What should I look for in a buyer's agent?

August 28, 2012

Here, is a list of tasks an agent should utilize to assist with a purchase. These tasks and assignments save time, minimize potential hazards and add value to the quality of service in your transaction…

Reader Question: Monty, we are thinking of “buying up” to a larger home. We have a suggestion about the article titled “What To Expect From Your Real Estate Agent”. While it is helpful, and we see the value in understanding the agent’s job (it was a rocky road with our present house), it seemed to us that the article was quite general. Would you write an agent job description specifically for working with a buyer? Brian and Holly T. – Des Moines, IA

Monty’s Answer: Hello, Brian and Holly. Upon further review, I did not choose the best title for that article. I have renamed the article “The Real Estate Agent Working Environment”. Your comment was very helpful. Here, is a list of tasks an agent should utilize to assist with a purchase. These tasks and assignments save time, minimize potential hazards and add value to the quality of service in your transaction.

An Agents Job When Working With A Buyer:

  1. Perform a “needs assessment” to determine what you are seeking to accomplish, confirm that your vision is achievable and work with you to create a plan on how to reach the goal.
  2. Complete a MLS search that produces a list of every available property that meets your criteria. Provide timely information on new listings. Part of the plan is how you wish to receive this data. Your agent should let you decide which homes to weed out, as opposed to deciding for you. At this stage in the search, this exercise is another check to confirm both parties are on the right track. It also may be the point you realize you need to adjust your goals. If you are interested in 3 distinct areas, there may be 3 distinct lists. This exercise also helps understand the supply and demand in those submarkets.
  3. Conduct a home tour in the areas you choose to live of “representative samples” of homes available in your price range. This tour should include MLS data that demonstrate market statistics in this submarket. Average sale price, time on market, number of active listings and number of listing that expired are examples of helpful data. This tour is particularly helpful in larger communities or when relocating to a new city. The tour also serves as a reality check that you and the agent are on the same page. You confirm that you are on the right track and the agent confirms they understand you needs.
  4. Provide clear and concise answers to your questions. Do not puff.
  5. Ensure, in most instances that phone calls, emails, and text messages are returned on the same day.
  6. Provide the closed sales data sheets you will use in making judgments. Keep a data sheet on each home you view, with notes written on it, even if you rule the home out. If that home sells before you buy, there is nothing better than a comparable sale you have physically viewed.
  7. Be on time for appointments.
  8. Spend quality time demonstrating homes to you without telegraphing the sense you have to make a decision soon.
  9. Comment on a home’s range of value and provide recently sold property for you to compare. Allow you to question their choice of comparable sales and adjustments they made between features. You get a sense of their negotiating skills in this situation. Understanding value is one of the least understood subjects of the selling process.
  10. Takes the time to draft the offer to purchase correctly. Assures all the buyers concerns and requests are addressed in writing. This is particularly pertinent with contingencies that are not drafted in “pre-approved” forms. Some states have pre-approved forms for the most common contingencies such as home inspection, financing and home sale contingencies. There is a contingency article on “DearMonty.com” that covers this subject separately.
  11. Demonstrate patience and skill in advising on negotiations with a seller. An important attribute for the agent is to understand value is a range, not a number. As an example, if you want to counteroffer a counteroffer the agent should state an opinion. Ideally, this situation will feature a two-way discussion with your agent understanding you should make the ultimate decision.
  12. Follow up with other players to ascertain they are performing as agreed. Neither you nor your agent wants overlooked errors to pop up later because someone else neglected to make a phone call. Errors like this are one of the leading causes of frustration in real estate. To put it bluntly, the agent should be proficient at ‘riding herd.’
  13. Support the DearMonty.com point of view. Some agents may see DearMonty.com as creating extra work. I would argue that, if anything, it may reduce the time and work expended. The buyer is well informed and there is a plan in place on how to proceed. As an example, some agents would question the area tour. Why show someone a home if they have not declared an interest in seeing it? I have seen many area tours result in the sale of a “representative sample”. There may be circumstances in a transaction that cause the agent to interject an alternate viewpoint. You should listen and then decide if that viewpoint makes sense and is not a shortcut that could expose an opening for a service flaw to occur.

When applied in conjunction with three other articles on the subject of real estate agents, “Is Your Agent A Secret Agent”, “The Real Estate Agent Working Environment” and “Choosing Your Real Estate Agent”, you are in a good position to identify, interview and engage a real estate agent.

Thank you, Brian and Holly for your suggestion to me. I hope you find this article helpful. Monty.