Your Buyer Broker's Job Description
As with real estate listing services, there are a lot of price/quality options for people looking to buy a house or condo. There are no hard and fast rules about what agents do and how much they charge. But here are some of the differences between the services you can expect to be provided by the bare bone companies (limited service agents) and full service buyer brokers.
The Buyer Interview: this is a meeting where you and the agent meet each other, size each other up, and decide whether or not to work together.
- Bare Bones might have a virtual meeting, over the phone or on-line with a boiler-plate questionnaire, and there might be a referral to an on-line mortgage service.
- Full Service will prefer a face-to-face meeting, and will help you develop a strategy to buy Dream House, including an introduction to a good local lender who can get you fully pre-approved. She will listen carefully to your wants and needs and perhaps suggest some types of homes and neighborhoods that you hadn't even thought of.
Your Search: both will get your basic requirements and set up email alerts to changes in the local inventory.
- Bare Bones will pretty much leave it up to you to check the listings out by driving by or contacting the listing agents to try to get them to show you their listing or, more likely, waiting for an Open House.
- Full Service will monitor the list, preview real possibilities as they come onto the market. Once she gets to know you, she can screen properties for you, saving you the trouble of seeing the dawgs. She will also monitor properties that might not show up on your daily update, but that might work anyway. And if they meet your needs, she will arrange to get you in before the first Open House. She will also get you into any homes you want to see, and she will offer her opinion on the pros and cons of each property and how they might impact the value. Then they can start the process immediately, maybe before the first Open House.
When You Find The One:
- Bare Bones will write up the offer for you on the boilerplate forms, following your instructions. She may, or may not, provide much guidance.
- Full Service will will do the same thing, and will also prepare a competitive market analysis to give you an idea of what's happening in the neighborhood and what the house might be worth. She will suggest strategies that could help you get your offer accepted without having you overpay. She will also make a schmooze call to the listing agent to let you know of your possible interest and to ask for any issues the sellers might need to have addressed (settlement date, items that convey, etc.).
Negotiating the Offer:
- Bare Bones will send the appropriate paper work to the listing agent by fax or email. She may follow up with a phone call to ensure the agent actually received it.
- Full Service will contact the listing agent as soon as you have signed the offer to arrange to get it to the sellers. If possible, she will arrange a time where she can meet, preferably with both the sellers and their agent to present your offer in person, or at least to present in person to the listing agent - especially if she doesn't know the other agent.
The Home Inspection:
- Bare Bones may have a list of home inspectors for you to contact, or you might be on your own to try to find one on-line. You will probably have to arrange access to the house through the listing agent. She'll have you draw up a list of what you want repaired and send it along to the listing agent on the appropriate form.
- Full Service will have recommendations. She will then set up a time and will show up with a notepad in hand to be another set of eyes and ears for you. She will help you sift through the information and devise a strategy for getting the items that are important to you repaired. She will then negotiate with the sellers' agent on your behalf, and because she was actually at the inspection, she will understand what needs to be replaced or repaired.
The Loan Process:
- Bare Bones might or might not stay on top of the loan approval process. If you are using an on-line outfit, things could get pretty dodgy. She will do any paperwork that might be needed should the sellers ask that the financing or appraisal contingencies be removed.
- Full Service will stay on top of the loan approval process, and she will probably be dealing with a local lender who is reasonably competent and who she knows and has referred clients to in the past. This lender knows that if anything goes awry, there will be no more business from this agent or her colleagues, so he will work really hard to ensure there are no problems, or if issues arise, they are resolved quickly.
The Title Company:
- Bare Bones will place the order with the title company.
- Full Service will place the order and monitor the progress of the title search and make sure everything will be ready to settle on time.
Now these guidelines are not hard and fast. Some Bare Bones agents do a lot more, and some Full Service agents do a lot less. But a full service agent should be willing to do a lot more to help you find and get Dream House.
So bottom line:
Before you sign a buyer broker agreement with anyone, ask for a summary of the services you can expect to receive, and be very clear about how and how much the buyer broker will get paid. There are a lot of choices for consumers in today's real estate market, and you need this information to make yours a smart choice.
Oh, and this is what I do for my buyers as a full-service agent!
If you are thinking of buying a home in the Washington metropolitan area, I can help. I'm licensed in DC, Maryland and Virginia, and after more than 25 years in this business, I know the territory. Contact me by phone, email or text message.