let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.