If you’re thinking about buying a home, you may wonder whether you need a real estate agent. There are plenty of resources for home buyers these days, from online search sites to how-to guides. But an agent has something no buyer – particularly a first-time buyer – does: a wealth of experience and tips on the homebuying process. A realtor will work as an advocate on your behalf and, in most cases, will get you a better deal than you could get yourself, thus saving you money.
After taking real estate classes at a real estate school to earn their license to become an agent, agents are experts in the industry. They also have first-hand knowledge of the real estate market. You likely don’t know exactly what the market is like right now in your area. Are homes generally selling for 97 percent of asking price? Can you expect to compete against multiple offers? Do you know what it takes to win against other bidders? If you want a three-bedroom detached home, what should you expect to pay? What’s the inventory like? Your agent will be able to counsel you on these topics. The best way to get an offer accepted at a price that’s in your favor is to know the market intimately – and a local realtor does.
Access to Homes
Without a real estate agent, getting into a home will be difficult. Sellers are happy to let a buyer’s agent have the code to their lockbox to show their home. However, they’re not willing to allow an unlicensed stranger total access to their home. This means that you’ll have to visit the property when either the seller or the seller’s agent is available, making scheduling showings both time-consuming and difficult.
Because of this, most individuals who choose to go it alone tour the majority of their homes during open houses, when the home is open for anyone to tour, without an appointment. This puts you against strong competition since you likely won’t be the first person to see a home (a problem in a tight market). On top of that, the agent hosting the open house represents the seller. Any questions you have for them about the house will produce answers that have the seller’s best interest at heart, not yours.
When you tour a home with your agent, you not only have access and privacy, but you also have an advocate whose fiduciary duty is to look after your best interests.
With a real estate agent, you’ll have an experienced advocate and negotiator. Buying a home is an emotional process. For many people, it’s the largest transaction of their life and it’s often done during other major life changes, like an expanding family or a job relocation. Stress and strong emotions can cloud judgment – which can cause you to make a decision you’ll later regret.
As agents, we look at a transaction with a more experienced, rational eye. We can help you understand your options, and serve as a balance against making a rash decision.
We also advocate on your behalf, especially at the negotiating table. We’ll get you the best deal possible, without letting strong feelings get in the way. At Redfin, this is particularly true. So how exactly are Redfin agents paid? Our agents are paid a salary and receive bonuses based on client satisfaction – we want you to be 100 percent satisfied with the home you purchase.
You’ll have access to a Rolodex of real estate service professionals. In the course of your transaction, you’ll likely need a lender, a home inspector, and a real estate lawyer. Clients often ask me for a personal recommendation, for someone whose personality and style matches theirs. As an agent who’s worked with many real estate service professionals over the course of my career, it’s easy for me to find a good fit. But without that knowledge, finding the right provider can be challenging.
Similarly, clients often have questions about home improvement. An experienced agent will have recommendations for handymen, plumbers, painters, general contractors, floorers – basically, any type of service you’d need to spruce up your new home.
Can I Save Money by Not Having a Real Estate Agent?
Having an agent on the buy-side is free. People have an idea that they’ll save money by not using an agent to buy a home. This isn’t accurate. The entire commission on a home purchase is paid by the seller to the listing agent, who in turn gives part of the commission (usually half) to the buyer’s agent.
It’s tempting to think that if you don’t use a buyer’s agent, their part of the commission can go in your pocket, but this is generally not the case. The commission rate is agreed upon via a contract before the listing even goes on the market. If you choose not to have legal representation from a buyer’s agent, the entire commission is then paid to the listing agent. The listing agent would have to agree to modify their contract to cut you in on part of their compensation, and this is unlikely.
In fact, if you work with Redfin, you actually save money by having an agent. Because of our streamlined business model, we give our clients a portion of the commission we receive. So, with Redfin, you’ll be able to look forward to a commission refund check after you close on your new home!
Real estate agents will do the paperwork for you. Have you ever done a comparative market analysis (CMA) or drafted a purchase agreement? These are not skills that are easily learned. Creating and interpreting a CMA report, and crafting a successful offer, is an art that takes a certain level of expertise to perfect.
If you are not confident in your abilities, you could hire an agent to complete a CMA for a flat fee (often around $75), but my clients generally need CMAs for multiple homes before getting an offer accepted. It is not uncommon for me to complete five to 10 CMAs in the course of working with one client. The costs of paying for these a la carte can really add up.
Drafting an offer can be even more complicated. I tell my clients that everything in the contract is negotiable. That means that every line of the contract is important. Failing to know the importance of certain line items could cost you a lot of money down the road. Buyer’s agents know how to write an offer, with the best possible terms, to ensure your interests are protected and that your offer is accepted.
How to Find the Right Real Estate Agent
Finding a good agent is important. Ultimately, you will want an agent who’s knowledgeable, dedicated and who has no conflict of interest. At Redfin, we’re committed to you: Redfin agents are paid a salary and receive bonuses based on customer satisfaction. Moreover, because our agents specialize on either the buy or sell side of the business, you’ll never have one Redfin agent representing both the buyer and seller in a transaction, which can be a major conflict of interest.
And, finally, at Redfin, we believe in transparency. All of our agents’ reviews (good and bad) are published on our site, so you can see what other buyers and sellers have said – and make your decision accordingly. Choosing the right agent for you is just as important as choosing to have an agent at all.
About Dan Bergman, Redfin Agent
Dan Bergman serves the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where he works to find homes that meet his clients’ needs and goals at a fair price. A lifelong Chicagoland native, Bergman enjoys mountain biking, hiking and good coffee. And, of course, he’s a Bears fan!