What Is a Buyer’s Agent? A Trusted Guide Who’ll Help You Find a Home

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Ready to find a house? It’s a jungle out there. Be prepared for a lot of paperwork, scrambling for buyers in the same location, and other challenges before you get the keys to your house.

We’re not going to lie: the process can be complicated and stressful, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer. Having a real estate professional on your side can make all the difference.

You’ve probably heard of buyer’s agents, selling agents, listing agents, and so on. You are a buyer, so what is a buyer’s agent?

As the name implies, a buyer’s agent helps real estate buyers navigate the real estate market; they can also save you a lot of time and money on the road to your new home.

Read on to learn how a real estate buyer’s agent can help, and how to find the right agent for you.

Buyer’s agent vs. Realtor: Benefits of using a buyer’s agent when buying real estate

“A buyer’s agent will guide you through the home buying transaction and be available to address any questions or concerns you may have,” says Shane Wilcox, a real estate agent with Partners Trust. Here are some of the things a buyer’s agent can do

  • Find the right property. After determining what the clients are looking for and what they can afford, the agent will schedule appointments to tour homes that fit the bill. The agent can also explain the ins and outs of various properties and neighborhoods, to help buyers decide which home is right for them, by explaining the pros and cons of various options.
  • Negotiate the offer. The buyer’s agent will advise clients on an appropriate price to offer and present it to the seller’s agent. “Then they will negotiate on your behalf and write up the contracts for you,” says Matt Laricy, a Realtor with Americorp Real Estate in Chicago. This is where the agent’s experience in negotiating deals can save you money and help you avoid pitfalls like a fixer-upper that’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Recommend other professionals. A buyer’s agent should also be able to refer you to reliable mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, movers, and other real estate professionals. This can also help expedite each step of the process and move you to a successful real estate sale all the faster.
  • Help overcome setbacks. If the home inspector’s report or appraisal brings new issues to light, a buyer’s agent can advise you on how to proceed with the transaction, and then act as a buffer between you and the sellers or their broker. If negotiations become heated or hostile, it’s extremely helpful to have an experienced professional keeping calm and offering productive solutions.

Buyer’s agent vs. listing agent: What’s the difference?

While a buyer’s agent is legally obligated to help the buyer, a listing agent – a real estate agent who represents a home on the market – has a fiduciary responsibility to the seller of the home.

“That’s why it’s in your best interest as a buyer to have an agent who represents you,” explains Alex Cortez, a real estate agent with Wailea Village Properties in Kihei, Hawaii.

“Think of it this way. If you were sued, would you hire the same attorney as the person suing you? Of course not. You need someone who will fight hard for your interests and your rights.”

Let’s say you walk up to the listing agent in an open house. You might gush about how much you love the house and want to buy it, but then say that you need to move soon – because you’re expecting your second child and need to decorate the nursery right away, or because your lease on the rental property is expiring in a few months.

The seller’s agent can use this information against you, telling the seller that your clock is ticking so they shouldn’t concede too much – if anything – on the asking price.

However, it’s all well and good to make the same confession to the buyer’s agent you’re working with – a professional who knows to keep it a secret from the seller (and their agent) so it can’t be used against you.

Some states recognize this problem and require disclosure of dual agency when a broker represents both sides of a real estate transaction.

However, after signing the agreement, you may still be uncomfortable saying you know someone is a dual agent. You may want to hire a broker who does not represent the owner and who is looking out for your best interests.

How to find a buyer’s agent

A good buyer’s agent can make it easy for you to gain ownership of your home, while a bad buyer’s agent can cause you to have a bumpy ride.

You shouldn’t just accept the first buyer’s agent you meet (as two-thirds of homebuyers do) or blindly accept a friend’s recommendation (more than half do). Instead, it’s a good idea to interview at least three agents and ask them a number of questions, including the following.

  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in? Real estate requires local expertise, so you should find an agent who’s extremely familiar with the areas you’re interested in.
  • What’s your schedule and availability? Part-time real estate agents who are committed can do a fine job, but if the house of your dreams pops up or you encounter last-minute closing snafus, you want an agent who will be readily reachable.
  • How long have you been a real estate agent? You ideally want someone with a couple of years of experience, and a proven track record of selling homes.

To find a real estate agent in your area, go to Realtors/Realtors where you can also read online reviews provided by past clients and learn more.

The agent/buyer contract

Once you agree to work with someone, you will have to sign a contract called an “Exclusive Buyer’s Agent Agreement” which outlines the services and compensation of that agent (more on that next).

This contract also means that this person will be your sole representative and that you will not work with other buyer’s agents.

Who covers the buyer’s agent commission

Home buyers don’t need to worry about the cost of hiring a buyer’s agent. Why? Because sellers pay commissions for both the seller’s and buyer’s agents.

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