The Home Buyer's Agent: Why hire a Real Estate Agent and what to expect during your first meeting.
Everyone tells you that you should have a Home Buyer's Agent when purchasing a home. It can be hard to figure out which agent to work with, whether you should choose an agent, and how to find one that you will feel comfortable working with. For many, that search starts on the internet. Unfortunately, most of the information you are looking for is locked down on an agent’s website. The top real estate agents in any market know you are looking for knowledge on the internet, and are paying companies lots of money every month for your information, or attention via a click, so they can market to you. This leads to your email, phone, and/or your social media feed to be plastered with real estate related ads. It is no coincidence that when you search for information on buying a home you suddenly see the same real estate company pop up in your feeds time and again, even when playing games on your phone. Some companies spend thousands a month for the privilege to market to you. It can be hard to know which agents will have your best interests at heart and those that need to close enough transactions to be able to buy next month’s customers.
You will be tempted to call the agent from Zillow, or the agent’s name listed on the home you like, and many buyers do so. Does it make sense to hire the seller’s agent to also represent you through the transaction? Even if that agent has many Zillow (or Google or Facebook, etc.) reviews, how do you know they are the right fit for you or your situation? We have been there ourselves. We feel that buyers should interview agents before committing to work with one and buyers should be prepared for the interview the agent will conduct. Of course, we trust you will find this information useful and that maybe we have earned your interview.
Real Estate Agents are almost always paid by the seller based on the contract negotiated by the listing agent. Agents are not allowed to list homes in the MLS without an agreement to compensate the agent who brings the buyer. This means that most of the time it does not cost buyers anything to hire an agent to represent them and their interests, and it also means that going straight to the listing agent will not necessarily impact the bottom line of the seller unless that was specified in the listing agreement. There are some agents that offer the seller a discount to represent both sides and from what we hear and read in the court records, that is not always in the best interests of the buyer. We recommend that you hire an agent to represent you through the process that will have your interests as their primary consideration. When you sit down to talk to the Realtor for the first time, they should ask you a bunch of questions about your situation, and they should ask you to sign a representation agreement. This agreement is designed to protect consumers and establish the roles and expectations of agents during the home buying process.
A note on selecting an agent. Sales people often have a bad rap just because we are in sales and let’s face it, some salesmen have earned us that rotten reputation. Can we say for the record, that just because we are in sales does not mean we do not have your best interests at heart? We would rather lose a commission than your respect and future business. We believe in taking the pain and the unknown out of the moving process. We have the greatest job in the world and would be honored to work with you when you are ready.
Questions to Ask Your Agent Before You Commit.
Buying a home is probably the biggest investment you have planned, and everyone has an opinion of what to do and who to work with and where to live, etc. They mean well. Often their information is dated, or not relevant for our market, and/or what worked for them or was true when they bought but may not be an option now. Each family is unique, and their strengths (and weaknesses) will, in part, determine how they negotiate their sale. Having an experienced agent on your side guiding you through the process can save you thousands in dollars and hours in searching. We have pulled together some questions to consider asking during your first meeting with the Realtor on our FAQ page. Check them out here.
Questions to Expect From Your Agent.
If you call an agent and they do not ask to schedule a time to discuss your unique situation before showing you houses, they may be desperate for your business. Do you want someone desperate for the commission to be representing you? They may worry more about their money than yours. Quality agents will ask you many questions about yourself, your family, and how you live before seeing the first house. The best agents will ask you to sign a representation agreement. Those agreements outline the duties and responsibilities of the agent to you, and this is the place you should put any information you do NOT want your agent to share on your behalf.
- What has changed recently that has led to you deciding to buy now?
An ice-breaker question looking for your situation and how you are feeling about the upcoming purchase. They will also be looking to gauge how quickly you need to move and what your resources are and what you are facing as challenges.
- Are you working with a lender?
This is one of the first and biggest decisions to be made when buying a home. It also starts the financial conversation. We do not need to know the details of your financial situation, no agent does. What we do need for the contract is how much you intend to put down on the security deposit (refundable per contract guidelines) and the loan. If you are not pre-approved by a lender yet, we have several recommendations – check out our Financing 101 page.
- How have you been looking at houses? What have you discovered?
Maybe you have been going through open houses, we meet a lot of people there. Maybe you have not seen a single house and are eager to get started! Just a note - it is okay if you have been working with other agents. Please let us know. As a consumer, you can work with and talk to whomever you want. We do want to follow the ethical guidelines for Realtors and be respectful to all parties. We are going to ask you lots of questions about what you liked, what really turned you off, deal breakers, etc. We are also looking for tastes, wants, and sometimes more importantly, the 'DO NOT' wants with this question.
- What is your biggest concern about the coming move?
Like us, most agents want to do a great job for you. Every family is different, and each has their own set of priorities. Maybe your priority concern is resale, or investment return, or safety, etc. Whatever your priority is, your agent’s knowledge and experience will help you meet your needs. We want to earn your respect, your future business, and the referrals of your friends and family. Knowing what is most important to you lets us know how we can best serve you and your family.
- Where do you spend most of your time at home? Any hobbies you need room for? Space for special events you want to host?
These questions, and similar ones, are gauging your lifestyle and what features are most important to you and the way you live. Some families spend their time in their bedrooms and having their personal room spacious and bright may be more important than an outside sitting area. Some families have a member who enjoys a fine cigar on the weekend and having an area to sit under roof when it rains is particularly important. Maybe you want a giant open room for collecting special items.
- Is this going to be your forever home?
There may be a different approach if you never intend to re-sell your home. A word of caution here. While you may be tempted to ignore resale value if you feel you will be parked for the next 20 years, life happens and sometimes that means plans change. Many people end up selling their forever home to move closer to family or take a job, etc. Life happens.
- How comfortable are you with repairs?
Maybe you are looking for the cheapest, most neglected home on the market in the hopes of investing time and elbow grease to earn a large payback or maybe, you want a home to sparkle with every bright surface shining, ready for you to move in. Maybe you fall somewhere in between, whatever it is, knowing this will help you agent pick homes to show you. Note: if you might be looking at a renovation loan, start setting that up before seeing homes. Have a contractor you trust that knows how to fill out the paperwork to the bank’s satisfaction. The process can be long but made easier by having contractors ready to schedule walk throughs and put together proposals for the bank with little notice. Alternatively, if you want to have as few as repairs as possible for the next five years, that is important information for us to know as well.
- How important is outdoor / garage space?
Due to our mild winters, many Tallahassee homes have outdoor living space, and some neighborhoods offer abundant options for outdoor activities. If having a man cave/she shed is vital, then that helps eliminate the options that do not have the space or the room to put one in, and that can save you time and heartache. Knowing this information can quickly eliminate several options.
- What is the most important thing for you in a neighborhood?
Some people may want a strong HOA to protect their investment. Some may want nothing to do with others telling them how long their grass can be. Some HOAs are more stringent than others. We encourage buyers to visit the home at all times of the day and in all weather. In Tallahassee, we have torrential downpours that dumps several inches of Gulf water on our roofs in a matter of minutes. Some homeowners find out that how a home handles those downpours can be a deal breaker for future purchases.
- What are your deal breakers?
Maybe it is turning right on the busy road coming out of the subdivision or the long dirt road to get to the home. Maybe you do not want mobile home renters as neighbors. Is it the lack of a fenced yard for the fur family? We have also had many buyers tell us they would not be able to sleep if they had gas appliances. Or maybe it is an agent that never calls you back? Whatever those are, make sure your agent knows, so they can be looking out for you.