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Home Buying? Tips to Pick the Best Buyer Agent.

Monday, September 25, 2006 posted by Tommi Crow

Picking the right Agent should be the first home buying decision you make. With the housing market in the doldrums and the number of hungry agents at a record high, you should take extra care to make sure you hire the right one for you.

1. Before you begin the search, know the type of agent you want:
The majority of real estate agents list and sell property, but some agents work exclusively with buyers. In recent years, many buyers have turned to specialized buyers agents. They feel that agents who wear only one hat are better at what they do. In addition, working with an agent who represents only buyers, may head off many conflicts of interest which can arise during the sales transaction.

Whichever type of agent you choose to work with, it is crucial that you know who they represent. Most states require a disclosure form confirming the agent’s loyalty to buyer or seller. The form also addresses what happens if the agent ends up representing both the buyer and seller in the same transaction. If your state does not require a signed agency disclosure, ask about disclosure in the beginning. Questioning shows you are thinking about the issue and that you are educated about the subject.

2. Chemistry
Personal chemistry is very important because buying a home is a personal transaction. A lot of stress is involved and you want to make sure that you like and respect the person who will be representing you in the deal.

Reputation is also important. If an agent has a bad reputation or is known among his peers to be difficult, agents will avoid working with him, which can cost you dearly in ways you will never see.

3. Interview Agents for the Job:
It is a sad truth, but there is a very low barrier of entry into the field of real estate. It may be a real possibility that the agent representing you, in the biggest transaction of your life, may have been parking cars only last weekend and may have never owned a home. Unfortunately, there is no Consumer Report to locate the best agents. To make matters worse, the commission fee is no indicator of experience or expertise. The industry sets standard 6% fee for services, so price is not an indicator of quality either. What should a wise home shopper do? Consider asking a few tough questions like the ones shown below. Always, insist on clear answers, backed by proof.

1. How many buyers have you helped in the past years? You are listening to find out the extent of the agents experience and their knowledge of the community in which you’re buying.
2. Avoid Tunnel Vision…”What properties will you be showing us”? Be aware that agents will try to steer you to their own company listings. The reason is that they make a fatter commission on property that is sold “in house”. Also, many agents will boycott, or won’t show property listed by discount brokers or for sale by owners. And, sadly, many agents refuse to show property that will yield a lower commission. Let the interviewing agent know in no uncertain terms that you want to see all homes on the market that meet your criteria. Futhermore, let them know that you will take you business elsewhere, if you discover that to not be the case.
3. Is your commission negotiable? Ask, because many buyer brokers will give a part of their commission back to you or will pay part of the closing costs.

4. References, please!!!
An agent who comes highly recommended from someone you know is best. If you don’t have a recommendation, interview a few agents and call their former buyer clients before you hire them.

The most revealing question you can ask is “Would you hire this person again”? If there is any hesitation, even a moment, call another reference or two. If you can’t confirm good references…run!!

With less work to go around and millions of agents competing for business, make sure you are prepared to hire the agent that best meets your needs.