Many times in life, you will be faced with tough choices. This is especially true when it comes to house hunting. Whether you are buying or leasing, the odds are you’ll find a couple of properties to compete for your heart. Mind you, it’s pretty unusual to find a property that meets ALL of your needs, wants, and desires. The name of this game is compromise and learning to play it requires strategy.
One of the best tools you can have in your strategy kit is the “right” real estate agent. This person should be a licensed professional that “gets you” and with whom you feel comfortable communicating.
Did you know real estate agents, by law, have a responsibility of fiduciary duty to their client at all times? This means they are required by law to put your best interests first (even above their own), keep your secrets confidential, honestly disclose all material information, and be honest with you. To see a full explanation of their obligations to you, click here. Those with the “realtor” designation have been sworn in to higher standards of conduct, competency, and ethics.
1. REALITY CHECK
One of the major benefits of utilizing an agent is the benefit of unbiased perspective. Just as when you fall in love with a person, your perspective is often skewed when you fall for a property. An emotionally detached 3rd party perspective may assist with balancing your perception. The “right” agent will be able to nudge you gently into evaluating whether the property meets your priority list of needs and also point out potential problems with the property, which you may not see in your current euphoric state. This saves you money, time, and heartache!
2. LEGAL PROTECTION
I previously posted on the 19 essential documents required to purchase a house. Yes, you read that correctly — nineteen. But there are actually many more documents which may be required depending on your city, state, and property. In fact, some of my client files are a good inch thick. And each and every one of those documents is a potential legal issue waiting to happen. I don’t want to scare you, but let’s face it, we live in a high litigation world (everyone is suing everyone else). Your best protection is to let the professionals handle it to ensure it is done correctly! On that note, make sure your agent is insured by asking: Do you maintain errors and omissions insurance?
3. ABSOLUTELY FREE
Why anyone would want to pass on FREE help and protection on likely the biggest purchase of your life – I don’t know! Maybe they previously had a bad experience with the “wrong” agent, or they just don’t know how to go about finding the “right” agent. But, most often I hear people saying they just didn’t know how much an agent would cost them.
Here’s the great news: Most real estate agents charge ZERO fees to buyers or renters! That’s because our current legal system is setup to charge the representation fees to the income-producing party. What does this mean for you? The seller or landlord is footing the bill for your agent in the deal — and despite common mistrust on that setup, your representative is legally bound to adhere to your best interests regardless of who is signing their check.
Great…now how do you find the “right” agent for you? You can start your search by asking friends or relatives for referrals, attending open houses, searching social media and blogs, or using a rating service such as Yelp. On a personal note, I will say that after my business listing was created on Yelp, I refused to upgrade to their $$$$/month advertising campaign. After which, my actual client reviews were removed as invalid. This led me to research into the company and there are a lot of small business owners with similar complaints. My ethics do not allow me to pay for the appearance of greatness, and I do not support companies which do so. Therefore, I strongly recommend you avoid the rating apps and websites like Yelp; instead go out and actually meet potential agents in person so you can truly get a feel for them and what they can offer you!