Finding the right home buying agent is far more difficult than the real estate industry would have you believe. First of all, does every person looking to buy or sell a home need a real estate agent? Not necessarily. A homebuyer or owner who does their homework beforehand and spends the time and energy it takes to become familiar with the industry (at least as far as it applies to them) may be able to serve his or her own needs nicely. However, most sellers and many buyers find the process far more challenging than they originally anticipate. This is because they aren’t prepared for the amount of legal paperwork, disclosures, negotiations, reports, and fees that are the contractual backbone of the real estate industry.
A home buying agent can be a very valuable member of your home hunting ‘team’. They are familiar with the area (or should be), know the laws and seller restrictions, can help negotiate certain clauses, and provide useful insight when it comes to searching for a home and applying for a mortgage. On this last point, not every agent can advise you regarding your mortgage options, but they should be able to point you in the right direction (we actually offer both services, but that isn’t necessarily common- particularly in certain areas). The thing to keep in mind is that, having a bad agent is worse than not having one at all.
There are a few things to consider when interviewing for an agent in Florida or any other state (and we work hard to live up to this criteria ourselves), but first, you may want to consider what a real estate agent can do for you and why you may or may not need one. Then you can work on finding the right agent.
What a Home Buying Agent Can do For You
1. Provide a filtering system.
As a buyer, there are going to be plenty of listings that need to be sorted through, including some properties that are not listed online or that are poorly described by the listing agent. It can help to have someone who really understands the industry and knows what you’re looking for to find the right place. If you’re selling a house, an agent can provide a buffer between you and the buyers who are just casually interested. After all, you can only field so many calls a day and it isn’t always easy to know who’s serious about making an offer.
2. Provide pricing and market data.
It may well be that a specific type of home is worth a bit more than average residential property, but what does the market say about the price for that particular home in that particular area? How much is the average square foot of space in this come compared to a similar property elsewhere? Knowing market conditions and pricing factors can greatly aid you in finding a well-priced home in a good area, or in negotiating a price on a home you’ve already found. RE agents spend all of their working hours being exposed to this data, and a good one should be able to guide you in determining true market value.
3. Industry Networking.
Real estate agents may work for buyers or sellers (and a great many of them work for both). A ‘buyer’s agent’ is out for your interests and must abide by certain rules when it comes to helping you find a home. This means not giving preferential treatment to the homes that are being marketed by the sellers they represent. However, when an agent is familiar with an area and works with both buyers and sellers, they have the opportunity to network your needs. This means communicating with other home buying agents, seller’s agents (listing agents), their own network of available housing, including banks, and mortgage brokers. This means more of the property and loan options you are looking for can be found and readily negotiated.
4. Negotiation strategies.
It may seem like the negotiation process simply involves a lot of back and forth; something that could probably be done personally between the buyer and the seller. Occasionally this is true. However, it’s rare that a seller will operate without specific guidance in the negotiation process because they stand to lose so much with a bad deal (or could be sued for failure to comply with specific seller state laws). Conversely, a buyer working without an agent may not know what information they are owed (disclosures), understand the results of an inspection report (this can be a very important negotiating tool), or know what to ask for in the way of contract contingencies. This could potentially result in a huge loss of money, even when a deal falls through!
5. Answer questions and file the paperwork.
By comparison, this one seems like a relatively small item, but it can mean a lot down the road. A real estate agent that is well versed in the industry should be able to answer your questions and keep you informed throughout the process. They should also be able to keep the state informed by filling out, checking, and double-checking that all required forms and paperwork have been accurately completed, submitted, and verified. The last thing you want is a housing situation where the deal has apparently gone through, but you are later hit with various fees and charges for expenses you didn’t know you needed to pay or must now pay in order to comply with legislation that you hadn’t know would affect you.
6. Offer experience.
Whether it’s baking cookies right before an open house, or asking the right kind of questions about a recently repaired roof, an agent can lend their expertise and knowledge to the situation. Again, this is as long as you contract the right agent.
When You do Not Need an Agent
As a buyer, if you are familiar with the home purchasing process and feel confident that you know what questions to ask and what clauses to include in your offer, then you probably don’t need an agent. As a seller, if you have sold previous properties or are an experienced investor/flipper, then you may be able to negotiate a good deal without professional assistance. Many residential investors keep an agent on hand to help them, as they are technically running a business in flipping homes, but a casual investor who has been through the process before may be able to spot a good deal and land it on their own. This is particularly true if you have excellent credit or a history of working with a specific bank on foreclosed properties.
As with anything else, knowledge is key to finding the best resolution for all parties. Sellers want to sell their homes, buyers want to purchase the right property. Selling the home at a good price (potentially with profit) and buying a home at a reasonable rate are incentives on both sides that are not necessarily incompatible. It all depends on how the deal is brokered and what incentives are offered for both parties.
Feel free to look through our informative pages to educate yourself on the home buying or selling process. You can also contact us if you have any questions or want to know more about our services.