Finding the perfect home can be a magical experience. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs first, but when you finally find “the one,” OH MY!
As you go through the house hunting process, you’ll need to answer some hard questions: What’s most important to me in a new home? How will I use the space? What makes the most sense financially, both now and in the future? And finally, do I feel a connection with this property?
A good buyer’s agent can help you delve deeper into these questions and define a clear vision of your dream home and a road map to get there. He/she can also inform you of market data, negotiate with the seller on your behalf, share resources for inspectors/contractors/etc, protect your best interests, and basically be your dedicated personal navigator down the often bumpy road of buying a house.
But that’s only if you have your own buyer’s agent – a nuance that I’ve learned many people don’t really understand.
Say you drive by a house and see a for sale sign, or you find a place you like on the Internet. What do you do? Do you call the listing (seller’s) agent? Before I was a realtor, I probably would have, but now I know better.
Real estate is largely a cooperative business, and most transactions involve two agents: one who represents the seller and one who represents the buyer. Though agent commissions are usually paid primarily by the seller, each agent is obligated by law to act in the best interest of their respective client.
So when I’m serving as a listing agent, I have a responsibility to recommend pricing, list and market a property, share feedback, present all offers and contracts, and generally make sure that my sellers are getting the best price & terms. When I’m serving as a buyer’s agent, I also have a responsibility, but in this case my job is to find the perfect property, analyze the local market and guide my buyers through the negotiation process, with a goal of getting them the best deal possible.
Obviously, if my goal is to get the best deal possible for a buyer, it would be pretty difficult for me to also focus on getting the best deal for a seller. But in Missouri and several other states, that arrangement is actually legal, as long as both parties are aware. It’s called disclosed dual agency, and it means that the agent represents both parties and essentially serves as a neutral umpire and go-between.
Personally, I would never advise a friend or family member to buy a house under dual agency. I’m even wary of serving as a dual agent myself, because there’s such a fine line to walk. Plus, I know how valuable a dedicated buyer’s agent can be.
A good buyer’s agent is your partner, your guide and your chief negotiator. He or she has access to a wealth of data and knowledge that can help you not only find the right home but also pay the best price for it. And when things get hairy during the inspection and closing process, as they often do, a buyer’s agent will be the one keeping the ship sailing smoothly, moving forward toward the goal.
And in case you missed it earlier, they will usually do all of this at very little or no cost to you (because sellers pay most of the commissions). So why would you not use a buyer’s agent?
If you’re just curious about a property and not really prepared to buy yet, go to an open house. There is no commitment. But if you’re a pre-approved buyer who is genuinely dedicated to finding a new home, I strongly advise you to get an agent of your own – one who listens well and truly understands your needs & lifestyle. It will save you time, headaches, and more than likely, money.