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Thread: Real estate agents: What should I expect?

  1. #1
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    Real estate agents: What should I expect?

    Hello fellow-frugalites: Spouse & I are taking the plunge. We're looking for a house. I've been using a real estate agent that I've known for many years. She's a casual friend and a member of my defunct book group. She's also semi-retired, and very sweet.

    That said: What should I expect in the 21st century from an agent? So far she has sent me five listings. I don't think she had seen any of these in person, as she was not the seller's agent on them. We sent her a list of things we must have in a house, and our price range. The first place was in the price range, but we didn't like it at all--and there was water in the basement. The second place was about $20K cheaper than what we we expected to pay, but it's a level above a fixer-upper. Spouse asked her what we should be looking at in order to get to the "next step above these" houses. She said $90-$100K. OK, fine--we might be able to do that with help from a relative.

    I'm not sure how to phrase this and I hope I'm not babbling. She said "a lot of people just look on the Internet" for properties. I may still be thinking 20th-century, but, um, isn't it the buyer's agent's job to find the properties? We have access to the region's realtors' association page with all the MLS listings, so we do look. I'm just wondering if this is the right agent. She doesn't seem very aggressive (I hate that word, but I think you know what I mean). Like yesterday: she sent us two more listings. One was backing the main street in our town (YUCK) and I'm pretty sure I told her we do NOT want to live in that town any longer. The other had a pool. I know I told her we don't need a pool--we don't WANT a pool.

    So...what should I expect from a real estate agent? Is this largely gonna be our job? If so, what do they do to earn their commission? I'm very confused.

  2. #2
    Senior Member herbgeek's Avatar
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    Is this agent an exclusively buyer's agent? If not, she gets her money from the seller and will not necessarily be working in YOUR best interest. Sure, its good when all interests align, but if there's a conflict she's not bound to your interests over the sellers.

    I see the real estate's job more as closing the deal, and helping move along the necessary paperwork. They also do the open houses/viewings once you've determined you are interested.

    Is there a reason why you aren't doing some initial pre screening of your own on the internet?

  3. #3
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    Hi, herbgeek: No, she's not exclusively a buyer's agent.

    We have been doing the pre-screening on our own. Frankly, it's a bit overwhelming, but that's how Spouse found a couple of properties we looked at. Prior to contacting her, we did some drive-bys on our own as well.

    Should I be looking for a buyer's agent?

  4. #4
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    Yes I would get a buyers agent. 6 years ago the realtor found us houses. Yes we looked on the internet too. Your agent is not doing her job.

  5. #5
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    Yeah, she's being pretty casual about it.

    OK--How do I find a buyer's agent amongst the many many agents online? I just Googled "buyer's agent my county" and a LOT of results came up.

  6. #6
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    After several less than stellar experiences with realtors, we have bought/sold several houses since without one but had to hire one when we moved to Colorado. As mentioned, she was only somewhat helpful with all the closing paperwork but we found all the houses we liked ourselves before she even knew about them. Including the one we bought. I don't think she really earned her commission. Next house, we will seek out a FSBO and/or use a 1% agent for paperwork only.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Gardenarian's Avatar
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    We have always looked for houses ourselves online, as well as relying on a real estate agent. Zillow is a great way to look for houses. You can filter it by the size, location, price, and other factors. Realtor.com is similar, but I have found more on Zillow. It includes sale history, so you can see how much the house sold for previously, and price per square foot, which is handy for making comparisons, and lots of other info. Zillow includes FSBO, foreclosures, and regular sales.

    A real estate agent might have inside information on houses that are just coming onto the market, and might call your attention to areas that you might not have considered.

    The last three houses we bought we found ourselves on Zillow, and then had our agent do the negotiations for us. (We own a couple rental houses.) Agents are great at knowing what inspections need to be done and general real estate trends, but only you know what kind of house you want.

    One more thing; when you find a place you're really interested in, ask your agent if you can spend some time there alone - at least an hour. Sit in the yard and see how noisy it is. Take lots of pictures. Take some measurements. Check it out in the evening, too. Note where you get sun, and lack of it. Walk around the neighborhood. Most people spend only 10 minutes looking at a house before they purchase, less than you'd spend on a pair of shoes.

  8. #8
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    frugalone, you should expect more from your agent than you're getting. Unless your market is very slow, there should be a number of listings to sift through. Your agent should at least have information on and access to houses that are not yet on the public MLS and be bringing them to your attention if they look like a good fit.

    However, as herbgeek said, if you are not paying her for her services, she represents sellers and you may not get her best effort for you. I can't say if what she's bringing you is a reflection of the properties currently on the market or if she's not being diligent or that something going on in her life is distracting her.

    It also may be that she's the type of person who really needs specifics on location, size, how fixed your budget is, housing styles, etc. It probably would help her (or whoever you end up using as an agent) to be given a written list of specifics ("1500-2000 square feet maximum", "single-family home" [i.e. no townhouses/condos]) and to rank must-haves/nice-to-haves (e.g., must not be in East Overshoe, must have a two-car garage (nice to have it attached), nice to have an eat-in-kitchen, etc.). Keep the list updated as preferences become known and refer back to the list if she gives you a listing that clearly does not match your requirements.

    We've found Web browsing a great way to shortcut kissing a lot of frogs but not everyone is up to it and an agent can show you a house that you might like even though it's not officially for sale (the house we're in now is just one such example). But I suspect you need to give whoever is serving as your agent a clear understanding of what you want and what you absolutely do not want and then let them find what meets your wishes.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  9. #9
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    We've been looking on Zillow, as well as checking Trulia for comps.

    Maybe we ought to try the written list thing.

    Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!

  10. #10
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    Realtor.com

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