One of the first questions you might have as a home buyer is whether you need a real estate agent. After all, there are plenty of free online resources available to help you navigate the home buying process yourself. Is taking the time to get an agent really worth it? Read on to see why in most cases the answer is still yes – especially if you’re a first-time home buyer.
Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Agent
It’s true that there are more home buyer resources at your fingertips than ever before. Home search sites and endless how-to guides can all point you in the right direction. Only trouble is, having this information and being able to apply it are two different things. An agent will be your home buying expert so you don’t have to become one – and best of all, there’s no cost to you. In nearly all transactions, the seller will pay the buyer agent commission.
So what does a real estate agent do for a buyer? Here are the biggest benefits that can save you time, money and stress throughout the entire home buying process.
Help Finding the Right Home
Sure, you can go online to look at home listings. But to find the best value, or even learn about great possibilities before they hit the market, you might want an expert with their ear to the ground. Experienced agents are typically local market insiders, and they can take you directly to homes you have in mind.
In addition, sellers typically only allow licensed real estate agents to have private access to their homes. This means the only way you’ll be able tour a home without one is if you go to an open house or schedule a time when the seller or seller’s agent is available. If you want to be one of the first to view a home and make an offer, you’ll usually need an agent to get you in the door.
Negotiating the Best Price
There’s a lot at stake during a home purchase, from cost, to timing, to inclusions like appliances and furniture. Haggling over countless details can get complicated and, because you’re emotionally invested, frustrating.
One huge advantage of having an agent is that you have a pro negotiator going to bat for you. You’ll have an expert to advise you on making your initial offer, make skillful counteroffers and ultimately ensure that you get the best deal possible on any given home – all while sparing you the stress that can cause negotiations to go off the rails.
Handling Paperwork through Closing
The paperwork required to buy a home is no joke. Between offer sheets, purchase agreements, tax forms, disclosures, insurance documents and many other forms, you’ll have to understand and sign off on a giant stack of papers before you get the keys to a new home. One small error or oversight can cause delays, loss of funds or massive legal headaches.
For a real estate agent, completing these forms is standard procedure. Your agent can explain each required document, answer any questions and make sure everything is in order and on schedule. An agent handling the paperwork will save you time and give you peace of mind.
How to Find a Real Estate Agent
All real estate agents are not created equal. As in any profession there are good ones and bad ones, and many agents have specialties that may or may not be suited to reaching your goals. Choosing the right agent goes a long way toward having a great home buying experience, so it’s wise to invest a little time upfront and find the one for you.
Figure Out What You Need
Are you house hunting in a couple neighborhoods or considering a broad area? Do you want a two-story home with a huge backyard or a condo with a state-of-the-art gym? Knowing the home you want will help you identify the agent you need. Many agents specialize in buying certain types of homes in specific areas, so the more detailed you can get with your goals, the more likely you’ll be able to find a real estate agent who can reach those goals.
It’s also a good idea to think about the type of person you like to work with. Do you prefer high-energy over low-key? Do you prefer emails and texts to phone calls and in-person meetings? You’ll likely interact quite a bit with your agent, so make a note of your preferred personality traits for when you interview candidates to be your agent.
Do Some Research
Many home buyers find a real estate agent through recommendations from family or friends. It makes sense, since most of us don’t know where to begin looking otherwise. But just because one person had a great experience with an agent doesn’t mean you will.
There are plenty of tools online to locate agents in your area and read up their background. At Rocket Homes, we prescreen the top real estate agents we work with and connect home buyers with the best fit. Ask to get connected, and you’ll be matched with a local agent handpicked for your situation.
Ask the Right Questions
Your first conversation with an agent will help you make a decision on who to hire. Even if you’ve already done some research and learned about how an agent operates, it’s important to hear them explain how they can help you. Start with the questions below, and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as needed to get a good sense of what it’d be like to work with the person.
• Which neighborhoods do you primarily work? You’ll want to make sure the agent has expertise in your desired area. If they don’t, it will probably take them longer to get you the information you need.
• How many buyers did you represent locally in the last year? This will help you gauge the agent’s relevant experience. Ideally, an agent will have at least 5-10 closings under their belt over the last 12 months. This will let you know that an agent is up on the current market and successfully helping people buy homes.
• What are your hours? It’s crucial that an agent is available on your schedule. Otherwise there might be a lot of phone tag and waiting for answers.
• What advice can you offer that’s unique to my situation? After you explain what your goals are, this question will help reveal if an agent is specifically qualified. You can also learn a lot about how an agent communicates and get a sense for the kind of expertise they’ll bring to the table.
Find out more about how to interview an agent and hire the right fit in our blog, 3 Tips for Finding the Right Real Estate Agent for You.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Agent
When you find an agent who’s compatible with you and has right experience and expertise, the next step is teaming up to find the right home. Here are some best practices to build a strong working relationship and maximize your agent’s value.
Know what an Agent Can and Can’t Do for You
What does a real estate agent do in one word? Advise. You’ll receive personal guidance on which homes to check out, how much to offer, choosing a home inspector, negotiating counteroffers and repairs, and much more. However, your agent will not (and should not) make any final decisions for you. Think of your agent as an advisor to help you make the best decisions.
It’s also worth noting that an agent should not be your go-to person for loan questions. Many agents have some knowledge of financing, but they should not make promises about how much you can afford or how you can restructure your mortgage later. For loan questions, you should speak directly with your lender.
Be Open, Honest and Specific
In order for a real estate agent to provide you with stellar service, you need to make your expectations as clear as possible. This includes the type, price and location of the home you want, the features you’re looking for (like a pool or a fenced yard) and your desired timeframe to get into a new home.
The same goes for establishing other personal preferences. Let your agent know how (and how often) you want to communicate, whether it’s by phone, email, text or in-person appointments. Maybe you need a lift to showings and would like an agent to pick you up in certain situations. Be sure to explain any key points of your day-to-day routine that will keep you and your agent on the same page.
Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away
Most real estate agents will ask that you sign a broker’s agreement before working with you. The term is usually negotiable, with most agents asking for a 90-day commitment. However, this should not mean that you are locked into the arrangement. In fact, you should ask for a guarantee before signing an agreement that if either side decides the relationship isn’t working out, you’ll be released from the agreement.
The fact is, sometimes personalities clash or circumstances change. Maybe your agent is unresponsive to requests, or the market changes and the agent can’t find homes in your price range, or any one of a million reasons cause the relationship to go sour. If things aren’t going as expected, try being honest about why you feel that way first. See if it’s possible for the agent to perform up to your expectations or make adjustments to smooth things out.
If that doesn’t work, you shouldn’t feel obligated to gut it out. Ask your agent for a Termination of Buyer Agency form, which will cancel oral or written agent agreements. And don’t let one bad experience deter you. Use your experience to find someone who’s a better fit and you can still take advantage of all the free benefits an agent has to offer.
Take the Weight Off Your Shoulders
There’s a lot at stake when you buy a home, financially and emotionally. There can also be a lot of uncertainty as you move through such a complicated process, but there’s no reason you need to shoulder the burden of figuring everything out on your own. Let a licensed professional explain each step of the process, guide you when have doubts, and ultimately help you make the best decisions for you and your family.
To speak with a top-rated, local real estate agent in your area, message us or give us a call at 1.888.468.4735.