As I hold my listings open in and around Silicon Valley, I am amazed at the number of people interested in buying a home who are on their own and not working with a buyer’s agent. If that describes you, do you feel that you are a little afraid of a buyer consultation with a Realtor? (Or maybe you don’t get the advantage of having a buyer’s agent or know what they do?) Not sure what to expect, or concerned that you may be coerced or manipulated into hiring someone you don’t want to work with? Let’s talk about how that buyer’s agent appointment usually or often works, and how you can meet with an agent and not feel like you have no control.
What is a home buyer consultation?
First, let’s talk about what a home buyer consultation is. In a nutshell, the appointment has just a few purposes: (1) to help the home buyer to learn about the process, what’s involved, and to answer questions about what happens and what kind of choices there are. (2) It is a job interview for the real estate professional – is this someone you would want to hire? Even though the seller usually pays the commission, the buyer’s representative is someone you hire or not. (3) It is also a chance for the Realtor to see if you are someone that he or she can or would like to work with, too. The interview is a two way process.
How long does an initial buyer appointment take? Where does it happen?
In my experience, most of these initial appointments can run anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more. The length of it is often driven by the consumer’s questions. If it is clearly not a fit, either side can say it’s time to wrap things up and call it a day. If the appointment goes well, it may last longer.
Sometimes home buyers are nervous about going to a real estate office to meet the first time. I’ve heard that it can feel intimidating for some. Others, though, prefer a quiet, private place to discuss things as intimate as finances – which of course do come up. I am happy to meet clients either at my office or at a nearby coffee shop or something similar in the area.
Sometimes the public has the idea that all Realtors work 7 days a week, and do so morning, noon, and night. While there are spurts in which we get super busy and working 7 days may happen, it is certainly not the goal. No one can sustain working days, evenings, weekdays and weekends all the time. So when setting up an appointment, it is a good idea to ask when the agent does and does not work as well as how far they may go to meet you.
A couple of times, I’ve had people ask me to have a first meeting with them at distances that were too far (for their convenience) or times that were too early or late (also for their convenience). What I learned later is that those same people weren’t folks I actually enjoyed working with – that was just a foretaste of things to come. In one case, the potential home buyer wanted me to meet her about 15 miles away during her lunch break. In another, it was someone who wanted to meet at 7:30am (when I am not quite human, even though I do awake at 6am).
I cannot speak for other agents, but I try to have 8:30 or 9 as my earliest appointment, and try not to begin appointments after 7pm. I want to be at my best with people, and that means not trying to have 15 hour days.
How to prepare for a buyer consultation appointment
One of the best things you can do to avoid feeling uncomfortable or afraid of a buyer consultation is to come prepared. Have a list of questions you’d like to ask, things you want to discuss or understand better. You can ask questions about the process, about the real estate market, about the real estate professional you’re meeting, or almost anything related. That’s a great time to ask questions about availability, too, or what happens is the agent gets sick or has a vacation.
It’s also helpful to know your own status in terms of getting a loan and any potential challenges. (For those coming from abroad, if buying with financing, you will usually need 2 years of U.S. tax returns to qualify for a mortgage.) You don’t have to come with a pre-approval for a loan at this point. In fact, many Realtors would love to have you work with a lender they know and trust. Most will want you preapproved before actively house hunting, though.
Buyer broker agreement (contract)
Buyer broker agreements are something to discuss with the agent you meet, too. They are not too common here in the San Jose area, but if you want your Realtor to look at “off market” properties for you, it’s an option. Why is that? The MLS is really a broker to broker offer of compensation, meaning that if a buyer’s agent works with you on a sale, there’s an offer of compensation on the MLS. So really they don’t need a contract with you to get paid – the MLS makes that promise. However, if you want your Realtor to help you with homes not on the multiple listing service, then something else has to be figured out for the Realtor’s pay. That’s where the buyer broker contract comes into play.
Want to talk about home buying with me? Please call or email me (don’t text as first point of contact, please). We can set up a time to chat by phone first, and if that conversation goes well, we can arrange to meet in person.