When it comes time to buy a new home, you need to know whom you can trust. Real estate is a cutthroat business, and as a prospective home buyer, you should recognize that the real estate agents who list properties are working for sellers—they’re salespeople, and they’ll push hard to sell their clients’ homes. Not to say there aren’t agents out there that tell it like is, even while working for a seller. But you’ll want to be prepared for the ones that don’t.
That’s where enlisting a buyer’s agent can be a wise move.
What Real Estate Agents Do
Historically, real estate agents work for sellers, not buyers. Agents list sellers’ properties, market the listings, and really sell the homes. When they’re successfully, the earn a commission based upon a percentage of the sale price. The more the buyer pays, the more the agent earns. Agents will do everything that’s legal to sell homes. It’s their job.
For novice home buyers unfamiliar with real estate laws and the numerous problems properties may have, a buyer’s agent can help shed light on the actual pros and cons of different homes.
A buyer’s agent may also help you negotiate a lower price, but watch out—buyer’s agents usually split the commission with the seller’s agent, so they have an interest in a higher selling price too. Like the seller’s agent, your buyer’s agent is going to want to see you buy a home; his or her paycheck depends on it.
Finding a Buyer’s Agent
If you decide you want a buyer’s agent to help you navigate your first home buying experience, start asking friends for referrals to agents they’ve worked with and trust. If that doesn’t work, find some real estate agents on Zillow and schedule brief “interviews” with prospective buyer’s agents. Ask prospective agents how much experience they have working as buyer’s agents and working with the kinds of properties you’re interested in.
Whatever you do, make sure you choose an agent that you like and trust.
When my wife bought her first condo a few years back, she jumped into the market without a buyer’s agent. Soon, a seller’s agent for a property that didn’t interest her latched on and got my wife to use him as her buyer’s agent. The agent did a lackluster job, but probably collected a sweet commission check for it anyway. My wife was probably better off with him as her buyer’s agent, but could have been even better served had she hand-selected the agent she worked with.