Okay, you know your credit is good and you have a good idea of how much you can afford if you have completed the first step. Now you have another choice to make. Of course, this choice can have as much impact upon your experience as anything else in this process of finding a home. So, do you pick a real estate agent or not? If you decide that you need a real estate agent, how do you pick a good one? Here are some cues to help you.
Make sure that your agent does not try to hide anything from you. A perfect example of this would be when my husband received a call from a woman. Remember, he is a home inspector. She was purchasing real estate for an investment and was looking a couple of apartment buildings. During the conversation, she mentioned that a couple of the units were occupied and that the real estate agent had warned her to stay out of the units so that she would not be accused of stealing. Of course my husband told her that she should always look at the property in-depth. This way, she knows what she is buying, what any issues are, how much money would be needed to rehab it… I am sure you get the idea. The point is that the buildings were actually in bad shape and the agent had tried to keep her from realizing the extent of the damage. This is not someone who will be looking out for your best interests.
When you ask about a home inspection, the agent should always be able to provide you with a couple of names and websites for you to do your own research. Of course, they will have their preferences. You should check out the websites and the report. There have been agents who have complained about my husband’s inspection reports being to detailed. Once again, how can a report be too detailed? This is not only going to be your home, but it is an investment. If there is a problem, you should know now and have all the information prior to purchase. What if there is a gas leak or a problem with the roof or electric? When agents complain about issues such as too much detail in reports, you know that once again you do not have an agent looking out for you.
An agent should always get back to you in a timely fashion. If you find yourself waiting around for a return call, then you should consider finding another agent. Yes, real estate agents can be very busy. However, in this age of cell phones and e-mail, it is not difficult at all to maintain close contact. If the agent doesn’t follow through with calls early on, can you imagine what it will be like when it gets closer to signing and there are deadlines that need to be met or you will lose the house and potential money? I can’t tell you how many times my husband has been called to do an emergency inspection because the agent failed to turn the utilities on or have the house de-winterized or some similar lapse. This is not good when there are specific deadlines that need to be met, or you lose money.
Real estate agents can represent both the buyer and the seller. If this happens, pay extra attention to the process. Of course, this is not something that you can plan for as you pick out an agent. However, since the agent does stand to make more money on the sale and subsequent purchase of the house, make sure that you do have a good home inspector. The home inspector is neutral, the agent is not. The agent wants the sale to go through. Another friend of mine ended up falling in love with a house showed to her by her agent. He found out the same agent helping them purchase a house was also the listing agent for the house he liked. He bought the house, but found out after he moved in that there were a lot of issues with the house.
You want an agent who will be with you every step of the way and who will fight for you if need be. I have a friend who recently just moved into her new home. She lives in Texas and found a real estate agent that put in a lot of time and effort to make sure that the others involved in the process stepped up to the plate and did their jobs. Let’s just say that there were problems with the loan agent not filing paperwork on time, the builder not filing the correct paperwork, and a few other glitches that almost kept her from closing. This agent worked around the crazy schedule of my friend to make sure that she was there to support her and follow-up with any assistance she needed. This is the kind of agent that you want.
There is also the option of not using a real estate agent. The very first house we bought, a friend happened to see an ad for it when he went shopping. It was being sold by the owner without any real estate agents involved. We contacted a loan officer and obtained pre-approval. The owner hired an attorney to close the property and it closed within about two weeks of when we first looked at the house. It was to be perfectly honest, the fastest and easiest closing we have ever had. That having been said, that method is not for everyone. If you need more support because this is your first home purchase, maybe you aren’t very old or maybe you just aren’t familiar with real estate, please go with an agent.
Listen to others in your area. Talk to friends. Talk to people in the checkout line at the store. Keep track of names that come up when good things and not so good things are said. There will be consistency for the most part. Learn from others and their mistakes and misfortunes.