Contracting with a real estate buyer’s agent is a no-brainer. Here are 11 reasons why you should interview agents to find one who is a good fit for you:
- It’s FREE. Buyer agent advocacy is free of charge. It is the only scenario I can think of in which you get free advocacy for what amounts to being one of the most important investments of your life. Sound too good to be true? I’m completely serious. Every brokered real estate transaction has a fee associated with it. In Massachusetts, that fee is generally 5% for residential real estate transactions. If you have a buyer’s agent, that fee is split 50/50 between the agents. You DO NOT get a discount of 50% if you go direct and write an offer with the seller’s agent. In that case, they would get the full 5%, and you get no advocacy. Keep in mind however, when you go to sell your home, you’ll have to pay the %5 commission. BEWARE OF CASH REBATES. There are a few companies out there who offer cash rebates if you use an agent they assign to you. Avoid discount brokerages. Make sure to ask the company how many transactions the agent has done in your specific search area. Will the agent accompany you to ALL appointments?
- A good agent will have advanced negotiating skills. Having an agent as a buffer between you and the seller/seller’s agent is helpful to remove all emotion and maintain a level head. Buying and selling homes can be very emotional, and tensions can get in the way of negotiations. Don’t forget your agent will need to be good at crafting an offer. Again, this process can vary from area to area and a good agent will be familiar with this process and an asset in presenting a perfectly crafted offer.
- Nowadays, you don’t need to contract with a specific agent to get access to the Multiple Listing Service (database for all real estate listings). You can get anyone to send you emails. However, a good agent will help you navigate the MLS much more effectively. Usually, there will be an interview process where the agent gets to know your wants and needs. He or she will then help you understand what is reasonable within your search area and criteria – and then custom tailor an MLS search for you. That way, you’ll get real time updates that are highly relevant to your search – saving you a lot of time and energy. It’s invaluable to have a resource 24/7 to help parse the myriad properties on MLS. A good agent will be able to help you “separate the wheat from the chaff”, as well as get you answers to your questions or relevant documentation, fast.
- Contracting with a buyer’s agent is efficient. Unless you’re a licensed real estate agent, it’s likely you need to be doing something else all day and night. Rely on a good buyer’s agent to handle your search. Delegate this task to someone else who does it all day, every day.
- “Spidey sense”. I’ve been an agent for over 16 years. People have “tells” and homes have histories that can be ascertained by an experienced agent with a keen eye. Some folks have it, and some don’t.
- Buying a home involves a very specific timeline, punctuated by a lot of paperwork. A buyer’s agent will set your expectations, explain that timeline (and remind you when an event needs to happen) and provide you with the paperwork you need and make sure you understand how to fill it out and where it needs to go.
- Boots on the ground knowledge of the local real estate market is required to be an effective buyer’s agent. There are often local traditions or idiosyncrasies within a neighborhood or brokerage community that only an active local agent would know. There are personalities, and attitudes to navigate. Sometimes it’s like a soap opera. A good agent will know the players and the game. Boston is changing fast right now. The neighborhoods and towns in the Boston metro area are very provincial and you’ll need a guide to help you find the one where you will be happy.
- Try and find an agent that has a strong bond with a local network of real estate professionals. How? Read all of their reviews. Are any from other agents? Also, don’t be afraid to ask. Most communities have a facebook page or a parent’s list serve. Just ask around. Does this agent have a good reputation? An agent with close relationships to local agents will be able to get deals done that no outsider could touch. Remember, it’s a seller agent’s job to get the “highest and best deal” for their client. If they know and trust your agent…that’s half the battle.
- A good agent won’t be afraid to provide you with some tough love. Sometimes you get bogged down in mundane details or your search will leave you in the weeds. Sometimes you need a wake up call. You’ll never get this feedback working on your own.
- Your real estate agent should be a lifetime resource. If you choose well, your relationship won’t end at the closing. You should always feel like you can call on your agent for referrals for contractors, comparative market analysis for purposes of a refinance, advice on renovations (in regard to how they may effect resale), etc. Reward hard work and solid advice with loyalty.
Finding a good real estate buyer’s agent isn’t a cake walk.
Finding a good agent is not a cake walk. Like anything in life that is worth it…it usually takes a little effort. If you pull the trigger on the first person that offers to help, you may be let down. First, understand that a buyer’s agent’s range is limited. The farther they go from their target turf, the less effective they will be. It’s possible to be a good advocate in different Boston metro neighborhoods, but it’s not easy. So make sure your agent knows what their talking about. You may need to use multiple agents in multiple areas for a while until you narrow your search to a smaller radius. Just be honest and explain your situation. Most agents will be okay with this scenario if you’re upfront about it.
Go to open houses in your target areas for a couple weeks. Put yourself out there. If you get a good vibe from an agent, ask if they represent buyers and ask for a card – but don’t commit on the spot. Once you have met a bunch of agents, choose a few to sit down with. Be prepared with a list of questions. Pay attention to the questions they’re asking you to! This is a conversation, not an interrogation!
Beware teams! For one thing, make sure any reviews your reading are about the specific agent you’re interviewing. Second, make sure this is the person you will be working with the vast majority of the time. Everyone needs someone to cover for them once in a while, but don’t fall for the bait and switch. If you’re getting tossed around a team, they can’t effectively get to know you and your search.
Above all, be honest about your timeline and your needs. If you’re just checking things out, and you have no intention to buy until next year – that’s okay! Develop a relationship now and it will be very helpful when you are ready to buy in earnest.