Too often, when people complain about the services they're receiving --- whether it's from contractors or real estate agents --- the problem arises from a misunderstanding about each person's role in the transaction. As the famous line from Cool Hand Luke goes, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate." That's why it's important for agents to educate consumers about both of our roles in a real estate transaction. The Internet has more than enough information to help buyers identify neighborhoods they're interested in exploring further, so I explain to clients that they don't need an agent to begin the first part of their property search. From that point on, however, an experienced, professional agent is invaluable. Here's why:
1/ The best agents are market experts, and continually renew their expertise by having their ears to the ground at all times.
Consistent tracking on the pulse of the real estate market is a trait of any good agent: we'll provide current, sometimes up-to-the-minute, information on schools, neighborhoods, and even tracts of homes and builders. Many times it's information you will never find on a website.
Recently had a client that had been monitoring a luxury development in Emerald Hills. Persistently keeping track of the activity in the neighborhood early and often helped my client purchase a bank-owned property before the property was put on the market --- and for several hundreds of thousands dollars less than he would have paid otherwise!
2/ Agents know what makes sellers tick.
Steve Leung covered some of how you can walk in a seller's shoes. Good agents can help you get the property you truly love at the best price possible. They can advise when to write an offer for lower than the asking price or when to be aggressive by offering at or near a property's full listing price.
They know that by being good at selling homes, you develop the empathy to be able to make good offers to buy them. And they know how to talk to other agents of different ages and experience levels. That versatility helps you in every step of the way, particularly in the little details that need to be caught before they cost you your dream home.
3/ Agents negotiate on your behalf.
Because they have a fiduciary responsibility to protect their clients, agents will fight on your behalf over not only a property's price but also the contract terms, which in many cases are just as important as the amount of money you offer.
Experience and negotiation are what set some agents apart from others. You can't buy experience in this area. During a recent offer presentation to a seller, I made the decision to present an offer with my clients by my side. The competition and negotiation was not easy, but this decision ultimately helped my clients get their offer accepted and buy the property.
4/ Agents can refer you to trusted associates.
The best agents have a team of other professionals, from appraisers to lenders to home inspectors, whom they trust to make sure buyers and sellers are protected through every stage of the real estate process. Agents stake their reputation on their referrals.
Why is this important? I recently worked with buyers who ended up switching to a discount broker. First, I put introduced them to the mortgage broker I consider part of my team, who pre-qualified them and secured a good interest rate for their purchase. Then, because they were interested in a wide range of neighborhoods, I suggested they drive through those neighborhoods. Often, that helps buyers determine which they like best and which they don't like after all. After their short driving tour, we planned to look at properties in their favorite neighborhoods.
After driving through several neighborhoods, the buyers told me they'd decided to work with a discount broker since they were already doing the legwork of touring neighborhoods to narrow their search. I wished them well, and we both moved on.
Not long after, the buyers called the mortgage broker to whom I'd referred them. They explained that their current mortgage broker couldn't get them an interest rate as low as my teammate had provided. Could he arrange for a new loan before the closing in two days? Unfortunately, he couldn't. The buyers ended up with a higher-price mortgage --- and we'll never know how well the discount broker negotiated on their behalf.
The moral of the story is this: real estate agents provide real value. When you try to navigate the purchase or sale of a home on your own, you may end up wishing you'd had an expert on your side.