In my continuing series, First-Time-Buyer Fridays, I answer a common question from a first-time buyer. If you have a question to submit, first-time-buyer or experienced investor, put one in the comments below, or fire me an e-mail at Tim@TimAyres.ca.
Q. I can search the MLS® myself, go around to open houses myself, and call the number on the sign or ad of any home I want to look at, so why should I work with a REALTOR®?
A. While it’s true that you can do all of the above, it’s really worth your while to find a dedicated agent to work with. The role of an agent has changed drastically in the last few years. In the past, an agent would be the sole source of information on properties for sale, using a paper-based MLS catalogue. However, in today’s world, with property information available 24/7 on the Internet and in real estate publications, real estate agents are no longer the gatekeepers of all the information on real estate (although some would still like to believe that they are).
Before, all agents were assumed to be working for the seller; buyers were offered very little in the way of agency representation. Even the REALTOR® that would take you around in the back of his or her car and write offers on your behalf was technically working for the seller, with no direct legal responsibility to look after the buyer’s best interests. Today, there are agents that work only with buyers. An agent working with a buyer now works directly for that buyer and has the legal obligation to protect that buyer’s interests.
Working with an agent today is about convenience and care. If you see 4 or 5 houses you want to look at, rather than waiting around for 4 or 5 agents to call you back, you make one call to your dedicated agent who will organize the listings in a logical showing sequence and book all the appointments for you. All you need to do is show up and check out the homes.In most areas, including Victoria and Sooke, a REALTOR® can also set up a personalized client account which will send you the most current listings, and will notify you of price changes for the type of property you are looking to buy. The private client accounts have much more information than you can find on the consumer-oriented real estate search portals like REALTOR.ca.
An agent also looks at things objectively, pointing out practical things you might have missed while being distracted by the stainless steel appliances! Over time, an experienced agent gives a wealth of information about the city in which he or she works. He or she will know which condos are the best, which buildings have problems, where the best pubs and cafes are.
An agent looks after your best interests. He or she will ensure your rights, needs, and wants are reflected accurately in the purchase agreement, and that the contract is legally enforceable. A good agent will pull up recent comparable sales to ensure you’re paying a fair price. A REALTOR® will help you take care of the details of closing, and can refer you to other trusted professionals you’ll need along the way like a lawyer or notary for conveyancing, home inspector, tradespeople, and so 0n.
Also, by working with an agent, you’ll get to know him or her and develop a long-lasting working relationship that continues after the sale in the years to come. He or she will get to know you and anticipate your needs and wants, and won’t waste your time showing you properties that you won’t like.
Some people believe that by working directly with the listing agent they’ll be able to get a better deal, but generally, this is a misconception. While REALTORS® are legally able to work with both a buyer and a seller, if both consent, that agent already has a close working relationship with the seller and is unlikely to give you a better deal, because he or she is already looking after the seller’s best interests and has a legal duty to the seller to obtain the best deal possible.
Finally, working with a REALTOR® to find your first home costs you nothing. A buyer’s agent is paid by the seller of the property you buy. You’ll appreciate the guidance and support of an experienced REALTOR®, who has helped dozens or even hundreds of people just like you get into their very first home.
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