Home Buyer’s Guide Part 4

Work With a Real Estate Agent

Why working with a real estate agent makes sense
Having a great real estate agent can make big impact on your experience of buying a home, for a variety of reasons.

Finding the right house

A real estate agent’s primary job is to help you find the right house. Agents have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which gives them access to information about all homes currently on the market. Real estate websites can be a good place to start because they generally have the same information, but they are often not totally current or accurate, whereas the MLS is. Experienced agents will have a good eye for signs that might indicate expensive problems, and should have a good sense of what you should be looking for in a home. Their experience can be incredibly helpful, especially for first time home buyers.

Refine the area you are looking in
Looking for your ideal home isn’t just a matter of knowing which homes are on the market. An agent will help you decide which neighborhood or area will best meet your needs. Whether you priorities are the quality of school districts, neighborhood amenities like shops, parks, or bike paths, or market growth and resale values, an experienced real estate agent will know where to look to find what you want.

Professional insight and guidance
The average person will only buy a handful of homes in their entire life. Guidance from a pro who has worked through dozens, or perhaps hundreds of real estate deals is invaluable. Good agents will often talk you through the whole buying process before you start house hunting, so you know what to expect.

Handle the paperwork
The process of buying a home involves a great deal of paperwork, and the average person won’t know how to do things like writing a purchase agreement. A real estate agent will know how to properly write up and review paperwork, so you’ll just need to read and sign.

for sale sign

Having a network of industry professionals
Once you’ve had an offer on a home accepted, you’ll have quite a few things to get done in the month or so before closing. You’ll need to hire a home inspector, shop for homeowners insurance, find movers, arrange for necessary repairs, and purchase a home warranty. Fortunately a good real estate agent will have extensive experience with all of these things, and in some cases they’ll handle much of it for you. They will know trustworthy home inspectors, movers, and contractors, and be able to provide your with recommendations for insurance and a home warranty.

How much does hiring a real estate agent cost?
As a buyer, working with a real estate agent won’t cost you anything out of pocket. Your agent will be paid out of the commission paid by the seller. Generally the total commission is 6%, with 3% going to the listing agent, and 3% going to the buyer’s agent.

Finding a trustworthy real estate agent
Having a great real estate agent can mean the difference between a stressful, chaotic process, and a smooth, low stress process when buying a home. So find a good one is vitally important.

One of the best places to start when looking for an agent is referrals. If you have family, friends, or co-workers who’ve recently bought a home in your area, as about their experience with their agent. Hopefully you’ll know someone who can offer a glowing recommendation of a local agent. If not, you lender may be able to give you a recommendation. Many lenders have agents they regularly work with, and they can vouch for an agent’s professional conduct.

It can be good to look for an agent who is a REALTOR®, meaning they are a member of the National Association of REALTORS. NAR members hold to a strict code of ethics, so any agent with the REALTOR designation should be trustworthy. It may also be worth finding an agent who has a real estate broker license, indicating that they have a greater scope of knowledge and experience beyond that of other agents.

But ultimately, the most important qualities a real estate agent will have are loyalty, integrity, and respect for you. There are amazing agents out there without any special designation, who will go above and beyond in every way to make sure your home buying process is enjoyable and fruitful.

Should you find an agent, or get pre-approved first?
Generally agents prefer if you have a pre-approval before seeking them out. This ensures that they won’t waste your time showing you homes you can’t afford, and lets them know up front what your budget is.

What you should expect when you start working with an agent
Every agent has a slightly different approach to the home buying process, but in general you can expect the following steps.

You’ll show your agent your pre-approval letter from your lender to set your budget. You’ll discuss what you are looking for in a home, and choose the area(s) you want to target.
Your agent will send you listings of homes that fit your budget and criteria, for you to review. Once you’ve looked at the potential listings, you’ll let your agent know which properties you’d like to see.
Your agent will contact the listing agents of properties you want to see, and set up showings. In a competitive market home will often sell quickly, so your agent should work fast to set up showings. The more availability you have during this stage, the better.
Your agent will bring you to showings, until you find a home that you want to make an offer on. Then you and your agent will discuss the offer you intend to make, and you agent will draft an offer letter to give to the listing agent and seller.

How to change agents if yours isn’t working out
Typically real estate agents don’t require buyers to sign contracts, so changing agents isn’t a big hassle. But if you feel like your agent isn’t living up to your expectations, you should have an honest conversation with them about it. If you’re still not satisfied, there might be another agent with their company that you can work with. Otherwise you’ll need to start your search over again.

two people discussing finances
person signing a document

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