Too late for a buyer's agent/
May 4, 2006 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Is it too late for me to get a buyer's agent involved before bidding on a house? (more)

I have been idly looking at houses for a few months, not through an agent really just by driving by houses and calling the listing agent or whatever. Last week, I found a place through a search on the internets ( that I really really like. We've been to see it twice, and both times were shown around by the listing agent. We are seriously thinking of putting an offer on it.

I hadn't planned on using an agent, I guess, but now that its coming down to brass tacks I'm hit with the realization that I don't really know the questions to ask. Is it too late in the process to get a buyer's agent involved? I know it may be weird, but I have this fear of offending the listing agent by bringing in a buyer's agent at this point. My other worry is how long will it take the new buyer's agent to get up to speed to help us put in an offer?

Yes, I'm a little nervous about making the biggest purchase of my life...
posted by GregW to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
No, it is never too late to get a buyer's agent. That listing agent would pull down a 6% commission if you used him as the buyer's agent, but I don't ever think it's a good idea - you want someone who is going to act as your advocate, when the agent in question just wants to get the deal done.
posted by mckenney at 3:44 PM on May 4, 2006

It's not too late. I bought my first house after finding it myself, but I brought in an agent to hold my hand through the transaction. Easiest money she ever made, I'll tell you.

If the seller's agent gets offended, well, too bad for her.

You've probably thought about this, but if you do it without an agent, you can use that to negotiate the price down a little: If both parties have agents, they split the commission (normally 6%, sometimes 5% with 3% going to the buyer's agent). If the buyer has no agent, the seller's agent keeps it all. So you could say "yes, I'll buy it, but the agent has to take 3% and you lower the sale price by that much. If you have friends who are more experienced with this kind of things, people in the building trades, or whatever, walk through it with them and get their advice.

I wouldn't blame you if you chose not to go it alone, but you can do it. And you'll still need to take initiative on a lot of stuff even with an agent.
posted by adamrice at 3:48 PM on May 4, 2006

There is certainly no shortage of buyer's agents who'd be willing to help you.

But keep in mind they don't necessarily have your best interest at heart either. They will encourage you to offer/pay the most that you can (by saying things like "you will certainly get outbid if you don't offer X) because their portion of the commission depends on how much you pay.

I recommend you read Freakonomics (at least the section about real estate agents)
posted by delladlux at 3:50 PM on May 4, 2006

We're currently house shopping as well, as we're brand new to the process we've gone with a buyers agent. Be careful with any contracts you sign with a buyers agent, although their obligation to you is to work on your behalf they CAN and some of the more unscrupulous will show you properties, etc that are listed with them or their agency.

In our (admitedly) brief experience with buyers agents thus far they have been an invaluable resource to someone very new to the process, as we are.

It's not too late for a buyers agent, but ask around for a recommendation...friends, family, and trusted co-workers in the area are a great starting point.

Real estate agents are generally very available and you can get in touch with them very easily, if they aren't available to talk to you about things in a reasonable time frame then they probably won't be there to guide you or offer advice during crunch time.

Make sure they are a member of the national association of realtors and ask for references. Check the references. Most agents won't have any problem at all referring you to 3 or more persons they've assisted in the last 6 months. If they haven't helped 3 people in the last 6 months, walk away. They probably aren't full time and probably don't have a good feel for the market and can't point you to reputable inspectors, advise on typical problems with homes in the area, etc.

Good luck on your search/bid! We didn't find a buyers agent in time for the first house we fell in love with and really wish I would have had one for it. Her input on the second house we made an offer on really helped the process along.
posted by iamabot at 4:22 PM on May 4, 2006

Don't worry about offending the listing agent, they represent the seller.

Depending on your state's laws, it may be too late to bring in a buyer's agent without consent of the seller's agent. Here in MN, whoever shows you the property has first right for the commission, even above and beyond a buyer's contract. This has held up consistantly in comission disputes between agents. Basically, either ask the seller's agent if they'd be willing to pay out to a buyer's agent of your choice, or do what iamabot suggests and get references for a realtor and ask them to make that phone call. If you don't get permission, you will probably be responsible for paying the buyer's agent. Negotiate all this before signing any contracts with anyone, or you could get screwed.

Shouldn't take much for your buyer's agent to come up to speed either, assuming you pick someone knowledgable about your area. Don't go with someone who's only had their license a few months, or only sold a few houses. Just be honest about your needs and abilities and things should be just fine. Good luck!
posted by Buck Eschaton at 4:50 PM on May 4, 2006

I've bought houses using a buyer's agent, a random agent we found while house shopping, our seller agent, and a listing agent, & I think the outcomes were pretty much the same. No one really has your best interest at heart, but no one wants to screw up the deal, either (because no one makes money). I didn't feel that any one of them was particularly aggressive at negotiating the lowest price for us - but in the end, they did what we told them to.

As for making the listing agent feel bad - she's your new best buddy until the deal closes, and then you'll never see her again. She's not your friend. She's doing a job. Part of her job is to connect with you and make you empathize with her, just so you will stick with her. Your job is to get the house you want at a reasonable price with the fewest complications. If you buy this house, she gets a commission, regardless, so she won't be offended.

One thing you should do is look up comps in the neighborhood where you're interested in buying. Find out what houses have sold for what price, and what they had in them (i.e. 1 1/2 baths vs. 2 1/2 baths, 3 bed rooms, bonus rooms, etc). Try to ignore cosmetics as much as possible and look at basics - is the foundation sound, is the basement wet, are the window seals blown, are they obviously covering things up. And get a good inspector - not one recommended by your realtor!!!! (I can't emphasize that enough). Good luck!
posted by clarkstonian at 4:53 PM on May 4, 2006

As an afterthought, we spent a lot of time on trying to come up with a competitive offer, a buyers agent will be able to search this same data and tell you what other houses in the area have closed for. It's not so much the list price (at least in the bay are) as it is the closing price of houses in the area that really help you guage the affordability of the market.
posted by iamabot at 5:03 PM on May 4, 2006

But keep in mind they don't necessarily have your best interest at heart either. They will encourage you to offer/pay the most that you can (by saying things like "you will certainly get outbid if you don't offer X) because their portion of the commission depends on how much you pay.

Not true. They are legally obligated to get you the best deal. Realtors do not like being sued. Not to mention that realtors depend on referrals, which means they want you to be happy and to recommend them to all your friends.
posted by konolia at 6:27 PM on May 4, 2006

As a real estate agent myself, I highly recommend using a buyer's agent in the process. That being said, be very careful about the commission split as stated by Buck Eschaton. Generally, whoever is the "procuring cause" of the sale is the person who is due the commission, and in this case the listing agent would most likely be the procuring cause. A buyer's agent will swear up and down that their split of the commission will come out of the seller's side, and that is the case 99% of the time. But if the listing agent plays hardball, and you have a signed agreement with a buyer's agent, you could be liable for the 3% above and beyond the existing commission structure.

Also, delladlux's comment about the agent not having your best interest in mind should be false. When you sign a Buyer's Agency, it explicitly states that they will represent your best interest, which means getting you the best price. There are some less-than-honest agents out there, but they are legally obligated to be on your side. (On preview, konolia got it)

Good luck, and if you have any questions, email is in my profile.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:23 PM on May 4, 2006

We found our (soon-to-be) house ourselves and then involved our buyer's agent for a second look and making the offer, etc. After finding the house ourselves, I was thinking, "What on earth do I need this agent for? This whole thing is a piece of cake!" Then we got to the stage where we were making counteroffers and trying to really come up with the value of the house, and it was so, so nice to have a person to handle the negotiations whose sole interest was looking out for your best interests. Maybe my experience was unusual, but our buyer's agent got us a way better deal than we would have gotten if I had been handling the negotiations myself.
posted by MarkAnd at 6:38 AM on May 5, 2006

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