We’ve all been there—late night watching House Hunters on HGTV thinking, “Wow, buying a home looks like so much fun!” Well, anyone who’s actually purchased a home can tell you it’s a little more complicated than touring three dream homes and saying, “I want that one!” Between the legal jargon of contracts, the negotiation of pricing and the logistics of making one of the largest financial investments of your life, it can get complicated quickly.
My name is Wes Bourke. I’m a Buying and Listing Specialist in Asheville, North Carolina and have been working as an agent with Keller Williams since 2014. My career thus far has been spent working with my family’s owned and operated team of realtors, The Bourke Group. Thanks to my family’s long history of working in the real estate business, I have been able to learn the inner workings of the market. Buying and selling strategies that would normally take new agents a long time to learn came easily to me, as I’ve been surrounded by this industry my whole life. Having been established in Asheville in 1995, our group has both adapted and thrived in the ever-changing real estate market.
Why am I Writing this Article?
I’ve met a handful of clients who are hesitant on whether they should sign up with an exclusive buyer’s agent, and I think that many simply don’t understand what a buyers agent is. I would like to clarify what exactly a buyer’s agent does for you and what a GOOD buyer’s agent will do for you. What should you look for when interviewing agents? Why should I hire one at all? It’s my hope that this article can help everyone from 1st time home buyers to experienced buyers.
Sitting in the cross hairs of tons of potential clients and observing everyone’s questions and concerns, I’ve heard a lot. Everything from wanting to save the most money to making sure we don’t miss out on that perfect home as soon as it pops up. I’ve learned that most buyers want the same thing. A great deal, an easy transaction, and an agent that is never more than a phone call away. I would agree, that these are all things I would want to experience when going through with potentially one of the biggest transactions of my life. But, let’s face it, not everything will go accordingly every time. The home you’re bidding on might have multiple offers submitted when you want to submit an offer, driving up both the price and your level of stress. During your inspection period the inspector could uncover the infamous “can of worms”. Or maybe it’s the middle of the workday and you have a question that requires more than just googling it, but your agent isn’t answering the phone! What to do?
What Exactly Does a Buyer’s Agent Do?
There are two types of realtors: A buyer’s agent and a listing agent. To put it simply, the buyer’s agent represents you, the buyer. While the listing agent represents the seller. Realtors are often more specialized or experienced as one or the other, so it’s important to specifically look for a buyer’s agent if you’re in the market for a new home. One important fact that new home buyers may not realize is that buyer’s agent services are FREE in most cases. The seller usually agrees to pay the buyer agent’s commission because they want to sell their home just as much as you want to buy it. There’s a chance that your agent might charge you, but that will always be disclosed in the Buyer Agency Agreement, the contract between you and your buyer agent.
In North Carolina if the home is listed through any firm, all realtors are employed by the seller, which means they have the seller’s interest at heart, not yours. When you employ a realtor as a buyer’s agent they will work as your fiduciary advocate, meaning they’re there to have your back and help you to get the most for your money.
At minimum, a buyer’s agent should:
- Come to you with current market knowledge
- Find homes that meet your budget and needs through online search
- Preform a Comparative Market Analysis to determine price
- Inform you on the necessary steps you need to take in order to put in an offer and close on a home
Buyer’s agents that act as true fiduciary advocates will…
- Promote your best interests and stay loyal to you
- Follow your lawful instructions
- Provide you with all material and facts that could influence your decision
- Use reasonable skill, care and diligence required to give you the best home for the best price
- Account for all money they handle for you
- Keep all of your information confidential
- Protect you from the seller’s agent
Wait, What About Dual Agencies?
Now for the elephant in the room! Dual agency! It’s very common for buyers to run into one of these situations. One way a dual agency occurs when you employ a buyer’s agent and you want to view or submit an offer on a property that is listed by your buyer agent’s firm. Let’s say, for example, your buyer’s agent works for Keller Williams, and you find a house online that you’d really like to buy. You then quickly find out that the listing agent also works at Keller Williams. To avoid a conflict of interest, the agent is still expected to deliver on all the standard forms of fiduciary duties that are expected of them. Except now they are not allowed to directly advise you on price or provide you with any of the seller’s personal information and vice versa (which in most situations we as realtors would not have anyways). The North Carolina BAR thought this was the best way to protect both sides of a transaction when dealing with inhouse listings.
Keeping the Highest Standards
Every agent, group of agents and real estate firm has different ways of doing things. Our agents are all independently contracted, so they often develop their own style over time. Because of this, I can’t speak to every buyer agent’s process, but I can tell you a little bit about how The Bourke Group does things.
My group is family owned and operated and strive to care for each client with these family values in mind. We also understand this is not our transaction, it is the client’s transaction. So, before we get started, we dig for answers to give us an idea on what your goals are. Every buyer and seller is different, so situations vary from person to person. Things like, timelines, style of home, location, personal influence, investment, relocation, etc. are all key variables to consider. Knowing each buyer’s situation will allow our agents to act accordingly and tailor this experience to the individual. Getting to know to someone allows us to keep you on track and not let external distractions pull you away from what your goal is. Once we have a goal and are working hand-in-hand with the buyer, we set them up on our website so they can view and save properties. This is a small piece of the puzzle, but it allows us to track what they’re looking for and set them up on an alert that sends them properties that we also have access to. That way no one can forget that one property you looked at 3 weeks ago.
Finding a home isn’t the hard part and, in my opinion, not why you hire an agent. Buyer agents are most important after you find a home and start to submit the offer. The agent is in the market daily and will be able to give you their unbiased, expert option. Like many other cities, Asheville’s pricing varies in different sides of town, so you’ll want to have an agent that knows how the market differs between areas. This can be evident in your agent’s Comparative Market Analysis. Find a realtor who can easily break down their market analysis to you. Communication is key.
Once a client has a price in mind after viewing the CMA, it is the agent’s job to get that price or as close to it as possible. We are here to protect you and not get emotional in the deal, so if the price is raised to a point that isn’t worth the house, your agent should pull you out of the deal. After both sides come to an agreement the agent is now in charge of helping the client work with your lender and other parties to keep you on track for closing.
During this time the agent will suggest vendors, inspectors and anyone else needed to uncover issues with the home. It’s up to the realtor to inform the buyer what inspections can or should be done, but it is up to the buyer to decide which are important to them. Like The Bourke Group, most experienced agents have a checklist that has been tested over time to provide an organized and successful closing. Once you’re under contract and inspections are complete, you can renegotiate the price or ask for repairs on the seller’s dime. However, you only have a limited amount of time, called due diligence, to renegotiate these things. There are too many situations to name here, but this is a key area where your agent will shine or flop (experience helps here). Once all repairs are made and price has been adjusted then it’s time to close!
At the start of this transaction you or your realtor should have picked out an attorney that represents you. The attorney, realtor, and lender have worked closely up until this point to make sure every document is submitted, the money is where it needs to be and the deed is ready to be transferred to you. At this point, all of the final documents and contracts will be distributed to each party and you and your realtor will double check the fine print to be sure it’s all up to date. Again, if the realtor has experience, they will be able to spot things that do not match up. The final step: Closing.
Feeling Overwhelmed Yet?
Yes, I know that this sounds like a lot. But that’s exactly why you need a buyer’s agent—it is a lot. Having an experienced, well informed agent at your side can take a huge weight off your shoulders. A GOOD buyer’s agent is someone you can trust, someone who will work as hard for you as they would for a member of their own family. That’s what we do at The Bourke Group, and I hope that my advice can help you to find an agent that will do the same for you.