Mark Arbeit and Co.

Matchmaker, Choosing the Right Realtor: The Buyer's Agent

by Mark Arbeit

Ok, so it's a buyer's market and things are HOT. You've got the money to buy now, but SLOW DOWN. Don't let it burn a hole in your pocket just yet. First, let's find you someone to help you spend your money the RIGHT way by hooking you up with a Realtor who is a qualified "buyer's agent."

Whether this will be your primary residence, your summer getaway or an investment property, you really need to make sure you are working with a professional Realtor. He or she will help you to identify the right property, negotiate the best possible price, and close the deal within the appropriate time frame. While many Realtors are skilled to work on either or both sides of the deal, here are some guidelines and pitfalls to keep in mind as you begin your selection process in choosing a buyer's agent.

The Basics
Speak with people you trust to obtain recommendations about Realtors with whom they have had positive experiences. Remember, dont assume it will be a good match for you just because it was good for your friend. Avoid being hijacked by a close friend or relative "in the business" out a sense of obligation. Caring is sharing; ask that they refer you to a colleague that can do the right job. Make sure you and the Realtor you choose communicate with each other very well. Real Estate does not have to be a "foreign language" make sure you are on the same wave length.

While Desperately Seeking the Right Realtor there are several other good sources to find a buyer's agent.

Surf's Up!
Doing an on-line search for available homes in the neighborhood you are most interested will give you an idea of some of the agents that list properties in those areas. What's Your Sign? Observe yard signs as you drive around your favorite neighborhoods. Realtor signs will give you an indication of which agents are listing the kinds of properties you may be interested in.

Open Houses, Open Doors
Most weekends there are an assortment of open houses to explore giving you the perfect opportunity to meet and interact with the agents hosting these events. If you find an agent that comes across as knowledgeable and you feel comfortable with him or her, take a business card and check out their web page after you leave. (Please note that an agent hosting an open house may or may not be the listing agent.)

Pick up local Real Estate trade magazines and Real Estate sections of local newspapers. Not only will you be able to identify geographic locations that an agent specializes in, but the price range, style of homes and diversity of their listings. Some agents will even specify in their ads that they are buyer's agents.

Now that you have narrowed your search to one agent there should be some expectations on both sides before you go out on your first tour of homes.

Your buyer's agent should follow these guidelines:

Listens to what you are looking for in a home regarding the features, location and price, and takes you exclusively to properties that are within your price range and guidelines.
Provides a manageable amount of properties to review that meet your criterion prior to your first tour so that you can prioritize the properties in which you are most interested.
Previews all properties ahead of time and is familiar with the history of listings, (days on market, price changes, etc.) so that he/she can answer most basic questions.
Provides a tour package with a detail sheet for each listing, so that you can take this information with you at the end of your day.
Conducts a planned route of properties, timed so that you are not exhausted or overwhelmed at the end of your tour.
Leaves ample time at the end of tour to help you organize, review, summarize and plan the next step based upon the result of the properties seen.

This process may be repeated as needed, but if the agent truly understands the needs of the buyer, this will be a process of elimination from the original group of properties with the exception of any new listings that come onto the market.

Be aware that some buyer's agents may ask you to sign an "exclusive buyer's agent agreement." Just as listing agents sign formal listing agreements with sellers, many buyer's agents expect a formal agreement. This agreement is a "bi-lateral" agreement, meaning a promise for a promise, so if you feel that the agent is not meeting your expectations you can cancel the agreement.

Now with all due respect, Realtors are not taxi drivers. They don't just love driving people around looking at houses on a Sunday afternoon only to have the buyer call another Realtor the following week to look at another set of houses. Realtors do enjoy your company and enjoy showing houses, however, it's truly not a productive use of time or gas if you have no allegiance or commitment to their services. While this does not occur frequently, it does happen.

Assuming you have an established relationship of trust and commitment to a single buyer's agent, a good agent will keep you informed about changes in price or activity regarding the properties in which you are most interested. You will also be the first person notified when a hot property hits the market that meets your guidelines and expectations, giving you the edge over non-represented buyers.

Once your ideal property has been identified, the same skills that are required of a selling agent must be employed by your buyer's agent. Comparative market analysis data will be vital in a buyer's decision to know how much to offer on the selected property. Knowledge of recent sales and current inventory will be the agent's tools in guiding their buyer in their decisions. The buyer and the agent will work together to obtain the best value for the property that has been chosen.

Buyer's agents are ready to help you make the right choice. Make sure you take the time to find an agent that will meet your expectations so that in the end you are happy with your purchase.