Buy a Home
Choosing a Real Estate Agent
You'll get lots of advice about this. Everything from the agent your friends used to constant input from Uncle Ed who bought his last home himself and thinks he saved a bundle.
If you're a first-time buyer, you'll need guidance, advice and help several times during this process. A good real estate agent is a seasoned professional who can help every step of the way. Here's how to find one that you can trust and rely on to help you find the best home for your needs.
So how do you find a real estate agent?
Start by asking family, friends and co-workers who they know, who they've used and what they liked or disliked about that person. Use the Internet! There's information on real estate agents that's easily accessible from the comfort of your chair. Search for a Master Builders Association member on this site, look at realty company websites and the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors website, which has detailed information about local agents and the benefits of using a Realtor®. More and more agents are using social networking websites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others, to get their name out there, and offer personal information. These sites will help you determine who is qualified and a good fit with your personality and needs.
But everyone's needs are unique so it's a good idea to shop for the right real estate agent before you shop for that new home. Not only that, a good real estate agent will likely want to interview you too. Be wary of agents who don't ask you questions to determine your housing needs and expectations.
When you sit down with an agent, what should you ask?
- First, find out how long they've been in the business.
- Newer agents have more time to concentrate on you but an experienced agent may have better resources and be a better negotiator. Experience does count. You want someone who's encountered difficult situations and knows how to handle them.
- Ask to see references and ask if any of the references are related to the agent. A good agent will be more than willing to have you call and speak with past clients.
- Ask the agent what their average list-price-to-sales-price ratio is.
- A good buyer's agent should be able to negotiate a sales price that is lower than the listing price.
- Find out what kind of guarantee the agent offers.
- Will you need to sign an agreement with the agent? What is the cancellation policy if you become unhappy with the arrangement?
- Ask the agent what their marketing plan or strategy is.
- As a buyer, you want to know how the agent handles multiple offers and if any of the agent's other clients are looking for a similar home in a similar area. It's also a good idea to ask about the agent's schedule. If you'd like them to, will they be available to take you to look at properties? You should expect to see up to seven homes a day for as long as it takes to find your home. And these homes should meet your parameters.
- Ask your potential agent about his or her preferred vendors.
- This should include mortgage brokers, home inspectors and title companies. Ask for an explanation if you see the term "affiliated" because it could mean that the agent and his or her broker are receiving compensation from one or all of the vendors and you could be paying a premium for the service.
- How much do you charge?
- Make no mistake; all real estate fees are negotiable. Typically, real estate agents charge a percentage, from one percent to four percent to represent one side of a transaction, either buying or selling. For example, a listing agent may charge three percent for herself and another three percent for the buyer's agent for a total of six percent.
- May I review documents before I sign?
- It's a good idea to review documents in advance of the day you sign and a good agent will make them available to you. As a buyer you'll want to see the buyer's broker agreement (is it exclusive or non-exclusive?), agency disclosure and/or buyer disclosures
- What does this agent feel sets him/her apart from the competition?
A good agent will be ready to name their strongest traits. Most consumers say they are looking for honesty, excellent negotiation skills, accessibility by phone or e-mail, friendliness, patience and a sense of humor in their real estate agent. Good answers to this question include: strong repeat record of satisfied customers, extensive online marketing, good negotiation skills and strong communication skills.