The Smart Buyer’s Guide to Real Estate
Part I: WHY YOU SHOULDN’T TRY TO BUY A HOUSE ON YOUR OWN –
OR WHY YOU NEED YOUR OWN AGENT
BY DORIS CHRISTELIS, REALTOR®, Coldwell Banker Realty
Welcome to my wonderful world of real estate. This is a business I love. What can be more professionally fulfilling than handing a new young couple the keys to their first home? But like all businesses, there are many possible pitfalls to avoid. My goal is to steer you away from all the misinformation out there, give you a handy guide to follow, and send you safely on your way to successfully buying a new home.
So you’re ready to house hunt! Yay! The first step is to agree with me that you need your own Realtor®. Say it out loud and with conviction. You cannot, should not, and will not play the game of going at it alone, thinking that is how you are going to get the best deal. Absolutely not true. In addition, you should never work use the list agent (or seller’s agent --- same thing) as your agent. Let me explain why.
Some buyers think they can get a better deal by working directly with the seller’s agent, calling that agent when they see the listing on Zillow or Realtor.com. That is the agent who advertises the house for sale, owes you no allegiance, and whose sworn duty is to get the highest and best price for their seller. Do you really think they are going to give you a better price than anyone else?
Let’s be very clear here – when you are buying a house you do not pay your agent. The seller does*. When a seller lists a home, they sign a listing agreement and in that legal document the seller agrees to pay x% of the home’s sale price to the seller’s agent and y% to the buyer’s agent. If the buyer is unrepresented, both sides of the commission will go to the list agent. The homeowner saves nothing, thus has no financial incentive to accept your offer. And you got no selfless advice from the seller’s agent.
The seller may even prefer to sell their home to someone who has their own agent. The seller and their agent may be reluctant to work with a buyer who wants to manage their own deal not knowing how this untraditional twist may affect the outcome of the deal. In addition, it can actually end up being more work for the seller’s agent as they will have to essentially run both ends of the transaction doing their work plus what would typically be the job of the buyer’s agent.
An agent that works for you has experience in real estate that far exceeds yours unless you are buying or selling real estate multiple times a year. They know the local market inside and out. They know what questions to ask the seller’s agent about the property so you can work that into your offer. They know what might be amiss when they walk you through the front door that you might miss not having the same level of experience that they do.
No deal is ever easy. There are always bumps in the road. Your own Realtor® will represent you, negotiate for you, and be your best friend during what can be a harrowing process. They have done this many more times than you and know all the tricks of the trade that will work. You want your own great agent to successfully get you to the closing table with the least amount of nausea and the most money left in your wallet.
In addition, by having your own agent you can be made aware of non-MLS listings that are not advertised on websites (sometimes sellers don’t want the neighbors to know they’re leaving…), “coming soon” listings that some brokerages share within their company, and thru MLS sites that only agents have access to. In a tight market these can be vital to beating the other buyers out there to the Welcome mat.
Your agent will know how to word an offer that will thrill a seller and get you the house’s front door keys. They will remind you of due dates, be by your side during the inspections, negotiate any post-inspection demands, and provide you names of experts they’ve encountered along the way from attorneys to radon installation companies to help you out.
You should also know that if you call the list agent of a house you see online, they show you the house and answer all your questions, and then you decide to go to your sister’s best friend’s father-in-law to write up an offer, chances are good that the list agent will be able to claim they were the “procuring cause” to your offer thus they will be able to claim some, if not all, of the buyer side commission. You may not care as it’s not coming out of your pocket, but your sister’s best friend’s father-in-law will not be happy.
Working only with the seller’s agent deprives you of getting the sage and sound advice of your own Realtor®. Your agent will give you free advice, guidance, and direction. Think of this as thousands of dollars of freebies as your Realtor is working for YOU, not the seller.
Of course, this all assumes they are a good Realtor®. What is a good Realtor®? How do you find one? After all, aren’t all agents alike??? Find all these answers and more in The Smart Buyer’s Guide to Real Estate, Part II – Finding a Great Realtor.
*If unsure, check with your local Board of Realtors® to confirm the law in your state.