Finding Your Realtor by "Accident"
When someone decides it is time to sell their home, they interview several Realtors from different companies to determine which one is best for them. They want someone who will represent them and someone they feel will do an effective job at marketing their home.
However, when someone decides to buy a home, they usually end up with their Realtor through sheer accident. Why dont homebuyers search for a Realtor the same way that homesellers do?
Instead, homebuyers usually end up with a Realtor as a result of answering an advertisement. The advertisement will give a brief summary of a home available for sale along with the price, but it says nothing at all about the Realtor.
So ... does it really make a difference?
Listing Agents and Selling Agents
You see, there are two "sides" to every sale. The listing side and the selling side. Most deals have an agent representing each side, so there are generally two agents involved The seller's side is represented by the listing agent. The buyer's side is represented by the selling agent (also known as the buyer's agent).
Agents can deal with both buyers and sellers, but the majority tend to focus their efforts on one or the other. Some even exclusively handle either buyers or sellers.
So what should you do? (See 'Conducting the Search')
We simply recommend that you take as much care to hire a real estate agent as you would for any other professional. Ask questions. Ask about education, experience, and focus.
After all, buying your next house is probably the biggest purchase you've ever made in your life. Does it make more sense to find your agent by accident ... or by design?
Do You Make an Offer With the Listing Agent?
For argument's sake, suppose you see a property that is "just perfect" and you don't have an agent yet? Do you make an offer with the listing agent?
Well, most deals have two agents involved. The listing agent markets the house and represents the seller. The selling agent represents the buyer. The seller pays the real estate commissions to both agents.
When you make an offer directly to the listing agent, there is only one agent involved instead of two - so things work a little differently.
Agency and Disclosure
When you make an offer directly with the listing agent, the agent will disclose the possible working relationships that exist - whether they are going to represent both you and the seller, or just represent the seller. There will be a document you sign called an "agency disclosure" that spells out the relationship.
When representing both sides, an ethical agent becomes more of a transaction facilitator or perhaps a "dual" agent, depending on what state you are in. In effect, they are not an actual advocate of either party but mostly an information provider and communication conduit.
The agent will convey offers and counter-offers back and forth, but won't provide opinions to one party or the other on how "negotiable" the other party might be. In addition, they will answer questions, explain things as the transaction progresses, make suggestions about whether getting inspections is a good idea - and so on - but they won't be your advocate or the advocate of the seller.
If the agent discloses that they are acting just for the seller, then they are the advocate of the seller -- and you are on your own.
Road Bumps & Conclusion
Most real estate transactions go fine, but almost every one has a challenge or two. These challenges are often routine, but sometimes not. One party may come out on top in a dispute and the other may feel that they did not.
When there is only one agent, the buyer may sometimes feel that the agent took the seller's side in a dispute. Often the criticism is not merited, but human nature being what it is - it happens.
In the end, make an informed decision. If you are considering making an offer directly to the listing agent, ask questions. What are you giving up by not having your own agent? What will you gain by presenting an offer via the listing agent? When you get your answers, make your decision on what you want to do.