Buying a home is a big decision! When you become a committed house hunter, you’ll quickly discover that the process is more complicated than you might have imagined.
If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves, it’s best to have expert assistance navigating the process. You can take several steps to find the best buyer’s representative for your home search. Be sure to discuss these critical topics in your initial consultation:
1. Current real estate market conditions.
Every real estate market is unique. Your buyer’s rep can share details about current inventory, buying demand, and other factors so you’ll better understand how much you’ll need to spend to get what you want.
In addition to having a finger on the pulse of the housing market, your buyer’s rep can discuss current mortgage financing options and recommend lenders. At a minimum, you’ll want to be pre-approved by a lender before beginning your house hunt.
2. Services provided.
Most buyers don’t realize how much time and effort goes into finding the right home, successfully negotiating a purchase contract, completing all the steps related to inspections, mortgage financing, and closing documents, and managing packing and moving logistics.
Ask your buyer’s representative to explain how they will support you throughout the purchasing process. Not all buyer’s reps are the same! An agent who has earned their Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation has received specialized training in representing buyers.
Even though your buyer’s agent can provide advice and recommendations on many aspects of your transaction, some topics are off-limits due to Fair Housing laws, which protect a buyer’s right and ability to purchase a home in any neighborhood they choose.
As a result, agents can point you to sources of information on schools, crime rates, and population demographics but are not allowed to answer questions like “Is this a good neighborhood?” That’s YOUR decision.
3. Your needs and wants.
If you’re ready to begin working with your buyer’s rep, it’s time to discuss your housing preferences. Consider as many dimensions as possible, including your preferred home style, the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, how the rooms are arranged, desirable outdoor living features, neighborhood amenities, and commuting considerations.
Also, be ready to set priorities and tell your agent which features are “essential” versus “nice to have.” Most buyers must make trade-offs.
4. The buyer representation agreement.
In the U.S., agents must comply with real estate laws unique to their state. Some states require agents to use buyer representation agreements, whereas others make this optional or employ different rules concerning buyer representation.
Ask your agent to explain how they handle this aspect of your relationship. Buyer representation agreements are beneficial for clarifying expectations and avoiding misunderstandings. You’ll know what services you’re entitled to receive from your agent, and what your agent expects from you.
5. Other real estate agents.
Once you’ve formed a relationship with a buyer’s agent, you should disclose this to other agents encountered during your search. For example, if you attend an open house, write down your buyer representative’s name and yours when you sign in. (It helps other agents respect your relationship with your buyer’s rep.)
Also, if you participate in an open house, it’s best to be very tight-lipped about your home search and refrain from expressing how much you love (or hate) a home’s features.
Remember, other agents are vested in helping their sellers find qualified buyers. If you become interested in a property listed by their brokerage, any information accidentally shared could hurt your negotiating position.
Everyone deserves compensation for the services they provide. That includes your buyer’s rep.
Most real estate professionals work on a commission basis, which is received at the end of a real estate transaction. Traditionally, commissions have been paid through the listing agent’s brokerage firm, using the seller’s proceeds on the sale.
But it doesn’t always work this way. In some cases, sellers offer to pay a buyer’s agent directly. And in other cases, buyers compensate their agent. Also, compensation is always negotiable.
Talk to your buyer’s rep about compensation options. It’s an essential and often misunderstood detail! The more you know what your buyer’s agent does for you and how they can be paid for their services, the more confidence you’ll have about working as a team to find your ideal home.