Thursday, September 15, 2011 / by Ira Miskin
Via Peggy Chirico, REALTOR® 860-748-8900 Hartford & Tolland County Real Estate (Prudential CT Realty):
When I am speaking for the first time with potential buyers, one of the most misunderstood aspects of buying a home concerns buyer representation. Although we have had buyer representation in Connecticut since 1996, many people still do not understand that, as buyers, they have the right to have an agent who solely represents their interests. Here are some of the most common questions about buyer representation. I hope this will clear up WHY you need buyer representation!
What is buyer representation?
When you agree to work with a buyer's agent, you have the benefit of someone representing your best interests and negotiating on your behalf. The agent has a fiduciary responsibility and pledges to you loyalty, confidentiality, obedience, accountability, reasonable care, and diligence. These are not just words; you have an agent that helps you through every step of the transaction and puts your interests above everyone else's, including her own.
Can't I just call the agent whose name is on the sign in front of the house?
You can call that agent, but you must remember that he/she is representing the seller and will work in the seller's best interests. The agent can show you the house, and you must either consent to unrepresentation (you are on your own) or dual representation. If you choose to be unrepresented party, you must sign a paper that says that you understand that. If you want the agent to represent you, both you and the seller must sign papers that you agree to dual representation, and the agent will do his/her best to represent both parties fairly. A third option is that the agent can assign another agent from her broker's office to represent you, in which case you will have designated agency. But my question to you is: Why would you not want to select your own agent who works just for you?
Won't I get a better deal if I go to the listing agent?
This is a misconception that persists among novice buyers. Some people think that an agent will talk the seller into accepting a lower offer if that agent has both the buyer and seller because the agent will be getting all the commission. The reality is that the agent may be representing both parties, but the people in control of the final outcome are the seller and the buyer. If the seller doesn't want to accept your offer, it isn't going to happen. If you, the buyer, don't want to agree to the terms, it isn't going to happen either. Wouldn't you rather have an agent who will negotiate fully on your behalf so that you don't have to worry about where someone's allegiance lies?
Can you show me properties that aren't your listings?
Yes! No only can I show you any property that is listed on MLS but I can also show you For Sale By Owners (FSBOs). When the sellers list their homes for sale, they agree to pay the buyer's agent if they sell the home. The same is true for most FSBOs as well. The owners of FSBOs save money by not using a seller's agent, but most agree to pay a buyer's agent a commission. So if you see a property that interests, just let me know and I will arrange for us to see it.
How much does buyer representation cost?
In 99.9% of the cases, the commission is paid by the seller, so buyer representation costs you nothing. I have never had an instance where a buyer has paid my commission, even with FSBOs. The buyer representation agreement, however, will spell out that you will be responsible for my commission if the seller does not pay. But two things are important here: First, it is extremely rare; and second, we generally know ahead of time if there are any issues with the commission.
Do I have to sign anything?
Yes, our agreement is called Exclusive Right to Represent Buyer/Tenant and it outlines what each of our responsibilities are. State law requires that I can only show you other brokers' listings if we either have an Exclusive Right to Represent agreement or if I have permission from each seller to show you the property. Rather than getting permission for each property, the Exclusive Right to Represent allows me to show you all properties that are listed by any broker. When we meet, I will go over each section of the agreement so that you understand it, but essentially is says that for a period of time we will work together in an agency relationship and that I will represent you in the purchase of your new home or land. You agree that you will use me exclusively as your agent and will let others know that you have signed a buyer representation agreement. This protects you, me, and other agents by letting them know that we have an exclusive relationship.
How long do I have to sign the agreement for?
The period of time that we are under agreement is negotiable. I want our relationship to be a mutually satisfying one, and I believe that we should both want to work together. For that reason, I encourage you to select a period of time that you feel comfortable with. If you don't want to sign a long agreement at first, that's fine with me; we can always extend it later if we both agree.
What else do I need to know about buyer representation?
The other thing that many homebuyers don't understand is that buyer representation not just about finding the property and writing up the contract. A buyer's agent is critical in the steps leading up to the closing. The inspections need to be done, and inspection issues need to be negotiated. After inspections are completed, a buyer's agent will monitor the mortgage process, make sure that the commitment date is met, and make sure that the final walkthough meets the buyer's approval. Any extra services, such as coordinating attorney services, utility switchovers, and verifying that inspection issues have been completed may be part of the agent's responsibilities. This conversation does not happen over the phone. I always meet with a potential buyer first so we can discuss each step in the homebuying process. I want to provide as much information as possible and answer any questions they have so they will feel comfortable about the process. After I have explained what buyer representation is, I will ask them to sign an Exclusive Right to Represent agreement. I want them to feel comfortable that I am going to work for them, but I also want to know that they are committed to me. We go over everything they will need to do for homeownership:
•Do they understand each step of the homebuying process?
•Do they understand that the monthly payment includes mortgage principle and interest, taxes and insurance?
•What do they need to provide to a mortgage lender to see what they qualify for in a mortgage?
•What is the timing? When do they need to move in? Do they have flexibility?
•What are their criteria for their first home? Are they flexible in what they must have and what they would like to have?
•Are there any other decision makers?
I hope this answers some of your questions about buyer representation. If you have any other questions, please ask. Or give me a call and we'll get started!