Should I use a buyer's broker?
November 16, 2017 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Very basic question about real estate purchases and buyer/seller brokers in New York/Western Massachusetts. I'm thinking about buying a property that I would use partly for my own vacations and partly to rent out on AirBnb. What are the ramifications about working with a broker of our own versus just booking appointments with the sellers' brokers and not having our own broker?

That's about it. There is one property that's been on the market for a while that I particularly like, but it's priced rather high for the area (as far as I can tell). I'd like to take a weekend there and look at that house and also have a broker take us around to other houses in New York and Western Mass. A friend gave us the name of a broker she liked. Should I contact her and have her be our point person for all house-search questions from now on, or should I just contact the brokers of each interesting house I see on Zillow or whereever? Thanks for your thoughts.
posted by pipti to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am in the process of buying a house in Western Mass, and our broker has been a lifesaver. A big part of it is that I did not grow up in an area with old houses (i.e. legit colonial-era farmhouses, not just pre-WWII buildings) and she knows a ton about them. The other big part is MA has its own quirks about the laws and customs around buying a house, and having someone on my side to walk me through them has been really nice. I've bought property before, but it's been super helpful having someone else keeping an eye on the timeline and checking on all the moving parts for me as they periodically grind to a halt and spit sparks. (No, I do not enjoy real estate transactions, why do you ask?)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:19 AM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

This question gets asked a lot, and I can understand the desire to not have one and save some money. I think a pretty good rule of thumb is that if you don't know what they do, you need one. How will you be able to do it all yourself if you don't even know what they do? Too many of the actions aren't appropriate to have the seller's broker do for you (e.g., schedule inspections for you, facilitate negotiations over repairs). Good luck with your purchase!
posted by slidell at 7:47 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

This may also vary from state-to-state, but a buyers agent (which I think is my local parlance for what you're calling a buyers broker) is paid by the seller as part of the commission/fee.

Typical listing fee is 6% so the selling, listing (sellers people), and (your) buyers agent would split the fee.

And yes, they are quite helpful for local issues etc. Just make sure you get one that's actually helpful/useful etc -
posted by k5.user at 8:06 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know what a buyer broker is or if it differs from a real estate agent acting as a buyer's agent, but we're in process of purchasing a place in MA and our realtor has been an absolute life saver. She's really expertly guided us through the entire process. She's offered frank, straightforward opinions and used her expertise to help us formulate the offer that was eventually accepted. Where she really came in handy was negotiating after the home inspection on a few points that needed addressing.

A seller's agent (a realtor who works for the seller) does not have the buyer's interest mind. Our realtor has us completely in mind and is able to act on our behalf. She is also being paid her commission through the seller's sale so we aren't paying her directly for her work, but she's certainly earned her commission!
posted by zizzle at 8:55 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used a broker to purchase my home and I am certain it's a big part of why we have a house we love at a price we were good with. She gave us so many negotiation pointers, had a deep rolodex of contacts for us, great advice, etc. She helped us not make bad decisions, gave us great tips when checking places out, and advocated hard for us with the seller agents. She also cost us $0. The sellers paid her fee! I can't think of why you WOULDN'T get a broker.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:01 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

When we bought in that area about a decade ago, we did not use a buyer's broker. We found the seller's broker to be trustworthy and useful. Her local knowledge was invaluable. I felt then and still feel that she wanted to put together a good deal for her client and for us as much as she wanted to make the sale because this was her town, her neighbors, and her reputation.

Here comes the caveat: prices have skyrocketed in the last couple years. In any market that gotten suddenly hot, I think it's wise to be cautious. So if I were buying now, I would hire your own broker. You can always reconsider if you don't find them to be useful.
posted by minervous at 9:36 AM on November 16, 2017

Because the buyer's broker is going to guide you through a trying and scary process that you probably don't know much about at all.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:43 AM on November 16, 2017

of the past four houses we bought, three out of four it was worth having our own agent for a variety of reasons
#1 - new buyers, had no idea what we were doing, really needed the hand-holding from beginning to end
#2 - seller used an out-of-town relative as their broker. Seller's agent was useless, our agent did a lot of work to make sure the sale went through
# 3 - For sale by owner - they agreed to pay the fee for our broker who again did much of the work, especially making sure that everything complied with all of the laws requiring mandatory disclosures
# 4 - vacation home in nearby mountains - seller's broker actually did most of the work and had a better idea of local people to hire that the agent we hired (who was based about 20 miles away from the house we ended up wanting) Would have been fine just using seller's agent this time but obviously didn't know it until we were fairly far into the process
posted by metahawk at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2017

"If you don’t use a broker you - who maybe aren’t used to negotiating and perhaps not as experienced with the local market and trends - are going to be navigating a very expensive transaction “against” a person who has all the necessary tools and information as well as a commitment to get the best price for their client. I can almost guarantee that you’ll get a better deal if you work with a broker. The seller pays your broker - it doesn’t cost you anything - so I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t.

Not to mention that your broker (if they’re good) will manage the logistics of all the inspections, paperwork, scheduling of meetings, etc. In most cases the broker will even meet the inspectors so you don’t have to take time off work. They generally have a great network of competent and trusted inspectors, mortgage sources and contractors who will do their best to support you.

To be a good realtor you need a network of people you can trust. For example a contractor who provides the broker’s client with excellent service and fair prices will get a lot of referrals from that broker. It’s a back-scratching symbiotic relationship.

The relationship is similar among realtors. A lot of negotiation happens “behind the scenes” and you really want someone on your side who can handle the nuances of this type of conversation. If your agent has worked with the seller’s agent before they probably have some insight into the best way to talk to that agent.

I’m using broker/realtor/agent interchangeably.

(Former realtor here.)
posted by bendy at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2017

thanks everyone. All of these answers are very helpful, and I think our path forward is clear!
posted by pipti at 7:46 AM on November 17, 2017

Yes yes use a buyer's agent, yes yes yes. My agent was awesome and I was looking for a modest home in a resort area where people spend millions on houses, he knew great local lenders and contractors, and we still hang out from time to time.
posted by vrakatar at 5:45 PM on November 18, 2017

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