You check Zillow and Trulia every day, and you know what is on the market, so why rush and find a buyer’s agent?
Technology today is amazing, and it is great that you can see everything that is on the market from your living room or check when you are bored at the office.
Despite these amazing modern wonders, I encourage you to find a buyer’s agent on day one of your home search.
Realtors do a lot more than just scan new listings and open doors, at least the good ones do.
Here are 10 things a buyer’s agent can do for you that are commonly unknown or misunderstood:
1. Save you time
It takes lots of time to search for your own home online.
A good Realtor will set you up for automatic searches on the MLS based on very specific criteria.
Once set up, you’ll automatically get notifications when new listings hit the market, the moment they come out, before they ever get onto Zillow, Trulia, or other online searches (which pull data from the MLS and are often delayed).
Not only does this save you time, but in a market as tight as ours where many of the best properties sell in a matter of days, it gives you an advantage.
2. Get you information on target properties that isn’t listed online
As great as the free online property searches are, they just don’t offer all of the information available on the MLS.
MLS listings often list all of the specific rooms in the property, the dimensions, and include a file of documents that can be downloaded.
One of the best sources of information is the Sellers Property Information Report (SPIR), available for download on most MLS listings.
This form is a disclosure filled out by sellers which will tell you critical information such as the age of the roof, average utility costs, if there is a history of water in the basement, pest issues, among other things you’d want to know before spending your time visiting a property.
Your Realtor will also check these documents to make sure you are aware of potential risks with any property you are seriously considering.
3. Save you money!
One common misconception is that working with a buyer’s agent will cost you money.
Actually, in our market, the agent fees are paid for by the listing agent or sellers in about 99% of cases.
A buyer’s agent is your fiduciary, legally required to serve your best interests which includes helping to save you money.
A good buyer’s agent will help make sure you don’t overpay for a property.
They will use their market experience to help you effectively negotiate on both the price of the home and on fixing items that might arise after the inspection (or get you a monetary concession).
Buyers who aren’t working with a buyer’s agent often end up leaving money on the table because they don’t have the data to convince the seller that they are overpaying or because they are afraid to negotiate repairs and other concessions because they don’t have the experience to know what they should ask for.
Having a professional by your side is invaluable.
4. Help you rise above the competition
Here in Chittenden County, we have a sellers market.
It is a tough place to be buying a home.
Many properties sell in days and bidding wars are commonplace. Finding the home of your dreams only to lose out in the bidding process is crushing.
People without agents lose out all the time in this market, but having a good agent who knows how to craft an offer that will look attractive to a seller (it is not all about price – it is about presentation, closing dates, contingencies, financing, among other things) will give you the best chance of getting the home you want.
5. Find listings before they hit the market
Realtors have inside knowledge of properties before they come online.
Often it takes weeks – even months – for a property to hit the market after a seller contacts us to potentially list their home.
At my office, we have a meeting every week to discuss any listings we know about that might be coming available soon. As we go through the list, I keep a list of my buyers beside me so I can jot down a note if anything seems like a good fit.
Some of the best deals in a tough market like ours are found this way so finding a Realtor who will bring you off market options is key.
6. Find listings in target areas that might never hit the market
There are a few neighborhoods around here (I’m thinking of a few in Burlington specifically) where very few properties ever hit the market.
These neighborhoods are so hot that as soon as the neighbors hear a listing might become available, it gets snatched up.
If you have decided you want to live in one of competitive areas, you might sit around looking at Zillow for years and never find what you are looking for.
One of the less commonly known services buyer’s agents provide can be to help you find listings in target neighborhoods that aren’t on the market or even in the pipeline for coming on the market.
When I have a client who has decided they want to live in a particular condo complex or on a particular street that fits this profile, I will reach out to owners in that area directly to see if anyone might be starting to think about selling their unit or be open to the idea if the right offer came along.
This method doesn’t always yield results, but when it does, you can find opportunities that otherwise may never have been possible.
7. Evaluate the property based on years of experience
Realtors literally spend all day every day looking at and evaluating homes.
They have seen it all.
They know what types of options are available, what things are selling for, and the likelihood of something better coming along.
No matter how much time you spend on Zillow, it is hard to really have the same intuition as someone that lives and breathes this experience day and day out.
I frequently work with buyers who get overly excited about a blah property at a blah price.
I want my clients to find good deals, and Realtors know when they see a good (or even just a fair) deal.
Having a second set of eyes to provide that perspective (especially someone without as much emotional attachment) can be an important asset. 8
8. Suggest neighborhoods and new developments in the pipeline that you might not be aware of
Location, location, location!
They say this is the number 1 rule in real estate, and it is true.
It is important to spend just as much time thinking about where you want to be as on the house itself.
Often we spend too much time talking about the features we want in a house but not enough thinking about other things like proximity to work, school, and recreational opportunities.
Part of my job as a Realtor is to think about neighborhood dynamics and suggest different options to my clients that maybe they haven’t thought about as I learn more about them and their lifestyle.
While some people come to me with a very specific idea in mind (and often we stick to that), often when I ask about reasons why they like a certain neighborhood (e.g. it is close to a community garden, walking distance to an elementary school, etc.), I can think of several other neighborhoods that meet the same criteria, and we end up expanding the search.
9. Point out properties that might work even when they don’t look like they work on paper
If I had a dime for every time a property was not categorized correctly….
Two bedroom places end up having three effective bedrooms.
Places that are listed as being 1,100 square feet, end up having 2,000 square feet of functional space.
One bathroom houses with two bathrooms.
I could go on.
The reasons for these inaccuracies are complicated (will save that for another post), but because of these issues, many people rule out properties that could actually be a really good fit.
Realtors will often notice things you will miss just because they understand the inventory being out seeing houses all day or knowing particular neighborhood and will often redirect your attention to a property you may not have given a second glance at.
The good news is that often these are the properties that end up being the best deals because other buyers are skipping over them too!
10. Reduce stress! (finding professionals and managing deadlines)
Buying a new home can be stressful.
There are so many steps involved, and the average home buying process takes 12-18 months from the time you start to look.
Make it easier on yourself and find a Realtor early.
They will find properties that meet your needs, deal with all of the (often tedious) logistics, give you the confidence to know you are getting a good deal, and write up the best offer possible.
Once you’ve got the property on lockdown, they will help you find the professionals you need to make it to closing – inspectors, lawyers, contractors, etc. – and help you keep track of the many deadlines.
Life is busy, and your agent should be someone you can count on to save you time, money, and make your life less stressful!
The next step is to find the Realtor that is right for you.
Check out my post How to Choose the Right Realtor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pallas Ziporyn is a Realtor based in Burlington, VT. She is the founder and head writer for The Vermont Real Estate Blog, and she works with both buyers and sellers in Chittenden County and surrounding areas.
In addition to her real estate pursuits, Pallas enjoys serving on the Winooski Planning Commission, skiing, writing, and spending time with her husband Chris and their two small children, Leander and Hugo.