Couple and a buyer's agent, sitting on sofas looking at a document

What Is A Buyer’s Agent And What Makes A Good One?

Hanna Kielar8-Minute Read
October 08, 2021

It’s time. You’re ready to jump in and become a first-time home buyer. While you could try and do it on your own, there’s really no reason to when you think about it. After all, the home buying process can get complicated, and while you’re no expert, you want to make sure you do it right by turning to someone who is.

Fortunately, a real estate buyer’s agent can help ease the process of finding and buying your dream home without costing you a dime.

What Is A Buyer’s Agent In Real Estate?

A buyer’s agent is a real estate professional who is legally licensed to represent the buyer and their interests in real estate transactions. That means they represent you. A seller’s agent, on the other hand, works for the current property owner.

As a potential home buyer, signing a contract with a dedicated buyer’s agent is often the best way to ensure that your interests are protected.

Other Agent Titles And What They Mean

Real estate professionals go by a wide variety of names, which can be confusing. Read on to learn more about the many different agent titles you might come across in the home buying process.

Real Estate Agents

While many people assume that anyone in real estate is a REALTOR®, that actually is a specific term that refers to a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the trade group National Association of REALTORS®.

The phrase “real estate agent” is a blanket term that can apply to a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent, depending on the context and their role in the process.

However, bear in mind that a real estate agent who doesn’t specifically identify themselves as an exclusive buyer’s agent will often have the best interest of their brokerage firm and the sellers, so you may run the risk of receiving fewer objective property recommendations based on your needs as the buyer.

Seller’s Agents (aka Listing Agents)

A seller’s agent, often called a “listing agent,” is the one who is listing the property for the seller. In contrast to a real estate buyer’s agent, they are working for the seller, which means they have their best interests at heart.

In other words, they’re trying to get the house sold, which means that their interests can be at cross purposes from yours – namely in terms of price. They want to get the most money for the seller while a buyer is trying to negotiate the price down.

That’s why it’s wise to pursue an agent who will be your best advocate during the home buying process.

Dual Agents

Dual agency means that the agent can work as a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent in real estate transactions. As you might imagine, that doesn’t always work in your favor.

After all, if the agent is handling affairs on both sides of your transaction, you might not get the same quality of service as you would if you had someone who was solely representing you. That’s because the agent will need to balance your and the seller's needs without a conflict of interest.

Exclusive Agents

An exclusive agent is the opposite of a dual agent. They work for just one side of the transaction and could work exclusively as a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent.

That’s why you might want to consider this arrangement as the best option when choosing your buyer’s agent since an exclusive agent will be working solely on your behalf and will make your needs their top priority.

What Does A Buyer’s Agent Do?

In real estate, a buyer’s agent assists potential buyers with all aspects of the process of buying a home, from start to finish.

First and foremost, they can help you find homes that suit your needs and preferences. That might include flagging listings or open houses for you to check out and then scheduling showings on your behalf.

Once you’ve located your ideal property, they can also write offers and counteroffers for homes you would like to buy, assist with inspections and guide you through the closing process. Essentially, a buyer’s agent will serve as your go-to resource for anything related to buying a home.

Reasons To Use A Buyer’s Agent

If you think the home buying process will entail just looking at a couple of properties and deciding on the best one, you should think again. In fact, it can prove to be far more complicated and stressful than you would imagine, and it can be much easier with an advocate by your side.

They’ll Get You In The Door

An important aspect of a buyer’s agent’s job is to provide you access to MLS listings that interest you. Your agent will consideryour key home buying wants and needs, then work with you to narrow down the houses that fit your search criteria.

Once you’ve found properties that you’re interested in, they will act as a liaison between you and the seller or seller’s agent to set up appointments for you to get a first look at those houses.

They’ll Have The Tough Talks

Remember, this is likely the first time you’ve been in this position, and there can be many nerve-wracking parts of the home buying process.

Most buyers find it difficult to have hard conversations with the seller about improvements they expect to be made to the home before finalizing the transaction. Fortunately, this is where having a buyer’s agent working on your behalf comes in handy, as they are used to these conversations and can handle them with confidence.

We spoke to Jeff B., who was buying a home in Ohio and trusted his buyer’s agent to negotiate a price after finding out that the home’s furnace was almost 40 years old. “My buyer’s agent was able to negotiate a $4,000 drop in price on the home due to the age of the furnace, which I doubt I would have been able to negotiate on my own,” says Jeff.

They’re The Problem Solvers

A buyer’s agent will be there throughout the buying process to protect all of your interests and take on any issues that may arise. Ashley G. from Michigan told us that she was interested in a house but worried about costly repairs that might pop up the minute she took possession due to an older roof and water heater.

“We couldn’t negotiate for a new roof or water heater because they were technically A-OK, but my buyer’s agent was able to get the sellers to purchase a one-year home warranty that would cover the cost of any sudden problems that might arise,” explains Ashley.

They’re On Top Of The Paperwork

If you’ve ever gone through a home purchase before, you know there is almost endless paperwork that can be confusing. Buying a home involves various types of documentation, including:

  • Preapproval letters
  • Disclosure statements
  • Offer letters
  • Inspection reports
  • Purchase agreements
  • Deed
  • Bill of sale
  • Title paperwork
  • Mortgage
  • Loan application

Your buyer’s agent can help guarantee that important documents are not overlooked and can also walk you through each one to clarify any details that aren’t clear to you, and give you the information you need to complete them properly.

They’re On Your Side

While it may be tempting to contact the listing agent when you find a seemingly perfect house online, it’s important to remember that the listing agent is acting in the best interest of the seller, not you. A buyer’s agent will be there to represent your best interests, ensuring that you make a competitive offer on the right house for you and your family.

They’re The Expert

As an experienced professional, your buyer’s agent will have specific skills and bring a level of expertise that will make the entire home buying process run more smoothly. For example, your buyer’s agent can provide additional information on specific things, like if you and your family decide you like a house but want to know more about the school district or commuting options.

They Can Work For You Long-Term

The best thing about finding a buyer’s agent you trust is that you can use them again and again. Even after you’ve found a home that checks the boxes for what you and your family currently want and need, it can be wise to stay in touch with your agentbeyond the closing in case you decide to move again in the future.

By forming an extended relationship with your buyer’s agent, they’ll be able to develop a stronger sense of what kind of house would be ideal for you and direct you toward listings that better reflect your needs the next time you want to look for a home.

What Makes A Buyer’s Agent Good?

Because hiring a buyer’s agent, in general, will leave you better equipped to buy a new home, there are traits that some buyer’s agents have that set them apart from the rest in terms of their ability to provide clients with excellent service.

They Place Focus On Your Needs Rather Than Their Payday

Regardless of whether they’re “exclusive,” a good buyer’s agent ultimately strives to satisfy the needs of the home buyers they work with and to make sure that their clients end up happy with the house they choose – and the price they pay for it.

They’ll also be excellent negotiators on a buyer’s behalf and work hard to make sure that the buyer receives the best deal possible on their chosen home, taking into account such factors as days on the market and comparing prices to make sure you’re not overpaying.

The Terms Of Your Relationship Are Clear

When you choose to work with a buyer’s broker or agent, they will agree to perform certain tasks called fiduciary duties. This requirement legally ensures that any professional you hire will act in your best interest. You will need to sign a contract called the “Buyer Agency Agreement” that explains the amount of time you’ll be working together, the services they’ll provide and the cost of their services.

If you’re hiring an exclusive buyer’s agent, the contract should plainly state that your relationship is exclusive. A good buyer’s agent will not try to swindle you in the fine print of the contract.

They Connect You With Other Professionals

Your agent is just one in the cast of characters you need for a smooth real estate transaction. You’re also likely to need a mortgage lender, real estate attorney, title company, home inspector and contractor to perform any needed improvements.

You may also need a reputable moving company. A well-connected buyer’s agent can recommend professionals who will offer high-quality service at reasonable rates, so you don’t have to start from scratch lining up these other services you need.

How Much Is A Buyer’s Agent’s Commission?

You are likely wondering how much you’ll be paying for all this attention and service. As the home buyer, if the agent you choose is an exclusive buyer’s agent, it shouldn’t cost you any additional money (beyond what you’re already bringing to the closing table)!

But don’t worry, they’ll still be paid. That’s because the seller typically covers all the seller and buyer agent commission, which is split evenly between your agent and the seller’s agent. A real estate commission averages 2.5 – 3.5% of the home’s sale price for both agents once it’s divided between them.

The Bottom Line: Finding The Right Agent Can Simplify The Buying Process

If you’re ready to start the home buying process, now is the perfect time to find a buyer’s agent who is dedicated to helping you and your family purchase the perfect house. They’ll be able to guide you through complicated situations and negotiations with sellers, all while looking out for your interests!

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Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.