For most people, purchasing real estate will be one of the biggest investments and purchases you will undertake. Unless your best friend or your favorite aunt just happens to be a real estate agent, selecting someone to represent you in a real estate transaction can be daunting. Not only is there a real estate office on almost every corner, but today’s buyers also have online access to an unlimited number of possible agents and brokers.
Sorting all of this out can be time consuming especially for first-time home buyers, since they most likely have little or no experience in what’s involved in the real estate process.
Fortunately, clearing a path through this minefield is neither hopeless nor impossible. But first there are some basic concepts you need to understand before you start the process.
AGENT, BROKER OR REALTOR®?
Too many times, the terms real estate agent, real estate broker and REALTOR® are used interchangeably by people who don’t know any better. So let’s clear up the confusion from the get-go.
A real estate agent is anyone who’s taken some basic training classes and then has applied for, and passed, a state licensing exam. Basically, anyone can become a real estate agent and continue to practice as long as they hang their sales license with a licensed broker. They’re also required to take a set number of hours of continuing education courses in order to renew their license periodically.
A real estate broker, on the other hand, is required to take an additional number of classes in various subjects and sell a certain amount of real estate in order to qualifyfor the broker’s designation. Unlike a sales agent, brokers can open their own office and sell real estate without affiliating with anyone else. Brokers must also take continuing education courses in order to keep their license active, and meet other requirements that are beyond the scope of this article.
Both a real estate broker and a sales agent, once licensed, can legally represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions. However, what they cannot do is call themselves a REALTOR® unless they’re a paid-up member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and follow the strict Code of Ethics delineated by that organization. NAR also owns the REALTOR® trademark, and it takes violations of that trademark very seriously.
WHAT IS A BUYER’S AGENT, AND WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER ONE?
As a first-time buyer, you may want to consider a buyer’s agent to represent you, since they have advanced education and experience working strictly with buyers, and may be more up to speed on loan programs specifically geared toward first-time buyers. That said, you certainly can work with anyone you choose to—buyer’s agent or not.
Sorting It All Out: Finding Good Representation
Whether or not you sign a contract with them, an agent or broker legally has a fiduciary duty to treat you—and everyone else associated with a real estate transaction—fairly while keeping your best interests in mind.First-time home buyers in particular should take their time in selecting a real estate professional who they feel. In addition to keeping you informed all along the way, your agent or broker should be tech-savvy enough to help you do a complete search for all of the inventory currently on the market.
INTERVIEWING A PROSPECTIVE AGENT OR BROKER
Although it’s not engraved in stone, the industry in general has always recommended that clients—whether buyers or sellers—should personally interview at least three prospects before selecting a real estate professional to represent them. It can be more or less, of course, depending on how well you seem to hit it off with a particular agent or broker.
Pretty much anything is open game when it comes to the breadth of questions you can ask a prospect. After all, this is a job interview, and they want you to hire them so they can make their commission just as much as you want to find the right property to call home.
In addition to getting their real estate license number, questions you should be asking include:
- How long have you been in the business?
- Have you ever had a complaint filed against them with the state department of real estate? (You can always check that out yourself online if you don’t feel comfortable asking.)
- How many transactions a year do you average?
- Do you specialize in working with buyers?
- What markets do you focus on?
- What’s the median price in the markets I want to search?
Ask them about schools, crime rates, places of worship, shopping centers and malls, entertainment venues. Anything and everything is on the table. And lastly, don’t forget to ask for referrals to former clients who you can call.
When working with first time home buyers, our Team of agents find out what your expectations are. Once defined, we set up parameters and then explain what we can and can’t do for them.
Our clients can expect are that their agent will give their best efforts in negotiating the deal and will assist them through the loan process, as well as order the title report, the appraisal, the building and termite inspections, and possibly even arrange for repairs, if necessary.
First Service Group’s buyers agents are knowledgeable and experienced professionals that make the home buying process as seamless as possible. We are well versed in first time home buyer programs and can help navigate the parameters of the lender approved paid closing costs to keep more money in the buyers pockets.