SO…you’re thinking about buying a house and your mom mentions your cousin Sally is a real estate agent and wouldn’t it be a nice idea to give her a call. She really needs the business and could use the money, that’s for sure. And, well, she IS your cousin, after all..and, the only thing you need an agent for is to let you in the house, right? What could it hurt? Really, give her a call. Besides, she isn’t busy, so she will have a lot more time for you and will work so much harder for you because you will be her only client.
Moms mean well. Friends mean well. Everyone means well.
But doesn’t it seem sometimes they are more concerned about “their friend, the agent” – especially if that friend or relative is a struggling agent – than they are about YOU?
There is more to helping someone buy a house than opening the door. A lot more.
And when someone else is helping you spend what is a very large amount of money – your money – well, you want the best representation you can find. Period. And it’s best if your agent isn’t learning on the job at your expense.
Some agents just don’t know what they don’t know. And that can be perilous for the you, the client, who is relying on that agent for expert assistance.
Let’s say you’re interested in a listing that happens to be a short sale. Your cousin is thrilled to help you write the offer but oops, she didn’t know about the short sale addendum. You know the one – where the clock doesn’t start ticking on inspections and appraisals – the money for which is coming out of your pocket – until after third party approval. The seller fails to get bank approval, the deal falls through and gee, sorry, the several hundred dollars you shelled out for the home inspection is gone. Oh, sorry.
You move on to the next house…do another inspection, shell out a few more bucks, but dear ole cousin Sally just couldn’t get to a fax machine in time to send in the list of requested repairs to the listing agent.
Oops, sorry about that. But it seems Sally didn’t realize the 7 day home inspection contingency meant not only the inspection had to be done, but the list of requested repairs had to be in, too. She thought she had 3 more days.
So, no repairs for you.
The right agent can expertly help you navigate the sometimes confusing, sometimes stressful, sometimes harried, often baffling, process of buying a home. And how you choose that agent is not something best left to chance.
It’s okay if you want to interview Cousin Sally and give her a shot, but make sure, for your sake, you also pick a couple of other agents with whom to compare. Not every great agent will be the best one for you, either, so don’t hesitate to rely on your gut to make your final decision – if you find an agent with whom you are comfortable and who you feel will do a great job for you, go for it.
Not sure how to interview an agent? Here are a few ideas – to which you can certainly add your own:
- How do you work? What hours and days do you work? How do you communicate? How often?
- How many homes will you show me?
- Are you full time or part time? If you’re part time, when are you available? How will we communicate?
- How long have you been in business? If newer, do you have a managing broker or mentor who will be helping you? How many transactions have you had? What areas of town? What price ranges?
Don’t hesitate to ask for references. And equally important, the agent should be asking a few questions of you, too: What are your needs, your wants, your wishes? How often do you want to communicate? How? What is your timetable? Are you preapproved for a loan? Oh, yeah, one other thing – make sure the agent is listening to you during the initial interview – that’s a good indicator of how likely he or she is to listen to you during the subsequent process.
Buying a house is a serious endeavor – don’t let choosing an agent become a game of chance.