When it comes to finding a real estate agent, you want to make sure you hire the right person who will best represent your interests as a homebuyer.
Q: I bought your book 100 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Ask, and read it from cover to cover. Your book helped me tremendously, and I want to thank you for your wonderful work. However, there is one thing I could not get from your book. How do I find a buyer’s agent? The properties I looked were listed by listing agents. According to your book, chances are high that they are seller’s agents. Thank you so much for your help.
A: You’re right. The listing agent for the property is the agent for the seller and will represent the seller in the sale of the property. If you are looking for an agent to represent you as you look for a home, you need to hire your own agent. When you hire your own agent, that agent should work for you.
Having said that, there are two types of real estate agents that help buyers: one is an exclusive buyer’s agent and the other is one that represents buyers and sellers all the time. So the exclusive buyer’s agent will only represent buyers. This person will never have his or her own listings and will only take on buyers in their quest for a home.
Other agents, will represent buyer on some transactions and sellers on others. In these situations, this agent may have his or her own listings and may have his or her own buyers looking to buy a home. And, here’s where it gets interesting. When one of these agents has a listing that may appeal to his or her buyer, that same agent will show the property to that buyer. In this situation, the real estate agent may become a dual agent, Since the agent represents the seller and represents the buyer, the agent may take a back seat to the transaction and “facilitate” the transaction or “help” in the transaction but will avoid representing either party.
This leads us to the issue of what an agent will do for you in a transaction. As a listing agent, you’re looking for the agent to help market your home, find the right price for your home, help you find a buyer for your home and represent your best interests when it comes to negotiating the sale of your home You’re looking for the listing agent to help you from the time you meet the agent until the home closes.
As a buyer, you’re looking for an agent to help you find the right home for you and give you the best possible advice relating to the values of homes, what you should pay for a home and help you negotiate the intricacies of the buying process with the seller.
We don’t feel that any one person can do both jobs adequately. Many agents agree and when they are put in a situation where one person has the listing and a buyer, that agent will seek out another agent to represent the buyer or seller in the transaction. The agent may be from the same company, but the agent representing the buyer will help only the buyer and the agent representing the seller will only represent the seller.
In some situations, where a buyer and seller know what they want, know the market and they don’t need much further assistance from the agent, the agent may be a dual agent and facilitate the transaction from that point forward. Some buyers and sellers will use an attorney or escrow or closing agent facilitate the transaction. Whether this situation is right for you is clearly up to you and the person on the other side of the transaction to decide.
As you look for a person to help you out, you’ll need to decide whether you want an agent that deals exclusively with buyers or one that deals with both. The choice will be yours. If you decide to seek out an agent that only represents buyers, you should be able to do a search online of buyer agents in your area. If you are having trouble finding a buyer’s agent in your area, you can call the various real estate companies that do business in your area and ask if there are any agents that work exclusively with buyers. You may find one that way as well.
One final note: When you go to a big real estate portal site, like Realtor.com or Zillow, and you click through to an agent, you’re either going to get the listing agent (potentially putting yourself in a dual agency situation), or you’re going to get a random agent that bought an ad that placed him or her on the page. As a buyer, you may not be well-served by talking to either agent, since the listing agent will owe his or her fiduciary to the seller and the other agent may not know the property, or even seen it, or even work regularly in the neighborhood where the property is located.
As the saying goes, caveat emptor: buyer beware.
Thanks for your questions. You should know that Ilyce is in the process of updating her book. The fourth edition of 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask is due out in early 2018.