What? You called the real estate agent off the sign in the yard? What the heck are you thinking? Come here and let me slap you with a trout (an old IRC joke back in the “old days” of the internet – early to mid 90s).
You may not even know why you should be afraid (be very afraid… Okay, now I’m just trying scare ya’). Actually, I’ll give you some info that you may not be aware of.
If you’re a serious home buyer, then the first thing you need to do BEFORE you begin looking at homes (well, after you get pre-approved for a loan) is to find a buyer’s agent! NO JOKE! Whatever you do, get your own agent and don’t call the agent on the sign.
Don’t worry, typically, a buyer’s agent is free to you. When a Realtor lists a house for sale, they charge that seller a fee. When another real estate agent brings a buyer, then that listing agent splits their fee with that buyer’s agent. If you call the agent on the sign, then typically that agent will keep the full fee. Most of the time there are two agents involved in a home sale. It’s common for a buyer to find their own agent to represent their best interests throughout the home buying process. Don’t have your own agent? Then you’re on your own… not good.
I know, I know, you hate talking to “sales” people. Although, some real estate agents are nothing more than sales people, the vast majority of us are actually more than that. Hey, it’s our job to explain and guide you through the process of buying or selling your home. In addition, sometimes we’re advisors, city tour guides (if you are new to the area), negotiators, personal trainers (when we have to explain it like it really is and whip you into shape – Ha!), and (unfortunately) marriage counselors. Boy, it’s tough when you have to list the house of a nice couple that you sold them 5 years ago because now their getting divorced (that’s another post for another time).
If you’re looking to buy a home, especially if you’re a first timer, call around and talk to some Realtors. Great idea! But, what do you ask? Here’s a couple of suggestions, but really, ask them anything you want (except what they had for lunch…trust me).
- “How’s the market?” – You’d be surprised at how many agents can’t tell you how the market is actually doing. And I mean more than them saying “not bad”. Hey, it’s our job to keep track of the market! Honestly, we should be able to pretty much quote some basic stats! For instance, how many houses are on the market (a rounded figure is fine for this one), how many are listed as under contract, etc… Now there are some in-depth numbers you could analyze, but what we’re talking about here are the basic numbers. If you talk to an agent who can’t give you the basics, then find another agent. It’s our job to read, analyze, and KNOW our market. If that Realtor doesn’t know the basics of their own market, then find an agent who does.
- “Do you specialize in a certain price range?” – Some Realtors focus on a certain price range of homes. Realtor (A) may focus on high end homes while Realtor (B) focuses on lower prices homes. In any case, if you find an agent who specializes in a price range and you’re not in that same range, ask that agent if they recommend someone who does work in your price range. Now, with that being said, there are agents who work with any price range. It’s just a good question to ask!
- “Do you specialize in a certain area?” – Although it’s not as common here as in other areas (like DFW for instance), a lot of agents will focus their business on a few certain areas. Dallas/Ft. Worth is so big that it’s really hard for any agent to keep track off all the different areas. In Waco, since it’s a smaller town, most of the agents here have no problems servicing the McLennan County MSA.
- How long have you been in the business? Great question, but there’s no right answer really. I mean it depends on what you’re looking for. If the agent has only been in the business for a couple of months, then chances are they don’t have too many active clients and can devote more time to you. If the agent has been in the business for a considerable amount of time, then of course they’ve got the experience. Beyond that though, they’ve done more transactions and may know history about certain houses, since that agent has been in the business longer. It really depends on what you’re looking for.
- Do you work on the weekends? Believe it or not, some agents just don’t work on the weekend! I don’t know how they do much business (considering a lot of people only have weekends available to actually find a home).
- You may laugh, but it may be a good idea to ask (especially if you’re in a hurry to find and buy a home), if that buyer’s agent that you’re talking to is planning to go on vacation in the next 30 -45 days. To some people it may not matter, to others it may. But if you’re one of the folks that would prefer your agent be around while your transaction is in escrow… don’t forget to ask about their vacation plans!!!!
That’s just a few questions you could ask a Realtor that you’re considering using as your buyer’s agent. You may be able to get more ideas for questions just by surfing the web.
Whatever you do, don’t call the Realtor off the sign! They have a contractual obligation to represent the best interests of the seller and owe you no loyalty. If you call an agent off the sign and ask about the price and that price is a great price to you… DON’T say something like… “Wow, that’s an awesome price… I’d sooooo pay that! But let’s see if I can get it cheaper.” Guess what… they owe it to that seller to tell them that you would be willing to pay full price.
Don’t be scared! They’re not evil when they go to the seller with that kind of information. They OWE it to the seller to pass along an material information they may come across. Just be aware that if you’re talking to the seller’s Realtor, don’t tell them too much information!
Also, that agent off the sign shouldn’t divulge confidential information to you either. I’ve had people call me off my for sale signs before and after they ask about the price they’ll say something like… “Well, how much will the seller take?” Even if I know that the seller will take $10,000 less or they need to sell it fast and will probably cut a deal, I have an obligation to my client to look after their best interests. Divulging that kind of information to a potential customer would go against my fiduciary responsiblity to that home owner.
Thinking about buying? Get out there! Get pre-approved, get familiar with the areas, and most important, get your own buyer’s agent!