So…you’ve started the home search process, and like many tech-savvy people, you started by jumping in front of a computer. Who can blame you? With so much accessible information on-line, and an abundance of web-sites to suit your individual needs, why would you seek out an agent to do the searching for you? What can they do that you can’t? It’s not rocket science, and why would you want to wait for someone to send you search results when you can get them in a matter of seconds on your own?
Well…the truth of the matter is that you don’t need an agent to do the searching for you. In fact, the industry has changed so much, that there is no way that an agent can keep up with amount of searching that buyers are doing on their own. I see it all the time with my own clients. While any successful agent will have a number of clients they are working with at any given time, imagine if they spent the typical 2-3 hours/day searching for homes that the common buyer is. How would they even have the time or ability to focus on any of the other important tasks involved in your transaction. Simply put…they can’t, and any good agent will admit that. They recognize that their value isn’t in doing the searches for you. Rather, it is in embracing these new technologies and finding a way to couple them with the agent specific programs to create a process or system that is the most effective. For example, I utilize an MLS specific system that e-mail alerts as properties hit the market, so it is by far the most up-to-date and accurate system. I also encourage my clients to continue using third-party sites and when they find properties of interest, I can learn to tailor my own searches to make sure the properties that we are alerted to are actually of interest to them. It’s about embracing the on-line sites and not trying to pretend that homes can only be found through an agent, and through the use of both systems we’ve got this thing wired (no pun intended).
This leads to the main issue that I now run into, which is the belief that this change in the search process has made the buyer’s agent obsolete. Nearly all of the third-party sites make the listing agents information easily accessible, so when buyers find a home they are interested in, many think to just contact the listing agent directly and eliminate the role of independent buyer representation. Many think this will result in a deal on the property, or inside information being given as the listing agent no has the chance to “double-end” the commission. This is where buyers need to proceed cautiously. It’s not to say that an agent can’t properly represent both sides of the transaction, but its sticky territory and as a buyer, you are putting a great deal of faith into the ethical procedures of an agent that you’ve likely never met or know little about. Further, we as agents have a “fiduciary” duty our clients. Our job is be a tough negotiator and fight for their financial well-being. Again, many agents balance the role of representing both sides very well, but it’s certainly an area to be cautious about.
The bottom line is that having an agent representing you on the buying side can be extremely beneficial. They are there to work for you, and only you and their value should be in making sure your not over-paying, negotiating on repair items, coordinating the transaction process, and ensuring that paperwork is complete and you’re protected. The industry has changed, and they may not be as valuable in the search arena as they once were, but a good buyer’s agent will add tremendous value to your transaction in many other areas. Finally, you don’t pay for the agent as a buyer, the seller does. If the seller is paying their commission, why wouldn’t you seek their representation and expertise?