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HOW TO EFFECTIVELY USE AN AGENT WHEN BUYING REAL ESTATE
By Jeffrey A. Hill 

Most prospective homebuyers use an agent to help them find the property they want to buy. There are a number of excellent reasons for this. It costs the buyers no more to use a professional, knowledgeable agent. The agent can be their buyer agent, working for them exclusively, and not for the seller. In addition, a good agent offers experience, expertise, exposure to many properties, negotiating skills, and most important, time and commitment. 

If you engage an agent to represent you, then you must have full faith and confidence in his or her abilities and knowledge. You should choose one that you feel comfortable with, and you should expect their absolute loyalty and devotion to you and your real estate needs. In turn, your agent should be able to expect that you will be loyal too, and that when you choose to purchase a property, that you will do it through your agent.

Reciprocal commitment is a major part of a successful real estate search. If you and your agent have a good working relationship, and if you are committed to each other, then your agent will direct 100 percent of his or her energy and effort into finding the right property for you. Your agent will keep in regular contact with you, and will search new listings as they are offered to try to find the right property for you and show it to you before other prospective buyers are able to see it. This is especially important in a hot market. In a slower market, your committed agent's ability and willingness to hammer out the best possible deal for you, and negotiate favorable price and terms with the seller on your behalf is of great value to you.

You can expect your agent to leave no stone unturned in finding you your property, and once found, to aggressively represent your interests throughout the entire transaction. Prior to 1995, when all agents were in fact agents of the seller, we owed honesty and full disclosure to buyers, but now as buyer agents, we can be much more aggressive and proactive in researching, bargaining and representing our buyers. We can do price research on comparable properties, check more fully into neighborhoods, schools, employment, property sales history, etc. We can look at the property with the critical and experienced eye that most buyers need. We can point out defects, recommend inspections, suggest offering price and terms, and take care of the myriad details involved in increasingly complex real estate transactions on behalf of our buyers.

We frequently get calls from buyers about our listings. We ask if they have an agent, and the answers range the whole gamut, with "sort of" being a frequent response. If you "sort of" have an agent, then you should consider getting another one. Some people routinely call on ads to make sure their agent doesn't miss anything (translation: a lazy agent that the buyers have no confidence in), and others drive around with agent-provided lists of properties to do a "drive-by" to eliminate properties from consideration, then call the listing agents on promising properties. They often end up buying the property from an agent whose first loyalty is to the seller, and whose primary job is to sell the property.

We fully understand why people are reticent to commit their loyalty to an agent. Many think they can do a better job at finding their property than an agent. This may be fine for some, but is not the best course for those who want aggressive, committed and expert representation of their interests in one of the major decisions of their lifetimes.

A good agent deserves your business and loyalty. They will make themselves available to your schedule, devote their time and effort to your interests, and willingly forego their quality of life on your behalf. This is virtually a 24-hour a day, all-consuming business, and we are constantly "on call," especially on weekends and holidays. A good agent is not going to be willing to devote much effort to a buyer they believe is not serious or loyal.

The proper way to use an agent is to make them earn their money. It's fine to search ads and do drive-bys if you want, but if you do, don't call the other agent, call your agent! If you see a "For Sale by Owner," that you'd like to see, call your agent! Many FSBO sellers will pay a commission to your agent for bringing them a buyer.

Make your agent show you enough properties so they are entirely familiar with your needs and tastes, and when they see the right property, they will recognize it. Your agent should be able and willing to devote his or her time to you unstintingly until you find your property. A buyer agent will be able to handle probably no more than five or six serious, committed buyers because it is an incredibly demanding and time-consuming task when done right.

So if you are a serious and committed buyer, then find the best agent you can, put your trust in them and put them to work on your behalf. This is the surest way to find the property you really want to buy. 
  
[Logo: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity] 1976 S. La Cienega Blvd. Suite 420, Los Angeles, CA 90034 Ph: (949) 488-SOLD (7653) Fax: (949) 443-0343

2001 J. Hill & Associates Real Estate Sales