Do buyers need real estate agents?

In one of my recent posts, I debunked the myth that real estate professionals are millionaires.  However, salespeople are paid a commission to do whatever it is they do.  Both sellers and buyers often want to buy or sell a home themselves; why do they need an agent?

Sellers wonder what salespeople could possibly do that’s worth paying for; after all, don’t agents just throw the property in MLS and then unlock the doors so buyers can take a look?    

And buyers sometimes assume if they just go to enough open houses, they’ll find the home they want, place an offer, get a mortage and move in.  Nothing else is required, is it?

I’m going to focus today on the buyer side of the equation only.   What specifically does an agent for the buyer actually do to earn their share of commission?  Obviously, a buyer agent supports the buyer (you) and represents your interests; they maintain confidences, and provide loyalty and care. How hard could that be?  Is this really more meaningful than making arrangements to open a door of a vacant home?   The answer is Yes!!!

Representing you:  The most important reason you should have an agent representing you, the buyer, is because if you don’t, you will be negotiating with the listing agent for a particular home.  That listing agent represents the seller, not the buyer, so they are concerned with the seller’s requirements, not yours.  You need someone who will negotiate the best price for you, provide you with market details to help guide you through the right offer, and do everything else to help you.  Your buyer agent is your partner.

Understanding your true needs:  First, any good buyer agent will need to find out exactly what you want, not just at a high level, such as your need for a 3 bedroom/2 bath condo for $500K.  But a buyer agent will want to know, when you close your eyes and picture yourself in your new home, what is the vision in your head? 

  • Do you want a sunny spot for a garden? 
  • Do you want a back yard, and should it be fenced?
  • Do you need space for visiting in-laws, and do you want that space right near your room, or far away in the basement?
  • Are you a chef who requires a world-class kitchen or would a small efficiency kitchen work fine? 
  • Are you in a rush to purchase because you want to be in your home before the kids start school in September, or are you willing to take your time to find the “perfect” house?
  • How much are you pre-qualified for?  If you’re not pre-qualified, do you have an expert that can help, or do you need one? 
  • Regardless of your pre-qualification status, how much are you really comfortable spending, since that may be a different amount.  
  • Do you want a fireplace?  A pool? 
  • Do you have a limit to what you wish to pay in taxes, utilities, and other charges? 

The list goes on.  It’s our job to figure out exactly what would make you happy.

Finding and viewing potential matches:  Sure, you could do a realtor.com, trulia.com or zillow.com lookup by yourself.  But agents have access to a lot of information such as history of the home – has it been for sale before?  Has the price for salerecently been reduced or increased?  What are the actual taxes?  Are there any developments or building issues going on in the location you wish to move to?  We’ll work to select only those properties that are worth your time to view, and then we’ll call and schedule and cancel and reschedule the appointments as necessary.  We’ll also preview the properties ourselves to make sure they’re going to meet your needs.  And then of course we’ll take you to see them.  We’ll explain the particular benefits, and the potential downfalls for each home.  We’ll listen to your likes and dislikes so we can better target future showings.  And then we’ll repeat the process as often as possible until we find the right home for you.

Validating the information:  If you’re looking at a co-op or condo, we’ll verify the fees with the management company.  What is the fee for maintenance?  Does that include taxes?  What % of that fee is tax deductible?  Is there a parking fee?  Are there assessments?  If yes, when do they start and end, and how much are they?  When was the last one?   If you’re looking at a single family home, we’ll validate all information.  What are the town/state and village taxes?   We’ll verify the square feet with the town records.  Any data points that we have will be validated and clarified if necessary.

Putting in an offer:   We’ll make sure you have all the data you need to come up with a great offering price.  We’ll gather comparables so you’ll know what similar homes recently sold for.  We’ll fill out the necessary paperwork, contact the seller’s agent to make sure there haven’t been any last minute changes, and we’ll submit the offer.  And then we’ll negotiate on your behalf.  We’ll let you know what contigencies you should consider, and will ensure your offer includes them.

Completing the purchasing process:  Once we have an accepted offer, we’ll do all the work required to make the rest of your buying process simple.  If you don’t have your own, we’ll provide you with names of expert real estate lawyers, home inspectors, mortgage brokers, and anyone else you need to finalize your transaction.   We’ll obtain all documentation from the management company if you’re buying a co-op, and we’ll walk you through all the documentation requirements.  We’ll ensure appraisers have access to the home, we’ll do whatever we can to ensure contracts are completed expeditiously and we’ll hold your hand until you’re at the closing table and have signed your documents.

In a nutshell, buying a home can be incredibly complicated.  The buyer’s agent job is to make a potentially very difficult process extremely simple and to make sure your dream home doesn’t escape from your grasp.

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