Working with a Real Estate Agent
The best chance of finding the home you want is a home search accompanied by the right real estate agent. Once you find that agent, establish good communication, and the process will go a lot smoother.
If the Agent Isn't Working Out
Being upfront and honest with your agent is best. After time, if it is not working out, you can ask the agent's manager for assistance. You can contact the local real estate board or an attorney if you think they have not acted ethically, but please make that a last resort.
You and your real estate agent need to have the same set of goals for finding your home.
Establish Guidelines - Keep a regular check in frequency with your agent to check into new homes. Make sure of how often your agent can do this with you, as they will have other customers, so be courteous. But a home is a big purchase, so be clear about your expectations.
Set Priorities - When your agent knows what the top things are that you're looking for in a home, you can both save time by skipping over the new listings that don't fit.
Speak Up - With such a big purchase, be honest. What do you like and not like. Point these things out, and the agent can be on the lookout as your search continues. If you don't, you waste time finding more homes that may have that one undesired feature, and your agent can't figure out what your problem is. Tell them.
Use Your Agent, Properly - Your real estate agent has access tools that you don't. They can know what homes are about to be listed, and give you a chance to drive by and look at them. If the house is desired by many, you will need an early head start.
Types of Real Estate Agent Relationships
The kind of agent you work with affects how you work with them. Make sure to cover this topic before signing any documents or even working with them.
Buyer's Agent - This agent works only on your behalf. They do not assist the seller in any way. Now the way this agent is paid is different, typically according to the state they are working in. Sometimes they are paid hourly, a flat fee, or a percentage of the selling price. In a few states, the agent receives their commission from the seller.
Dual Agent - These agents can represent both the seller and buyer, though they must agree to this first. This may not happen until you find the house you want, and the seller happens to be represented by the same agent. In this arrangement, the agent usually receives their fees from the seller.
Transaction Broker - This person doesn't do help you hunt houses, they just work to help close the deal by working on the purchasing contract and reaching a final price. Their job is more facilitating than negotiating.
Seller's Subagent - The real estate agent here can work on behalf of both the buyer and the seller, but legally, whatever you tell that agent as a buyer can be told to the seller. So information between you and the agent isn't confidential here.
The agent for the buyer and the seller usually split the commission, of which a percentage will go to the real estate office they work for.
Things to Consider When Working with Your Agent
Your real estate agent can help you deal with issues that come up during the home buying process.
Searching Outside of Your Area - To speed up the process of finding your dream home, you may have to expand outside of your current search area. Your agent can refer you to another who specializes in that area. When signing an exclusive contract, make sure it is only for a short duration and covers only the new area in question. You need to be able to work with other agents, especially if it doesn't work out for the new search location.
Hidden Negative Information - Should you happen to find out that information that may have prevented the purchase of a house was kept from you, your agent can help you go right back into negotiations or cut off the deal immediately. You may have additional legal rights considering the state you live in. Follow up on that should such a situation arise.
Revealed Information - It could be illegal (depending on contract and/or location), but certainly unethical for your agent to let the seller know how much home you can afford. This is why you need to be careful if your agent happens to be the seller's subagent. They should only know you can afford as much as you offered.
Presenting All Offers - If the seller doesn't request that only offers above a minimum be provided, even low offers, including yours, must be presented to the seller. If you find out that your offer wasn't presented to the seller, you may need to make contact with your agent's manager.
You can find out more tips at my hub for house hunting, comparing, and pricing.
If you have any additional information about your previous experience working with a real estate agent, please let us know how they helped you, things you did that made your professional relationship better and improved your house buying, or some negative aspects you have run across.
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