Rules for Home Buyers Working With Real Estate Agents
Real estate agents generally enjoy working with people, but there are always some clients who cross a line—either intentionally or unintentionally. Here are a few simple protocols you can use while shopping for a home that will keep you on good terms with your agent.
Understand Agents Work on Commission
- Most real estate agents are paid a commission. If an agent does not close a transaction, they do not get paid. As a result, agents are by and large highly motivated to do a good job for you.
- Very few real estate agents work purely on salary, and if they do, you probably don't want to hire them, because they'll make the same amount of money whether they're helpful to you or not.
Keep Appointments and Be on Time
- Understand that your agent has other clients and prospective clients they're working with. They ought to be available to help you within a reasonable amount of time, but you should realize you can't always be at the top of their to-do list.
- Time is valuable for agents, so please keep track of any appointments you make with yours. And if you are stuck in traffic or running late for some other reason, call your agent to give them an idea of when you expect to arrive.
How to Choose a Real Estate Agent
- You should feel free to interview several agents to make sure you end up working with an agent you are comfortable with, and you ought to clearly tell every agent that you are in the interview stage.
- You should never interview more than one agent from the same company. While many agents within the same office get along well, there could be intraoffice politics you are unaware of that would make your home purchase more difficult than it needs to be.
Do Not Contact the Listing Agent If You Are Working With a Buying Agent
- Listing agents work for the seller, not the buyer. If you end up hiring the listing agent of a property you decide to buy to represent you, that agent will now be working under dual agency, a situation that results in a conflict of interests for the agent.
- Listing agents do not want to do the buying agent's job. Let your agent do their job, and do not try to contact the listing agent directly.
Practice Open House Protocol
- Ask your agent if it's considered proper for you to attend open houses alone. In some areas, it's frowned upon to go to open houses unescorted.
- If you get the OK from your agent, hand their business card to the agent hosting the open house as a way of announcing you are represented.
- Do not ask the open house host questions about the seller or the seller's motivation. Let your agent ask those questions for you. Your agent will probably use a different approach that will work better for you.
- Similarly, do not volunteer information about yourself to the seller's agent. It probably won't benefit you and could harm you during negotiations should you choose to make an offer on the house.
Sign a Buyer's Broker Agreement With a Buying Agent
- Expect to sign a buyer's broker agreement. It creates a relationship between you and the broker/agent and explains the broker/agent's duties to you.
- If you're not ready to sign with a broker, do not ask the broker/agent to show you homes. Otherwise, if you see a place you want to buy, there may be confusion about who should rightfully get the commission—the person who's known as the procuring cause.
Always Ask for and Sign an Agency Disclosure
- By law, agents are required to give buyers an agency disclosure. This document varies across state lines.
- Signing an agency disclosure is your proof of receipt. It is solely a disclosure. It is not an agreement to use a particular agency. Read it thoroughly.
- The best and most practiced type of agency is the single agency. This means you are represented by your own agent, who must put your interests first because they have a fiduciary responsibility to you.
Make Your Expectations Known
- If you expect your agent to pick you up at your front door and drive you home after showing homes, tell them. Many will provide that service. If not, they may ask you to meet at the office.
- Let your agent know how you would prefer them to communicate with you and how often. Do you want phone calls, emails, or texts?
- Set realistic goals and a time frame to find your home. Ask your agent how you can help by supplying feedback.
- If you are displeased, say so. Agents want to make you happy. Don't be afraid to speak up.
Do Not Sign Forms You Do Not Understand
- Do not feel silly for asking your agent to explain a form to you. It's their job. Many forms are second nature to agents but not to you, so ask for explanations until you are satisfied you understand.
- However, realize agents are not lawyers and cannot interpret law. Don't ask agents to give what amounts to a legal opinion—prefaced by the statement you are not asking for a legal opinion.
Be Ready to Buy
- If you aren't ready to buy, you don't need a real estate agent. You can go to open houses by yourself, but be honest with the agent who's there and say you're only looking. Actually, it's better to only look at homes online until you're truly in the market for a house. That way you don't waste an agent's time.
- Once you start looking, hire a babysitter to care for children who are too young to spend the day touring homes.
- Bring your checkbook. You'll need it to write an offer because an earnest money deposit may be required to accompany your purchase offer. And at this point, you should also be preapproved for a mortgage.
With respect and courtesy on both sides, you and your agent can have a successful relationship and smoothly navigate the process of buying a home.