Choosing a Buyer's agent

weedyacresNovember 19, 2012

Hopefully sometime in the near future we'll start the house hunt in the town we're moving to. I'm thinking it's about time I turn my energies toward picking a good agent to work with. With previous houses, the relocation company has given me one, but now I'm on my own to select one. I'm looking for tips on how to screen them, other than the 2 pages of interview questions that I'll inevitably come up with. :-)

We're moving to a small town (population 15,000) that has 26 realtors. I've been working here for 3 years now, and have done lots of driving around neighborhoods so I have a sense for where I'd like to live, but I don't know a lot of the stuff that you only learn when you're living in a place, reading the newspaper, participating in community organizations, etc. Stuff like taxes in & out of city limits, school districts (we don't have kids, but need to consider resale), future development plans, etc.

So, any tips for determining who's in and who's out? Since I'm looking for a buyer's agent, screening their listings doesn't help much.

Do I insist on a full time agent?

Do I ask an office to run me an MLS report showing who's closed the most sales on the selling side and pick from one of the top ones there? That seems like it would matter less than on the listing side.

I've asked for referrals from colleagues, and one name came up. But she quite literally has 25% of the listings in town. That means there's a high probability that we'd end up in a dual agency situation, which I'd prefer to avoid.

Any other tips in starting the culling would be appreciated.

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We've bought our last 2 houses and sold 1 with only one agent involved. If all the parties involved are "normal" and reasonable then it is great to have one less person in the middle. It sounds like you have bought/sold a few houses so having a dual agency shouldn't be an issue. We use a lawyer in any case and don't expect anyone else, but ourselves, to do what is best for us.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:33PM
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Bump...really, no one has suggestions on how to pick a good buyer's agent?

Other thoughts I've had since my original post:
-Need to be able to pull comps to help me come up with a solid offer price. They're not available online in the new town, so I can't DIY it. Perhaps I have them show me a home, then ask them to pull comps for me to evaluate and see how they do.
-Mr. Weedy suggested we ask them how they deal with FSBO's. We'd want someone who doesn't consider them poison.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 4:13PM
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"Bump...really, no one has suggestions on how to pick a good buyer's agent?"

Do you really need a buyer's agent? We started out using one but had to fire her after she got us in legal hot water. After that we looked on our own. When we found what we wanted we used a RE attorney to do the closing.

Here are a few tips you might want to consider.

Join the local Rotary or other social organizations where people might chat about houses they have seen for sale, etc. They can tell you about the ins and outs of particular neighborhoods.

Attend Open houses regularly. Use these as opportunities to talk to different agents to see how you get along with them. Ask them about comps, etc. See if they seem knowledgable about the property they are marketing. Mingle with the other home buyers to ask what other places they have looked at that might not have passed their test but could be perfect for you.

Attend auctions or tax foreclosure-sheriff sales. You can get some good deals, or, run into folks who might know of something you might be interested in.

Establish a relationship with a local bank manager/loan specialist. They know the ones who are behind in their payments and might need to sell before they go to foreclosure. That is what our seller did. He found our place before it went on the market, bought it, fixed it up and sold it to us.

Place an ad in the paper detailing what your looking for. Assure anonymity to any responders, as those who live in small towns sometimes don't want everyone to know their business.

Offer a finders fee to any real estate agents who can find what your looking for even if you haven't signed with them yet.

You said you have worked in this town for 3 yrs. Have you considered renting for a year or so before you buy so you can see what areas might be more desirable?

Would you be willing to rent your current home in order to do this before you buy?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 5:18PM
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If you lived in northern nj (doubtful with the population you indicated) you cold use a company which is flat fee.
On the flip side if the same company represents both parties be creative and ask for a kickback or rebate at closing from their commissions. The house keeps half and no reason they can't give back a bit of their 3%. May seem like you are a punk but I wouldn't mention until contract is signed and in the three day holding period.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 8:23PM
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dreamgarden: Thanks for the ideas. I'm not here on weekends, so unfortunately that crosses the "open house interview" method off the list of possibilities. I do need to have an agent, because otherwise I've got no access to comps, and this is a town with a wide range of diverse housing stock and what subdivisions it does have are not large. So pricing can be a bit tricky. I have been living here (during the week) so feel like I've got a decent feel for the different neighborhoods. Renting is an option if we can't find what we like, but I feel comfortable buying right away.

roosevelt: nah, we're far from NJ, in the midwest actually. And in the price range we're looking to buy, their flat fee would eat up their whole half of the commission anyway. Oh well, it's a good idea!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 9:25AM
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I just realized that you said you work in this ask around your co-workers or clients and get some recommendations from them. If you end up working with one of them, be sure to let them know who referred them.

I don't know what the 3-day holding period is - I know some states have them for specific contracts but at least here there is not one for a residential purchase. And the commission is written in the contract so not to be negotiated after it is signed - must be done before. The seller usually pays the commission anyway, so doesn't really help you as a buyer.

You've been on this forum long enough and are smart enough to ensure your buyer's agent is going to do the job for you. Just be sure to voice your expectations during the interview.

My in-laws are going through a small-town real estate transaction and it turns out both their listing agent and the buyer's agents are crazy. It seems that they have some sort of good 'ole boy "this is the way we've always done it" out-here-in-the-sticks attitude that I just don't think works in the current environment. Can't say details until they close in two weeks but the latest twist was a doozy - will start a venting thread when it's over! I can just say, you might want to steer clear of agents who suggest that this is a poor time to negotiate because of the particular alignment of Venus and Mars (or maybe it was Venus and the moon, can't remember) interfere with communication. Not kidding.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 10:43AM
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