Your complete guide to working with an agent as a buyer
The right real estate agent can be the difference between a smooth home buying process and a nightmare.
Before you buy a home, make sure you understand what your real estate agent can do and why they are crucial to the homebuying process.
Do I need a buyer’s agent when purchasing a home?
Legally, you do not need a buyer’s agent when buying or selling a home. However, there are several benefits to working with a buyer’s agent.
For starters, buyer’s agents have access to the MLS (multiple listing service), which lists properties for sale. Most online listing sites pull from the MLS, but they don’t have access to details like the seller’s contact info, showing information, or the agent’s commission. Your agent should.
Your agent may also have relationships with other realtors, which give them access to “off-market” listings, which don’t show up on online listing sites and may be potentially less competitive.
Finally, the right buyer’s agent has in-depth knowledge of the homebuying process and the nuances of your specific area—making them an irreplaceable asset when buying a home.
Agent vs. realtor
Both real estate agents and realtors share the same responsibilities and skills. Both are trained to help you with either your buying or selling needs by helping you find homes, make offers, negotiate contracts, and close on the home. Most states require between 30-90 hours of training and certificate classes to become an agent.
Meanwhile, realtors are agents who have become members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). By becoming a member of the NAR, agents have access to NAR resources in their area and other NAR members like other agents, appraisers, property managers, and brokers. But an agent must uphold the NAR’s high standard of business ethics or risk having their membership revoked.
When should I get a real estate agent?
A real estate agent’s work really ramps up when you want to start touring homes but it’s never too early to at least talk to an agent. Some people are worried that they’ll waste an agent’s time if they make an appointment or interview them before they’re ready to make an offer on a home. But a good, trustworthy agent will work with you as you prepare by discussing your options and building a relationship so you can hit the ground running once your budget and vision is prepared.
What exactly does an agent do when you’re buying a home?
Since most agents will take a percentage of the sale price of the home as a commission, you may wonder whether or not it’s really worth it to hire one. In today’s age of online listings and digital tools, it’s tempting to think you have everything you need to go it alone. However, real estate agents do a lot more than many home buyers realize.
Here are the tasks agents take when helping you buy a home.
Find homes for sale
Your agent doesn’t just show up to closing and collect a check. They’re also closely involved in helping you find the right home. Your agent will sit down with you to understand exactly what type of home you’re looking for, what neighborhood you want to live in, and your budget.
Next, they’ll scour open listings to find the right property. They may set up an alert to send you relevant postings as soon as they hit the MLS.
Agents often have relationships with other agents, so they are more likely to know about properties about to hit the market before they’re listed on the MLS. This can give you an advantage, as you may be able to tour the property and get financing in order before anyone else knows the property is available.
Help you find a lender
Finding the right lender is one of the most stressful steps in the homebuying process. A great real estate agent likely has relationships with lenders and knows which companies are trustworthy and fast and offer the type of loan to fit your needs.
When you sign a purchase contract, the seller will designate the closing date for the transaction. A faster, organized lender can make all the difference in the closing process because a slow one can take too long to confirm paperwork and underwrite you and cause you to miss the opportunity to meet the timeline required by the seller.
You’re free to work with any lender you like, but your real estate agent’s input will be valuable.
Organize property tours
According to the National Association of Realtors, the average buyer looks at eight properties before placing an offer. That is a lot of meetings to schedule, especially with everything else you have going on.
Your agent will connect with the seller’s agent to schedule a tour at a time that’s right for you, leaving you free to focus on other areas of your life.
The buyer’s agent is also on hand during the tour to help you decide if the home is a good fit, and spot possible issues like small leaks, old appliances, and wet basements that you might overlook.
Since most inspections take place after you place an offer, an experienced agent may be able to help you avoid placing an offer on a home with significant issues in the first place.
Place and negotiate your offer
The next step in buying a home is making a purchase offer to the seller. The buyer’s real estate agent will add contingencies, communicate the earnest money required to make the offer, and adjust the contract to fit the specific property you want to purchase.
Your real estate agent will be responsible for helping you set the terms of a possible negotiation by writing an offer that both protects you and is enticing to the seller. Depending on the market, your real estate agent may suggest adding or subtracting certain terms in the purchase contract and then will represent you if the seller asks for additional concessions like more earnest money or waived inspections.
Assist with the home inspection
During the home inspection, you’ll hire a third-party professional to tour the property, look for major issues, and ensure the property is in good condition. So, what does your agent do during the inspection?
An agent will help you find and schedule the inspection with the seller, which means one less thing for you to do!
They’ll also be on hand to help you gain access to the property and explain anything the inspector finds. Most importantly, though, they will advise you on whether to adjust your offer if the inspection reveals any issues with the property.
If you’re happy with the inspection, your real estate agent will let the seller know you can finalize the offer. The agent will also handle any negotiations needed after the inspection.
Attend your final walk-through and closing
Once the purchase contract is signed by all partiesAfter the home inspection, your lender will work on finalizing your mortgage loan in preparation for the closing. That’s when you officially take possession of your new home.
A day or two before closing, you’ll do a final walk-through with your agent to make sure the property is in the condition you agreed with the seller it would be in. Having your agent on hand is key to ensuring the seller meets their obligations, such as fixing that leak or leaving the fridge in the garage.
Since your agent wrote the contract (or worked with someone else to write it), they know exactly what the property should look like.
Finally, on closing day they’ll likely attend the closing to answer any questions you might have and congratulate you.
What does a real estate attorney do for a buyer?
A real estate attorney handles the legal aspects of transferring a home from one party to another. They generally prepare and review your contracts, ensure negotiations are correctly added, and verify the title is clear of liens and other issues.
Several states, including Delaware, Georgia, New York, and North Carolina, require the use of a real estate attorney when you buy or sell a home.
If you live in a state that doesn’t require a real estate attorney, it’s still a good idea to have someone review your contract and make sure your legal bases are covered.
4 questions to ask your agent when buying a home
Buying a new home is a huge decision. Asking the right questions is crucial to finding an agent and choosing a property you’ll love years to come. What are the right questions?
Here’s what you’ll want to ask during the home buying process.
Is this neighborhood realistic for me?
You’ve fallen in love with a neighborhood—or maybe you want to stay in your current area. Before you lock yourself into one location, ask your agent for their input.
They have a detailed understanding of the local market and can tell you if your budget is reasonable for the area you want to live in. They should have backup suggestions based on their knowledge of your local market.
Is this home reasonably priced?
Don’t trust those online listings when it comes to the list price of a home.They may be impacted by algorithms or the same listing on other websites. Your agent can pull comps (comparable properties) in the area and decide if the home you’re looking at is really worth the cost.
Do you see any potential issues with the home?
As a home buyer, it’s easy to focus on what you love about a home—the beautiful granite countertops or lovely refinished hardwood floors. However, your agent can be more objective. They’re more likely to notice that slight musty smell in the basement or the sag in the attic ceiling that could indicate major issues. An inspection of the property performed by a third-party will confirm the condition of the home.
What can I expect in the closing process?
Closing processes vary by state and even by lender. For example, in some states, you might not get keys at closing or you may work with the title company versus the lender to complete closing. Your agent can help you understand the process so you are well prepared for the big day.
How to find a good real estate agent?
The right real estate agent should have a track record of success working in your preferred price range and neighborhood. So where do you find a real estate agent?
Start by asking on social media. Your friends, family, and neighbors may be able to recommend someone. You can also search for members of the National Association of Realtors in your state to find licensed and experienced realtors.
Flyhomes real estate agents are local experts and work on salary so are specifically dedicated to your needs and wants, not their bottom line.
But above all, make sure your real estate agent is communicative and understands what you’re looking for. The right real estate agent is the key to a smooth homebuying process, so take the time to interview several to find the right fit.