BOULDER – When I was in my 20s and starting my professional career a wise businesswoman told me that I needed an expert in every area of my life. That was sage advice then and its sage advice when you are buying a home. The experts who help you face the challenges in buying your first home include a licensed Realtor, a lender, a home inspector, a title company and an insurance agent.
The home buying process consists of eight main steps:
1) Determine what you want in a home
2) Select a Realtor to act as your buyer agent
3) Get pre-qualified for a home loan
4) The property search
5) The offer
6) Negotiation and acceptance
7) The inspection
8) The closing
Many first time home buyers use online websites such as Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and others to acquaint themselves with available homes in an area. There is certainly value in this especially to familiarize a buyer with the current market. These internet based services lack some of the key elements that a Realtor can offer a buyer.
Until about 15 years ago in most areas of the country one Realtor served both buyer and seller during a transaction. Today buyers have the luxury of entering into an agreement (contract to buy real estate) with a real estate agent to exclusively represent their interest. In nearly all transactions the seller pays the commission of the buyer’s agent, so a buyer gains the expertise of a Realtor without having to directly pay for his service.
A good Realtor has knowledge of the local area and the real estate market; expertise in contracts and other documents; and most importantly time to work for the buyer to craft strategies and plans to meet their specific home buying needs. Prudent buyers find a Realtor who they can trust to ease what can be a challenging and daunting process. A Realtor can’t make important decisions for the buyers but can provide valuable information, guidance and advice; suggest other professionals to assist them; and offer clarification to simplify the decisions they will need to make.
So how does a buyer find the most suitable real estate agent for their home purchase? Open Houses are a nice way to meet and engage with a Realtor, because Realtors at Open Houses are often eager to talk with potential clients and to answer your questions. You can find out their level of communication skills (especially pay attention to how well they listen). An Open House is a pressure free way to see if you like the Realtor’s approach and style. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that pertain to your situation to discover his level of expertise in that area.
Recommendations from friends and co-workers is also a good avenue to find a Realtor. Always ask if they had a good experience during their sale or purchase and what they liked about the Realtor. Realtors usually have websites where you can review their resume, experience and testimonials.
Another strategy is to call three Realtors and explain what kind of home you are looking for. Ask them to e-mail you some property listings that match your search parameters. A responsive and qualified Realtor will be good at “hearing” your list of parameters and respond quickly by e-mail.
One excellent way to learn about a Realtor and whether they will be a good fit for you is to ask him to show you some homes in the area. Use this time to find out his strengths and weaknesses. How you get along during your first few showings can be a good indicator of the quality of your long term relationship.
The critical questions to keep in mind while evaluating a Realtor is “can I/we trust this person with what is likely my/our largest financial transaction?” and “Does he have time to work for me/us during the home buying process?”. Intuition is a valuable tool, and I recommend you use yours confidently when selecting your Realtor.
John Griffin is a licensed Realtor at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boulder and will teach a class for new home buyers on April 23, 2016. For more information contact John at 303.408.7510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.