How to get a great buyer’s agent – and keep them

You and your great buyer's agent teamwork graphic - puzzle pieces and 2 peopleA great buyer’s agent can be hard to find and keep. Here’s what to do to enlist the help of one and how to make sure you stick together as a team and get you into your new home.

Summary:

Only a fraction of all interested home buyers actually buy in the year they say that they plan to do so.  For various reasons they decide to keep renting, or move away, or give up, or simply don’t write offers that are selected (they may chronically low-ball)

  • Some home buyers are very serious but also very time consuming, and if it takes them a long time to buy, it can be draining for their real estate agent, and if prices are rising, it can shrink the odds of success.
  • Many Realtors prefer to work with sellers when the market is hot – which it nearly always is in Silicon Valley, since most homes do sell (while far fewer buyers buy).
  • Buyers who want to enlist a strong Realtor will need to be serious about home buying, able and ready (have the money and a pre-approval in place), and loyal as the starting point.  Your real estate licensee may ask you to sign a buyer representation agreement, just as home sellers sign a listing contract. This will be required by law by mid-July 2024.
  • To be taken seriously, when you first contact your agent, DO:
    • share your full name
    • share your real contact info (including an email address that you actually check)
    • specifically what you are targeting
    • how you got their name
    • your timing and anything else important
  • Understand that we agents get many scammers approaching us. Do your best to look authentic. Scammers say “I want to buy a house in your area. Contact me on WhatsApp”.  If you sound like a scammer, your initial approach may backfire so badly that your message gets you blocked in the future. (I get several scammers texting me each week.)
  • If for any reason you haven’t done all of the above upfront, please correct it if needed over time. For instance, if you provided a “junk” email account and never check it, your agent may find your perfect home but not be able to inform you of it if you never look at those emails.
  • To keep your great buyer’s agent on your team, it’s imperative that you allow that Realtor to guide you, whether it’s getting preapproved with a strong lender, deciding on priorities (must have versus nice-to-have list), or moving quickly to view houses, or taking the paperwork seriously – or any other major step. You need to be as motivated as your agent!
    And communicate openly if there’s an issue. I’ve had clients tell me that the pre-approval needs to wait until they’ve been at their new job until a certain date. Whatever it is, ignoring requests given to help you without explaining the backstory won’t be good for your teamwork and could get you fired as a client. (Yes, Realtors sometimes fire their clients.)

    • If you fail to do these things, your agent may not feel like your odds of buying a house are good, or that the stress associated with doing so will be higher than necessary if you stall on taking the proper steps.
    • Put another way, if you hire an agent because of her or his knowledge and track record, but then don’t heed that agent’s professional advice, the relationship may not do well over the long run.  Think of it like a sack race: both people have to be going in the same direction, carefully working together, or it’s not possible to move well (if at all).

Below, we will go over in more detail how to get and keep a great buyer’s agent in a seller’s market or in any market, for that matter.

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Questions from home buyers before writing an offer

Business woman on the phone - Questions from home buyers - sizing them up Listing agents sometimes receive emails or calls from buyers’ agents with questions from home buyers before writing an offer. (This isn’t usually done by text.) Depending on how it’s handed or worded, this could help the buyers or hurt them.

A few years ago, I wrote an article on this blog about the real estate questions that consumers ask and the relationship between them and the ultimate outcome.  Today we’ll again consider questions, but instead those which are posed to the listing agent by home buyers or their Realtor before an offer is drafted.

One way to think of it is this: when the questions are submitted, the listing agent will be sizing up those buyers and their agents. What kind of impression should a buyer try to make?

Getting noticed in a good way helps: questions from home buyers can be good

In the days or week prior to offer submission, the better Silicon Valley buyer’s agents will make sure that they show up on the listing agent’s radar (surprises are not usually appreciated, so getting a contract out of the blue without a phone call or email prior is a mistake which is likely to make that offer a little less likely to be the winning one if there are multiple bids).

This is a chance to ask some questions and also to let the seller’s agent know that there is progress on the buyers’ side.

Even if there aren’t any questions per se, it’s a good idea for serious buyers to have their real estate agent “check in” and express interest early on. This is helpful in cases where there’s a pre-emptive offer (you might still get a chance) but also with multiple offers since that agent who’s said hello will look more professional and better to work with. It can be a good first impression.

Some agents consider this contact “massaging the relationship” to establish that the buyer’s agent is knowledgeable, professional, pleasant, and would behave well in escrow.

There are many questions to ask when buying a house, but many of them will be answered by reviewing the disclosure package, so proceed carefully and try to avoid asking questions that are answered in the package.

Good questions from home buyers before writing an offer

Helpful questions from home buyers include these:
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Why listing agents don’t like to issue counter offers in today’s hot market

Gotta Get That Call!It’s a little funny that when Silicon Valley home sellers and their listing agents get contracts or offers, many do not want to deal with issuing or negotiating counter offers.  In many cases, it can go like this fictional bidding scenario:

Offer due date set, and let’s say there are 5 offers.  Of the five, perhaps one is all cash, one is half cash, and the rest are 20-25% down.  Most offers will be in a tight cluster of pricing (this is probably “true market value”).  One may be far higher than the rest. Or perhaps two a little higher than the others.

  • The seller wants the highest price, no contingencies, and preferably, all cash.
  • If the all cash offer is non-contingent (no contingencies for inspection, loan or appraisal) and is the highest price, there will be a straight acceptance in almost all cases.  No counters.
  • If the best combination of cash and contingencies and pricing is the half-cash offer, most likely the listing agent will phone that buyers’ agent and ask if those buyers would match the highest price.  If those buyers say yes, one counter offer will be issued and it will have a short deadline for response.
  • If the “best combination” buyers say no, the listing agent and sellers will move to the next best offer, however they decide “best” looks, and phone them, giving them the opportunity to come up.
  • In these scenarios, meanwhile, the rest of the buyers and their agents wait – and hear nothing in the meantime.

Once in awhile, there are a few good offers that are all neck-and-neck, and perhaps there’s one flaky looking offer at a higher price.  If that happens, the listing agent and sellers may issue a multiple counter offer to most or all bidders.  That used to be really common, but today, I’m finding the most typical scenario is the “one phone call” approach instead.  (more…)

Are you a buyer or a waiter?

Where are you in the home buying process? Are you a buyer or a waiter

A buyer hires a buyer’s agent to represent them. They get pre-approved. They view homes, look at disclosures, and write offers.  On the “yes-no-maybe” spectrum, a buyer is a YES.

A waiter sometimes look at open houses. They say they’ll get their mortgage sorted out when they find a home they like. They think that every house, condo, or townhouse “isn’t worth it”.  Maybe sometime in the next 2 years they’ll see something they like, there’s no rush!  They are “happy enough” where they are and will volunteer that “we don’t have to move”.  On the “yes-no-maybe” spectrum, waiters are a MAYBE. And maybe usually means no – not right now.

In this Silicon Valley market, to be successful in home buying requires a strong YES. It demands a commitment and an understanding that no home is perfect (if you hit 85% or 90% of your wish list and it’s in budget, that’s a win!).  A lukewarm “maybe” translates into a no, because the pace is so slow and unmotivated that they just won’t be able to pull the trigger in time. The best homes sell fast and may not be around by the time your lender has a solid approval in hand.

Although the market is much cooler than a year ago, homes continue to sell for more than 100% on average, typically with multiple offers and few (if any) contingencies. Buyers submit their offers with proof of funds (bank statements), ALL disclosures signed off, often with a contractual obligation to put the 3% initial deposit in escrow the next business day after the offer is accepted. They may pay for a rush on the appraisal because they are moving fast for a quick close of escrow. Serious buyers know that if they don’t do these things, more serious buyers will, and they’ll lose out. Serious home buyers may throw in a free rent back for the seller after close of escrow.

In other words, they are “all in”. (more…)

Afraid of a buyer consultation?

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?

Talking over a computer -buyer consultationFirst, 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. (more…)

What is implied agency in real estate?

Implied agency word cloudWhat is implied agency? Unless you are a real estate licensee, it’s likely that you never heard that term before.  If you are in the realty business, you need to understand this concept.  What is it?

Implied agency and agency relationships

Before explaining implied agency, it’s best to start with what an agency relationship is or means. If you hire a real estate licensee or Realtor to assist  you in buying or selling a home, normally you and he or she create an agency relationship.

In California, a licensed real estate professional can be a buyer’s agent, a seller’s agent, or, if disclosed, a dual agent – representing both parties, both buyer and seller. The agent, by the way, references both the individual real estate licensee as well as the broker. If the same broker of record represents both the home buyer and seller, it’s a dual agency situation, even if there are different Realtors involved.

Here, we use a disclosure form (see link at bottom of article for the full text of it) which spells out the agency relationship and duties – it is statutory, meaning that the state dictates the words to be used on the form, whether it’s published by the California Association of Realtors, the Peninsula Real Estate Date Services or any other entity. An agency relationship means several things, but above all, it means that the real estate professional has fiduciary obligations to the seller or buyer being represented, including those of  of “utmost care, integrity, honesty, and loyalty” to that client.

Most of the time, when an agency relationship has been created, there’s a meeting of the minds between consumer and real estate professional that they will be working together.   The relationship is not accidental, but intended and explicit.

Sometimes, though, in the course of casual conversation, it may be possible to accidentally create an agency relationship.  If this happens, it is referred to as “implied agency“. How can this be?  This may occur when the real estate professional casually provides the type of guidance and advice that would be reserved for clients, but that consumer relies upon that advice. (more…)

How to fast-track your home buying: 6 steps

StaircaseHome buying is challenging for everyone in Silicon Valley: prices are high, inventory is low, and homes sell fast and usually with multiple offers, so decisions must be made quickly.  Additionally, all the information on properties for sale is given up front, so San Jose area real estate consumers must read and digest hundreds of pages of inspections, disclosures, and reports for each house which is a serious contender.  Most of the time, prospective buyers don’t get the first home on which they bid, so it’s a painful process which may be repeated a few times before success is had.

If you are someone who wants to be decisive without taking 6 months and 5 offers to get into a home, there are ways to wisely shorten the learning curve and the process generally.   Sometimes people relocating here for work don’t want to rent and then buy – they want to buy quickly so that they can get kids into schools, establish neighborhood ties and generally begin their life here fully without having to prolong the house hunt.  Sometimes that is not the case, it’s just a buyer who doesn’t want to make house hunting his or her main hobby for the forseeable future.  No matter the reason, here are some ways you can speed up the process.

First, list your priorities: things you must have, things you’d like to have, things you do not want, things you absolutely will not accept.

Second, rank them in order.  (Often certain things will tend to go together, such as better schools and lower crime.)  This part can be difficult but is extremely important. Every home purchase involves compromise on something, whether it’s size, condition, location, walkability, price, schools, etc. Home buyers may find themselves with tradeoffs, so this is where you must have your ranking of priorities set.  For instance, perhaps

  • you can get one more bedroom if you’re willing to buy on a slightly busier street OR
  • that same home might be remodeled from top to bottom if it backs to high voltage power lines OR
  • you could buy a 1200 SF house in downtown Los Gatos that needs to be rehabbed or you could get 1800 SF of livable home for the same amount 4 miles away
  • you could have a short commute and buy a condo or a 45 minute commute and get a house

Frequently, people struggle with ranking.  I have often heard people say “I want everything on my priorities list”.  For almost everyone, eventually, something will have to give, so the sooner you know where you will compromise, the better.  Often home buyers who want to purchase in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, or Mountain View recoil in horror when they find what their money can buy there – and end up purchasing in Los Gatos, Cambrian, or Almaden instead, resulting in the longer commute but nicer home for the money. To be successful, it is crucial to rank, so the sooner you can do it, the better.

Third, hire a good Realtor early on.  A lot of home buyers in the South Bay are running around, looking at open houses but getting no personal, professional guidance.  They may not understand what a good buyer’s agent can do for them.  They may incorrectly believe that a Realtor working with a buyer is just a glorified driver, taking them from home to home and then getting a commission when something is bought.  I’ve written about this misperception (and the idea that some buyers have that “everything is on the web” so a buyer’s agent isn’t needed) but would like to simply state that this is an expensive and time-wasting misperception. (more…)

Make sure that you and your agent see the home before writing an offer

ScissorsA few weeks ago, I had a listing of a house for sale in which my sellers and I received a lot of offers.  Let’s say, for the sake of example, that it was an even dozen.

 This is the kind of market where you really need to try harder if you want to get the home.  You don’t want to cut corners, and you don’t want your real estate agent to cut corners, either.

One buyer couple did come see the property during my open house. (A “blind offer” is when the buyers write offers on homes that they haven’t seen.)  Their agent never did, though.  She did not visit during the 2 open houses and she did not preview at any other time, either.  She did submit an offer on a property which was, for her anyway, “sight unseen”.

Let me tell you, that kind of thing does not impress a listing agent who wants to know that there’s going to be a solid professional on the other side of the transaction.   The listing agent is going to be less enthusiastic about working with someone who seems either unprofessional or lazy or unmotivated to do a good job.  (What kind of advice could she have given her buyers if she never saw it in person, never saw the neighborhood?)

Most of the time, the buyer’s agent’s laziness or lack of professionalism will not obstruct the transaction if the buyer has by far and away the best offer.  However, if it’s neck and neck, that’s the kind of thing that can get your offer eliminated.  Would you want to lose the opportunity to buy because your agent could not be bothered to drive over and take a look and hopefully advise you about what she had seen?

Sometimes when a buyer loses out in multiples, it’s not so much that it’s a bad offer as it is a badly performing buyer’s agent.  Want the house?  Everyone on your team must exert a little more – your buyer’s agent, your lender, and you.  Don’t cut corners.  In an appreciating market, those short cuts are mighty expensive.

More on buying a home in Silicon Valley:

Mistakes that buyers’ agents make which damage their clients’ chances of winning in multiple offers

5 things your Silicon Valley buyer’s agent can do to help improve the odds that your offer will be accepted

Do you have a strategy for buying a home in Silicon Valley?

A summary of tips for multiple-offer situations in Silicon Valley real estate contracts

 

 

 

You must know lots of real estate agents, so please hire a great one when buying or selling!

Bozo Alert!In our Silicon Valley area there are gobs and gobs of real estate professionals – about 15,000 people are members of our local MLS.  In Los Gatos alone, there are probably about a thousand (for a town with about 30,000 residents, maybe 2/3 of them adults).  So definitely, if you live here, you do know Realtors.  You must.  In Silicon Valley, if you don’t know any real estate licensees, you don’t have any friends, as the saying goes.

So any licensee, like yours truly, knows and understands that when our friends (or even sometimes our family members) go to list a home for sale, or pick a buyer’s agent, we may not be the Realtor of choice.  At times, we get a nice email or call explaining (that is nice, and it is appreciated) why someone else was hired.  Other times,  we aren’t even called, texted or emailed, but instead find out “by accident”. That’s harder.  Lots, lots harder.

In all cases, though, it’s much easier to lose the listing (yes, that’s how we real estate agents feel about it) when the agent who is hired is a great agent, or at least a really good one.  The better agents are well liked in the real estate community: they know what they are doing, they work from strong ethics, are fair and honest to deal with, they work hard in representing their clients’ best interests, their egos aren’t super-sized, they don’t BS sellers with what they “want to hear” but tell them the truth (what they need to hear), and they don’t take stupid shortcuts to save a couple of hundred bucks in marketing…. This is not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea.

If a friend or loved one hires a great agent, I will say right away “good choice!” or  “we are great friends, she will take wonderful care of you!  or “fabulous agent, you’re in good hands!”   Not so good?  I will wish you all the success in the world, a speedy sale and fast and uneventful escrow.  I cannot tell you that you’re hired a super agent when I know better.  And I will not tell you what I wish I could, namely, you just hired someone who’s clueless or massively distrusted / disliked or whatever negative thing might be the case.  No can do. That would be a violation of the Realtor code of ethics. (more…)

In a seller’s real estate market, it helps to have a buyer’s agent who’s known and liked locally

PartneringIn this insanely overheated Silicon Valley real estate market, would-be home buyers are extending themselves substantially to be the winner who gets the property in multiple offer bidding wars. A few who’ve lost out repeatedly may even “spike” the price to make sure of success.  Sometimes, though, the fantastic contract that is so well written from buyers who seem so ardent about getting the house or condo ends up looking more like a mirage in the desert in the days following contract acceptance.  Think of it like a morning after hangover for some of them as it hits them that they were willing to pay more or have fewer protections – or both – than perhaps a dozen other buyers. It’s the “what have I done?” panic.  Sometimes people at work or in their lives tell them it was a big mistake. So some get cold feet and back out.

Understanding this as a possible nightmarish reality, home sellers in the San Jose – Los Gatos area (and their listing agents) frequently look for the offer and buyers who seem “most solid” and most likely to close.  It’s often referred to as security.  In other words, the seller wants to know that if you get into contract to purchase the home, you will close on the transaction and neither renegotiate a week or two later or walk.  They don’t want a bumpy ride to closing.

In this blog, we’ve discussed a lot of tips for success in multiple offer situations: having cash, a strong pre-approval, asking questions before writing the offer, contingencies, time frames, rent backs and perks for the seller have all been touched on.  But we haven’t talked much about the importance the buyer’s agent makes.  Let’s talk about it. (more…)