As the Washington metro area housing market remains one of the strongest in the nation, potential buyers are facing fierce competition with multiple offers for a single property increasingly becoming the new norm with very low available inventory. When a buyer finds a property they want to purchase, they need to have everything in order and at the ready to move quickly to present a competitive and attractive offer to increase their chance of success.
Having professional representation is critical for buyers, who are making what is probably the biggest purchase they will ever undertake. It doesn’t “cost extra” and buyers will know that the person showing them properties has their best interests in mind.
The concept of buyer’s agency was instituted in the 1980s, in response to a recurring misconception of buyers that the real estate agent who was showing the properties was representing them, when in fact, the agents were being paid by the seller and representing the seller. Washington, D.C. was one of the first jurisdictions around the country to institute buyer’s agency, where buyers could opt for buyer representation, and Maryland and Virginia soon followed suit.
Here are ways to find a good buyer’s agent and how buyers can benefit from this association:
1. Get it in writing. You and your agent should sign a buyer’s agency agreement for a specific time period, with the terms and agent’s obligations spelled out for you. While some buyers may feel they want to keep their options open and “play the field,” this means that no agent is going to place you at the top of their list and throw themselves into action on your behalf. When properties come on the market, agents call their clients first, as they are obligated to do. And, in markets like the one we are in right now where there is a shortage of product, you need to find out about properties as soon as they become available.
2. Choose a good agent. Do the same things you would do if you were interviewing people for any job. Find good prospective agents by asking friends and neighbors who have just bought properties. Make a list of what you want to find and take note of how agents respond to your questions and concerns. Check out their level of experience and their biographies, which you can usually find on their company’s websites. Interview the people who have been recommended to you and when you find an agent you like who stands out from the rest, that’s the person to hire.
3. Negotiating is not for novices. Making an offer and dealing with counteroffers and sometimes multiple offers, and getting all the way to settlement can be tough on the central nervous system. You need a skillful agent at your side that has the experience to know what is important to both you and the seller; to know how and when you can get the best deal, both on the purchase and on negotiating items that might arise on the home inspection. You need someone who can keep track of schedules and deadlines and who can get you all the way to settlement with everything in order, including your sanity.
4. It takes two to communicate. Presumably, you have chosen an agent you can trust and who is on your wavelength. If you change your mind regarding what you want, how much you want to pay or where you want to live after spending time looking, don’t worry, lots of people do. Tell your agent your thoughts each step of the way. The better your communication is the better service you will get from your agent. Remember if you fail to communicate well, you are wasting your time and theirs.
5. Objectivity is key. Remember, your agent has one great attribute you will never have, no matter how hard you try. They aren’t you. It’s so easy to get carried away by a remark the seller may make or a small problem that may arise out of the home inspection that can overwhelm the buyer’s confidence in the property. Your agent is there to remind you of your goals and get the answers to questions that arise. In the end, the choice whether to make an offer on a property or to go forward with a purchase is always yours, but the agent is there to keep things in perspective. Whether you are buying a property for $200,000 or $2,000,000, it’s a lot of money. Make sure you get expert, objective advice on how to spend your money and make the choice that’s right for you.
Donna Evers is the broker and owner of Evers & Co. Real Estate, the largest woman-owned and run residential real estate firm in the Washington Metro area and the proprietor of Twin Oaks Tavern Winery in Bluemont, Va. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.