Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Find a Buyer's Agent: Top 5 tips

If you are shopping for real estate in today's market you can and should expect more from the real estate agent (or Realtor®) helping you shop. Trust us, there are plenty of agents that would love to have your business. Don't just settle.

These are Inside the Brackets' top 5 tips for selecting a buyer's agent.

#5: Don't pick the first agent that avails his/herself:
It may seem simple, but it is important to understand that you are not obligated to work with the first real estate agent that reaches out to you, especially if you are like 80% of shoppers that start their search on their own on the internet (and we know you are). Inside the Brackets recently spoke with a house-hunting couple that used the internet to find a property they were very interested in putting a bid in on, and then scheduled a showing by clicking on an agent link on the internet listing page (not the listing agent), only to find that "their agent" seemed more interested in closing the deal than getting them a good price.

#4: Real estate is local, so should your buyer's agent be:
There is no point being loyal to the agent that sold you your current house if you are interested in relocating to a different market. Their knowledge and service will not translate unless your target market is very near your current one. Best to ask him/her nicely for a list of referrals in your target market. You can then start with a short list to interview.

#3: Don't sign a blanket exclusive agreement with a buyer's agent
An exclusive agreement that covers a certain period of time will lock you into working with a buyer's agent no matter how you find the property you are interested in buying. Ask instead to implement a property-specific agreement so that you are committing to work with the agent on certain homes, but not all. This is more flexible for you, and should be reasonable to most buyer's agents.

Some agents will try to tell you that because (in most states) the seller doesn't pay any sort of commission, it won't cost you anything to sign a blanket exclusive agreement. This is technically true. However, because house-seekers have so much access to online property information, an exclusive agreement is a non-starter because buyer's agent value should be added rather than contractually obligated. If a buyer's agent tries to push you into an exclusive agreement, it should send up warning signs about his/her intention to truly help you find and negotiate the best deal.

#2: Low volume = high attention
This one is simple, but often overlooked. You should ask a potential buyer's agent how many clients they are currently representing. If it is more than five, there is reason to think that they may not be able to give you the attention you expect and deserve. If the agent assures you he/she has a refined customer service model, despite representing 20+ buyers at a time, be sure you are comfortable with the other agents or assistants that you will be dealing with during your hunting and transaction experience.

#1: Seek professional knowledge beyond typical agents
In most states, any licensed real estate agent can represent a buyer. It is up to you to figure out how to get the most value out of the service. Our #1 tip is to ask the agent what makes them different. Their answer should concentrate on differentiating knowledge and service. Some agents just passed their state exams. Others are licensed in other professions as well. Others have real estate investment experience in a given market. These additional licenses and perspectives help ensure you get the most from your agent.

Who will get you the best deal and give you the most confidence when writing offers to buy your first home or your next investment property? Ask the right questions.

If you have additional questions, send us a comment below.

If you are shopping for real estate in Chicago, consider contacting [1016] Architecture principal Josh Canale for questions on buyer representation.

Jameson Real Estate is one of the largest real estate companies specializing in Chicago real estate.

This post was inspired by a more generic article found on Yahoo! Real Estate:
Full text of the Dian Hymer article: Be Picky When Picking a Real Estate Agent.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

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