By Celeste M. Smucker–
For most people, buying a home is a huge investment, and, whether you are a seasoned homebuyer or a first timer, it is important to find the right REALTOR® to guide you through the process. First and foremost is to find someone you feel comfortable with and who enjoys their role as an advisor to buyers. In addition, though, it is important to feel confident they know the business and are up to date on current market dynamics.
Find the Right REALTOR®
One thing you can be sure of and that is that there are many agents to choose from so how do you go about finding the right one?
Just like most buyers start their home search online, you can look for an agent by going to a site like realtor.com and search by area and REALTOR® name. The search provides info on how long the agent has been in the business, the price range of their recent transactions and if they have specialties like new construction, or working with seniors. You can also click through to recommendations from past clients.
Once you find some good prospects you can question them to see if they are a good fit for you. For example, how long have they been active in the local market and do they work alone or with a team that may include buyer agents and assistants?
Don’t be shy about asking agents what to expect in the way of services. Do they keep on top of new listings and let their buyers know as soon as new ones come on the market? This is especially important in today’s market that has limited inventory and lots of competition for good listings. Do they have a buyer specialist on their team that is available for quick showings as homes are listed? What hours do they work?
Will they refer you to some good lenders? Your transaction will be a lot smoother if you have a lender and agent that work well together. The same applies to the home inspector and the attorney or settlement company that handles your closing. Most agents have lists of good supporting professionals to choose from.
Information about an agent’s area of specialization is also helpful. For example, first time buyers often have lots of questions about the process and need special care and attention as they move through the process. Some agents love working with first timers, and one of them would be a good choice if you are in that category. Similarly, if you are going the new construction route it helps to have an agent experienced in the ins and outs of the building process.
One critical question is whether an agent is also a REALTOR®. To be a REALTOR® an agent or broker must be a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and adhere to their strict code of ethics.
Ultimately, though, you want someone you “like and trust,” said Inessa Telefus with Loring Woodriff Real Estate Associates. You will work closely with this person and some challenges along the way are assured, so having someone you have confidence in is key.
Word of mouth is a good way to locate a good agent and Telefus suggests talking to family and friends to learn who they worked with and what they liked about that person.
Once you have hired the right REALTOR®, it is critical to “put trust in them” as the expert who has helped many others through this complex process, said Jamie White with Montague, Miller & Co. – Downtown.
While family and friends may be well meaning when they offer advice, they don’t have the breadth of experience working in real estate that your agent does. In addition, even if you are buying your second or third house, you are not likely to be up to date with this rapidly changing field.
Prepare to Move Quickly
Real estate transactions are complex requiring superior negotiation and interpersonal skills on the part of your agent. Today’s market with its limited inventory is especially challenging for buyers who need to be prepared to act quickly when they find a house they like.
Market conditions also impact how an agent presents and negotiates both the sales contract and the home inspection on behalf of the buyer, which means it is important to work with an agent who has recent experience.
Before you start looking at houses, ask your agent what they need from you in order to find you the right one. This could be educating them about your preferences as well as your ability to pay. Most REALTORS® require a buyer to be pre-qualified by a lender before taking them out looking. In a market characterized by quick sales and multiple offers, sellers won’t consider a purchase contract that doesn’t provide proof of the buyers’ ability to actually pay for the house.
Agents also need to be adept at negotiating issues that come up during a home inspection. As the market shifts into one that favors sellers, the latter will be less inclined to be agreeable when asked to pay for repairs. An experienced agent can give you reliable advice on what to ask for and when it is best to pay for the repair yourself rather than lose the house to another buyer.
Perhaps the most important decision you make when buying a home is who to hire as your REALTOR®. Be prepared to ask enough questions to assure you have a confident, experienced professional on your side. Then relax and let them do their job while you look forward to moving into your new home.
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.