You’re thinking of buying your first house, and it’s more than a little exciting. But don’t let your enthusiasm get the better of you. It’s not the time to start looking at homes just yet, nor is it time to reach out to a real estate agent. You’re only ready to work with a real estate agent when you understand and comply with the legal implications, formalities, and etiquette of working with an agent. Here’s what you need to know about how to buy a house with an agent.
Types of Agents
Real estate agents fit into one of two categories. One is a seller’s agent and represents the homeowner who listed his or her property for sale. The other type of agent is a buyer’s agent who shows buyers potential homes and helps submit and negotiate offers. When it’s time for you to contact agents, you’ll reach out to a buyer’s agent.
Pre-Approval | Don’t Consider Agents Until You’ve Secured Your Loan
Real estate agents work on commission. If you don’t buy a house, that agent doesn’t get paid, regardless of the amount of work they’ve invested in helping you consider homes. For this reason, it’s best that you don’t contact agents until you’ve been pre-approved for your home mortgage loan. Pre-approval for your home mortgage loan identifies you as a qualified buyer and positions you to take action when you find the home that’s right for you.
Interview Real Estate Agents
Check with friends, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances to discover what agents your contacts recommend. If your network has no referrals, you can take your search to social networks and search engines. Regardless of how you discover agents, it’s important to read their reviews, check out their ratings, and research their credentials.
When interviewing, decide whether or not that agent answers your questions sufficiently, communicates well, and makes you feel comfortable. You’ll be working closely, and for significant amounts of time with your agent, so it’s critical you choose an agent you like.
Set Your Expectations
You may expect to hear from your agent once a week, to communicate by phone, and for the agent to pick you up to tour homes and then drop you back at home when you’re shopping day is done. Or, you may have other expectations that you should define clearly before signing contracts or agreements.
Likewise, your agent may have expectations. For example, your agent might request that you not call them after 8 p.m. or on Sundays. Your agent may prefer communication by text message or email.
Have a conversation with your agent to establish each of your expectations, and how you can honor those expectations or compromise.
Keep your appointments, be on time, and respect the schedule your agent maintains.
The real estate agent you’ve chosen to represent you will have paperwork you’ll to sign before you begin touring properties. One document is an agency agreement, which is merely a disclosure. Although the document is called an agency agreement, it’s not a contract, just information the law requires you to have. Read it. Sign it. Keep it.
Next, you’ll review and sign the agent contract, or a buyer’s broker agreement. The broker agreement is the document that essentially locks you into your professional relationship with the agent. In the signing of the contract, you agree not to work with other agents within a certain amount of time, as well as other legalities. Read this thoroughly and read it again if you must. Once you sign, you’re in it for the long haul. Also, ask about the exit strategy. Should you decide to “break up” with your real estate agent, you need to know the timeline bound by contract and what steps you’ll take to terminate the relationship.
Do not sign anything you don’t understand. Don’t rush this part of the process just because you’re tickled to start the house hunt. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Creating Your Realistic Wish List
First-time homebuyers tend to misgauge what their money can buy in real estate. You may not be able to afford those granite countertops, real wood floors, or other embellishments you’ve been imagining. The basics where you may be unable or unwilling to compromise are the number of bedrooms, the size of the home, or style of the floor plan. You can renovate and upgrade over time.
Don’t let your first impression be a lasting impression. Once you and your agent have defined and refined your wish list of must have features and would love to have bells and whistles, you should tap into your inner visionary. You may visit potential homes that aren’t visually appealing at first because they have the wrong paint color, ugly carpet, or dated design elements. All of those cosmetic aesthetics can be changed – often at low cost with minimal effort. You can also negotiate a lower price in your offer to allow for repairs.
Before Touring Homes | Etiquette for House Hunting
Don’t tour open houses without your buyer’s agent if you can avoid it. Your agent has a skill set and expertise that can help you understand what you’re looking at in a home. However, if there’s a time-sensitive situation where you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot, hand the listing agent your representatives business card, so he or she knows you have representation.
You may be aware that you’ll be exploring properties that might not be in tip-top shape, but that doesn’t mean you should be loose-lipped with criticism. You may accidentally shoot yourself in the foot by offending the homeowner you didn’t realize was still at home. House shoppers have also been caught on video being cruel with their words and harsh with their judgments. Offending the homeowner could eliminate your chances of having your offer accepted.
Let your agent ask the difficult questions for you. Hold your tongue until you’re outside of the house you’re touring. Talk discreetly with your representative and trust that he or she will obtain the information you need.
Not everything you see in a house is included in the sale of the home, including light fittings, hot tubs, above-ground pools, window coverings, or other items that are not permanently attached to the structure. Before touring houses, talk with your real estate agent and ask them to help you understand what does or does not come with the house you buy, and if you can negotiate for particular items.
Stay on Your Own Team
Don’t call the listing agent or speak with the homeowner without your agent’s representation. You may be communicating with good intentions and an honest approach, but you may unknowingly provide the seller or seller’s agent with information that could be damaging to you later. Remember, the sole priority of the seller’s agent is to get the highest price possible for the seller.
Get it While You Can
One tragic mistake many first-time homebuyers make is that they over-estimate the amount of time they have to ponder the possibilities and make up their mind. By the time the buyer is convinced they’ve found the perfect home and are ready to move forward, someone else has beat them to the punch, and the home is no longer for sale.
Submitting Your Offer
Before you submit your offer, you should understand what motivates the seller; it’s not always about the highest price. Some owners want to move on an expedited timeline. Others want the peace of mind knowing their home is being entrusted to someone who will care for it with love. Your real estate agent gathers this information throughout the process and can help you create an offer that caters to the desires of the seller.
Be careful, also, not to offend the seller by submitting a proposal that is considered insulting. It’s natural to negotiate, to send an offer slightly under asking price, or to ask for inclusions, but lowballing the offer could cut you out of the competition.
No Guarantees | Keep Your Heart Out of the Transaction
It’s natural to swoon over the house you’ve decided to try to buy. Keywords being “try to buy.” You’re not the only buyer, may not be the only one submitting competitive offers, and, even if your offer is accepted, there are many things along the way that could turn out to be deal-breakers. Detach your emotions and keep your focus on the business end of the deal.
Counter Offers and Negotiations
Compromise is essential when negotiating offers, and it’s got to be on both sides. You’ve got to be flexible, willing to bend – whether it’s in the dollar amount, the timeline, allowances, or the contingencies. If you’re too rigid in your demands, you could put yourself in the uncomfortable predicament of having your offer rejected.
Don’t put your agent and the listing agent in a position where they waste time playing ping-pong with offers and negotiations that aren’t realistic.
Although your agent cannot tell you matter-of-factly what you should or should not offer, he or she can share their wisdom based on experience and guide you in the right direction. Ultimately, the decisions are yours to make, but remember – this is why you hired your real estate agent. They have your best interest in mind – and they’ve also got a lot at stake since they don’t get paid until you seal the deal.
Don’t Hound Your Agent
Waiting for the offer and negotiation period to run its course may be the most challenging aspect of your journey into home ownership. Once you’ve got that offer in, your adrenaline starts pumping, your heart starts racing, your imagination runs wild, and you have trouble waiting to hear the outcome. Remember the agreement you made with your real estate agent in the beginning when you and your agent defined your expectations. As painful as it may feel, try not to harass your agent with constant requests for updates. Trust that when your agent has information, that information will be shared with you. You’re not in this alone, and the agent wants his or her paycheck, too.
When your offer is accepted, the house you’re buying has to be surveyed, appraised and inspected to convince your lender that the property is worth what you’re borrowing. Your agent most likely has relationships with service providers who will conduct the survey, appraisal, and inspection up-front with payments deferred until closing to be incorporated into the closing costs. Here, again, your patience is required. Each step in the journey takes time. You can’t rush real estate transactions. You’ve made it this far, and the wait is almost over.
During the survey, appraisal, and inspection, your offer and contract may still be negotiable. If problems are revealed with the structure or land during these phases, you can negotiate for repairs, an allowance for repairs by reducing the price of the house, or you have the right to stop the transaction if the problems revealed appear to be insurmountable. But remember, if you pull the plug at this point, it’s back to the drawing board at ground zero, and you’ll have to start over from the beginning.
Working with a real estate agent when you’re searching for your first home is critical. Many buyers try to cut out the middleman and shop for houses on their own, but they don’t realize what they’re risking in the hopes of saving money. Your professional real estate agent understands laws of real estate, can help you find the right house, submit competitive offers, understand contracts, negotiate terms, and guide you through the stages of buying a home.
When you’re satisfied with the work that your real estate agent has done, remember to recommend that agent to your friends, family members, co-workers, and associates. Take the time to rate the agent on his or her website or social profiles, and share your thoughts about how the agent guided you through the process of buying your starter home.
This information is provided courtesy of The Eastside Real Estate Team. Keep us in mind for all your real estate needs. Call us today at 425-200-4093.