Buyer’s Agent: How Do I Find A Good One?
Whether you’re hunting for a starter home or your forever abode, buying a home can feel like a mammoth task. Thankfully, real estate agents can make the process less daunting. As a buyer, you’ll want to find a buyer’s agent who can help you obtain your perfect home. But what is a buyer’s agent, and how does one differ from a listing agent? This article will teach you the difference between these two types of agents and help you find the perfect one to customize your home shopping experience.
What Is A Buyer’s Agent?
A buyer’s agent is a real estate professional who guides home buyers through the process of purchasing a home. As a purchaser's representative in a real estate transaction, a buyer’s agent has a legal obligation to protect the buyer’s interests and work to ensure they’re getting the best deal possible. Although some real estate agents specialize in working with buyers, most can work as a buyer’s agent or listing agent, depending on the specific transaction.
Buyer’s Agent Vs. Listing Agent
In a real estate transaction, there are usually two real estate agents involved: a buyer’s agent and a listing agent. Both are often referred to as real estate agents, or REALTORS®. The buyer’s agent works on behalf of the buyer, while the listing agent represents the seller's interests.
The buyer’s agent will aid the buyer in navigating the real estate landscape by finding listings and advocating for the buyer and their unique needs. On the other hand, the listing agent is responsible for listing a property for a seller. A listing agent – also referred to as a seller’s agent – has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for the seller by ensuring that they secure the best terms possible for selling property.
Instead of hiring their own agent, some buyers believe they can find a property they like and work with the listing agent to negotiate the sale. While this type of dual agency is possible, it’s highly discouraged because it can lead to a conflict of interest. When it comes down to the negotiation process, it’s difficult for one agent to be loyal to both parties in the transaction. Buyers and sellers inherently have distinct interests, especially regarding the purchasing price. In some states, dual agents are illegal, so it’s important to understand your area's real estate laws.
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What Does A Buyer’s Agent Do?
When working as a buyer’s agent, a real estate professional is responsible for acting as a resource for their clients by guiding them through each step of the home buying process. As a result, a buyer’s agent generally takes on the following tasks:
- Finding listings: At the outset of the process, the buyer’s agent will ask buyers about their needs and preferences to determine what their ideal home looks like. They will then use that information to begin searching for appropriate properties. As new listings enter the real estate market, the agent will send buyers any properties that match their needs.
- Scheduling showings: The buyers will peruse the listings their agent sends them and pick out the ones they want to view in person. The agent will then coordinate with the respective listing agents (or sellers if the home is for sale by owner (FSBO)) and schedule a time for the buyers to tour the property. The buyer’s agent will also inform them of any open houses they may be interested in attending.
- Asking and answering questions: The buyer’s agent will typically go with buyers to all showings and open houses they find interesting. While buyers tour the property, the buyer’s agent will be present to answer any of their questions and provide thoughts about the property based on their expertise. Furthermore, the buyer’s agent will ask the listing agent (or FSBO seller) questions so that the buyer can get more insight into the seller’s circumstances, property’s condition, taxes, etc.
- Pricing consultation: Once buyers find a property that they’re interested in, the buyer’s agent will ask the listing agent if there are any disclosures on the property (potential issues that the seller must reveal to buyers), which may affect the home’s desirability or pricing. Then, the agent will run a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine an appropriate offering price for the property based on similar properties that have recently been sold in the area. The agent will recommend that the buyers make a particular offer based on the analysis and specifics of the property.
- Negotiating with the listing agent or FSBO seller: After making the offer on the buyers’ behalf, the buyer’s agent will negotiate both the price and terms. The agent will inform the buyers of any counteroffers made by the seller and consult them on whether to accept or amend them. The buyer’s agent will also inform their clients of possible ways to make their offer more competitive, such as eliminating contingencies or adjusting the closing date. As soon as the seller accepts an offer, the buyer’s agent will work on drafting the contracts.
- Recommending other real estate professionals: The buyer’s agent will guide and advise the buyers through closing. Before the closing date, they may refer other real estate professionals, such as real estate attorneys, inspectors, etc., to help ensure the buyers’ interests are protected.
Who Pays A Buyer’s Agent?
Typically, the seller pays the commission for both the buyer’s agent and the listing agent. The process by which real estate agents are paid is important because buyers get the benefit of working with buyer’s agents for free. If buyers can’t find a home to purchase, the buyer’s agent doesn’t get paid.
Unless stipulated in the sales contract (or exclusive agreement between agent and client), the commission is 6% of the purchasing price and split evenly between the listing and buyer’s agents. The seller technically pays for both agents because their fees are deducted from the proceeds of the sale.
For example, if the home purchase price is $400,000, 6%, or $24,000, would be withdrawn from the seller’s net proceeds to pay the agents’ commission. Of the $24,000, the buyer’s agent and the listing agent would each receive $12,000, and the seller would walk away with $376,000.
Can You End A Contract With A Buyer’s Agent?
Since buyer’s agents only get paid if the buyers find and close on a new home, some agents will insist that buyers sign a buyer’s agency agreement to solidify their working relationship. This contract stipulates the terms of the relationship, and it ensures that the buyers will work exclusively with the agent to purchase a new home.
If the buyers still haven’t closed on a new home once the contract expires, they can find a different agent. However, buyers should read the terms of their agreement carefully, as some contracts stipulate that the agreement automatically be renewed at the end of the 3 months.
So, if buyers don’t see eye-to-eye with their agent, their ability to end the contract will depend on its fine print. With that in mind, buyers may have more flexibility in terminating the contract if their agent fails to perform the duties listed in the agreement.
To ensure you don’t get stuck working with an agent you don’t feel comfortable with, you can try to avoid signing a buyer’s broker agreement or negotiating for a trial period. While some agents may refuse, it’s always worth asking if you can add a provision in the agreement that provides you with a 30- or 60-day opt-out period.
How To Find A Buyer’s Agent
There’s no question that buyers should work with a buyer’s agent, given the free expertise they offer; however, you may wonder how to find a buyer’s agent who’s right for you. As mentioned, there are some agents who work exclusively with buyers, but most don’t. So, how do you determine who will be best at representing you?
The trick is to interview a handful of agents and ask them enough questions to get a sense of their personalities and experiences. Your ideal agent will be someone who is not only experienced in finding homes in your desired location and price range, but who also makes you feel comfortable. To help you find that perfect buyer’s agent, you should ask the following questions when interviewing:
- How long have you been working in the industry?
- What are the hours you typically work?
- Do you specialize in working with buyers?
- How many different buyers and sellers are you currently working with?
- What experience do you have finding homes in my desired location/price range?
- Why should I work with you? What do you bring to the table that other agents may not?
As you describe your ideal home to the agents, you should also consider how well they seem to understand your needs and preferences. The right agent for you will be someone who gets you as well as they do the industry.
FAQs: Buyer’s Agent
Why do some buyers choose not to work with a buyer’s agent?
Hiring a buyer’s agent can be beneficial due to their market knowledge. Usually, the choice not to use a buyer’s agent comes down to money. As stated, the commission for their services is about 6% of the home's purchase price, and the listing and buyer’s agent will divide the funds. By not hiring an agent, you can avoid these expenses.
Real estate agents used to be the only way home buyers could gain private access to information about homes on the market, but that's not the case anymore. You can find many details about real estate property online, such as house listings, sales prices, crime rates and more. Due to now having access to this information, some buyers have decided to house-hunt on their own, which helps them save money by avoiding agent commissions.
When should I hire a buyer’s agent?
Narrowing down the home search before hiring a buyer’s agent can be beneficial because it lets you see current market trends – but it’s not always necessary. We recommend employing a buyer’s agent as soon as you find the right fit, because that will make the process much more manageable and easier to handle. Regardless of how much research you do, a buyer’s agent will have experience and resources that a non-agent does not, which helps you get the best deal possible.
Can a seller refuse to pay the buyer’s agent?
In most cases, the seller pays the commission of both the seller’s and buyer’s agents. If a seller wants the buyer to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission, they must negotiate with the buyer and come to an agreement. The purchase agreement outlines who pays the agent’s commission, which both parties will sign at the beginning of the real estate transaction.
The Bottom Line
If you’re unsure of how to begin looking for agents, create an account on Rocket Homes Real Estate, LLC. The company partners with highly rated real estate agents in all 50 states and helps to match buyers with agents suited to their circumstances. With their help, you’ll be ready to start your home search in no time!