How will you find the right real estate agent to help you buy a home?
Most people would agree that when they decide to purchase a home, they are going to utilize the services of a real estate agent. The question then becomes, however, how do they find the right agent? With roughly 250,000 real estate agents in the state of Florida (about 165,000 of which hold the REALTOR® designation), you certainly have quite the selection to choose from. But not all agents are created equal. Here are some of the key elements to look for when searching for an agent:
Getting to Know You, The Buyer
This aspect of the buyer-agent relationship is often overlooked, but I feel that it is the most important. An agent can be great at paperwork or working with selling agents to close a deal, but that’s not going to matter much if they present you with properties that don’t match up with your current life, family, and financial situations. Since buying a home is likely the largest single purchase and investment we’ll make in our lives, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to find the perfect one. That’s where the human connection of an agent who takes the time to know you personally will come in handy.
Understanding the Inventory and Market Conditions
Want to be close to the best schools for your kids? Is one of your ‘must-haves’ a fenced backyard for your dogs to play? Once an agent knows what you’re looking for and your price point, they will search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to present you with several matching options that are currently available. They should also be able to utilize their knowledge of the current market conditions to determine a course of action to get you the best deal at the right time. This will include a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine fair market value for the property of interest. A CMA is not an appraisal, but rather an estimate of a reasonable price based on the property’s features compared to like properties in the area.
Having a Quality List of Referrals
The process of buying a home includes more than just a real estate agent. You will most likely need to work with lenders to finance the purchase, have the home inspected by an inspector to be sure the home is free of defects, have the home appraised to determine fair market value and fulfill mortgage requirements, work with a title company to facilitate the closing, etc. If your agent has a list of referrals that you can choose from that they’ve worked with in the past and they trust, this can save you a lot of time and a lot of unnecessary hassles before closing.
Being Comfortable and Confident in Negotiations
Your agent has found the perfect home, it’s been inspected, and you’re all lined up with a mortgage. The deal is as good as done, right? Not so fast. Real estate deals tend to include a lot of negotiations and they can happen fast. Your offer of just under listing price could be upstaged by a full-priced one. Another buyer could offer the same price, but using all cash and no financing. Another could agree to forego all inspections if the sale closes quickly. What do you do in this situation? If you’re placing an offer on a home, you’ll probably end up competing with other buyers and a quality agent can help you navigate this difficult and potentially uncomfortable scenario.
Knowing the Ins and Outs of Real Estate Contracts
If you decided to buy a home without the use of a real estate agent, you could probably locate a decent home within your budget, perform an online search for inspectors, appraisers, and the like, and make an offer to the listing agent all on your own. However, you’ll still be faced with attempting to understand the real estate contracts. As with any legally binding document, real estate contracts are filled with ‘legalese’ and can easily confuse the layperson, resulting in hidden fees, delays, and a home that has a lot more issues than you were originally lead to believe. A real estate agent knows these contracts and deals with them on a daily basis, so you can rest assured that you aren’t missing something important or getting a raw deal.
Either way, you should educate yourself before rushing through the process. A wealth of information can be found at the site MGIC for Homebuyers, which is a great starting point.