Many, many years ago, when I was a new agent, a friend of mine (who wasn’t a Realtor) suggested to me that being a listing agent takes knowledge and skill but “anyone could drive buyers around in their car”. I was stunned that she could think that buyers’ agents do nothing more than drive from house to house and unlock doors for people.
Last weekend I held a listing in Blossom Valley open and a young man asked me if I could work with him in writing the offer on that home. This happens a lot – buyers are out searching on their own, independent of any professional real estate guidance, and when they find a home they like they just “use” the agent who’s got the listing.
Apparently, the old view and the current one aren’t so different from each other. It amounts to this: who needs a buyer’s agent?
The assumptions seem to be these:
- agents are all the same (anyone will do)
- buyer’s agents do not really “do” anything or “know” anything
- if I just working with the listing agent, he or she will make sure my offer is accepted
- maybe I’ll get it cheaper if the listing agent also works for me
This is very misguided and generally shows a lack of understanding (and possibly discernment). Would you buy a car without researching it on Edmunds.com or ConsumerReports.org? I hope not. Would you just see any doctor for surgery? Or any attorney for your legal issues? Probably not – you’d probably do a little research, maybe ask around for referrals. Even my kids like to check RateMyProfessor.com before deciding on a college class to take. Many home buyers, though, are not so discerning – they will just work with whomever happens to be the listing agent on a home. This is a mistake.
Why does it matter so much? Because your agent’s skills can make or break your decision-making by catching or missing important elements which are crucial to your getting the best home or best deal. If you don’t have good info, you will have a hard time making a good decision. A bad agent may miss “red flags” and this could cost you!
What kind of “red flags” would a good buyer’s agent notice? All kinds! Real estate professionals are trained to issue spot – that is, to point out any defects they might detect (see, smell, hear, or feel) and further, to explain to you what the ramifications might be and give you professional guidance. Agents are not property inspectors, but they know enough to be able to convey to you a likely scenario if there is a red flag with the home or yard.
Red flags can be found
- in a property (things like moldy spots, out of level floors, additions which appear to not be permitted)
- in a neighborhood (the home being close to buildings, freeways or other things which might pull down property values)
- in the purchase agreement, counter offer or addenda – clauses worked into or omitted from a contract might be easy for you to miss, but a good buyer’s agent will catch these things and explain the ramifications to you
- in the timelines – your agent can shepherd along the myriad of things which must be done on time and will notice if the other side is not performing whatever they need to do on time also
Additionally, a good, competant buyer’s agent can negotiate for you and with you. Negotiation begins long before you ever walk into a property that you want to buy. It begins with the way you set up your financing more than anything else. All loans, all banks are not the same. Same with your letter from your lender – they are not all the same! Your buyer’s agent will help you to make sure that even before you find your dream home in Silicon Valley, you’ll be poised for success. Further, of course, your buyer’s agent can assist you in writing a good, clean offer that will entice the seller to want to work with you. A badly written offer (full of errors or clauses which muddy up the offer) will often cause your contract to be passed up if there are multiple offers.
Comprehending the disclosures and inspections is another area where your agent’s skill is paramount to you. If he or she glosses over things like the preliminary title report, TDS, Natural Hazard Report or many other disclosures or reports or never adequately conveys the risks associated with various disclosure items, you could find yourself paying for it in the long run.
Also, of course, there’s navigating the escrow. Sometimes finding the house and getting the offer accepted are the easy parts of home buying in Santa Clara County – the real work may just begin as the ink dries on your contract! Unforeseen things happen and a good agent finds ways of addressing the problem, concern, issue or surprise. In a way, it’s like surfing – we know that the waves are going to come and it’s up to us to have the skill to ride them.
Just because a real estate professional has a listing or or is holding a home open doesn’t mean you should hire him or her. The newest agents tend to hold homes open. Some agents get their first listings not because of experience or skill, but because the owner is a relative or old friend. You can and should hire carefully. Check the Department of Real Esate’s website to see how long the licensee has had that license. You might also consider finding one with extensive buyer representation experience or an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR – I’m one).
Buying a house, townhouse or condominium will be the most expensive purchase you are likely to make for a very long time. Your agent is your partner, teacher, coach, navigator, paper handler, translator, mentor. Above all, your agent is to be your fiduciary – to take care of you and your money and your position as if it were his or her own. That is your agent’s highest duty. Not ever agent selling homes in the San Jose area is equally adept at all of these important elements, so find, select and hire the very best.