| Question : Why should I use a real estate agent? (1)
Using a real estate agent to search for a home has several advantages over looking for a home on your own. A real estate agent can:
- Help you determine exactly what you’re looking for.
- Arrange appointments for you to visit homes, and tour them with you.
- Assist you in evaluating the quality of the home, compared to the price.
- Make it easier to negotiate and close the deal.
| Question : What is the role of the real estate agent? (1)
The main function of agents and brokers is to assist buyers and sellers with the transaction of transferring property from one person to another. Because this is a regulated function, agents and brokers must be licensed by the state.
If you’ve decided to work with an agent in your homebuying process, it’s important to be aware of the different roles agents play.
The first thing you need to know is that all agents work for a broker. The broker is ultimately responsible for all transactions, and shares in all commissions. Real estate agents can assist you in several ways:
- A seller’s agent (or listing agent) represents the seller, assists with setting the sales price, markets the property and helps with negotiations.
- A buyer’s agent represents the buyer, locates potential properties, assists with negotiations and protects the buyer’s interests.
- A dual agent represents both buyer and seller in the same transaction.
- A designated representation is a situation in which the buyer and seller are using the same broker.
| Question : What is the Multiple Listing Service? (1)
Most agents are members of a Multiple Listing Service, or MLS (this service may have a different name in your area). The MLS is a computer database of available properties for sale. It's a valuable tool that provides your agent with up-to-the-minute property updates and the ability to quickly narrow the search to locate potential properties that meet your needs.
Another tool your agent can use to help you is a Comparative Market Analysis. This report provides data on recently-sold properties in the surrounding area that are similar in size, features, construction, etc., to the property you’re considering. Your agent will be able to see what the asking price was for a particular house, how long it took to sell and the price it sold for. Having this information will help you and your agent determine the appropriate price to offer for the house you’re considering.
| Question : What is a REALTOR®? (1)
Not all real estate agents are Realtors. Realtors are members of a trade association that requires its members to abide by certain standards and practices related to real estate transactions. This trade organization is national and usually has both state and local chapters (i.e., Virginia Association of Realtors and Northern Virginia Association of Realtors). "Real estate agent" is a generic term that can be used by anyone with a license to sell real estate.
You may also notice that some agents have other designations listed on their business cards such as CRS or GRI. The Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) designation recognizes professional accomplishments in both experience and education. The Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) designation indicates additional training in many areas of real estate to better serve and protect clients.
| Question : What are some things I should consider when choosing an agent? (1)
A good source for agent information is the internet, including this webpage. Use the search tool above to find a real estate agent who is a member of Virginia Housing’s Real Estate Agent Connection. These agents have been through our training program and are experts in addressing the needs of first-time homebuyers.
Take your time and put some thought into selecting an agent. You may talk with two or three before you find one you want to work with. It’s important that you feel comfortable with your agent since they’ll be working closely with you to find a house that meets your needs. With that in mind, before you sign an exclusive contract, you might want to ask yourself these questions:
- Is the agent easily accessible, and do they return my calls?
- When the agent takes me to look at houses, do they match what I’m looking for?
- Does the agent explain things in a way I understand, including different financing options?
Another way to choose an agent is by getting referrals from people you know who have had good experiences with their agent.
| Question : How are real estate agents paid? (1)
Be sure to ask at the beginning of the process how the agent will be paid. In some areas, a buyer’s agent may charge the buyer an hourly rate that must be paid if a house is not purchased. “Fee for service” is another way an agent may be paid.
Typically, it doesn’t cost a potential homebuyer any money out of pocket to use a buyer’s agent. The seller pays a commission, or percentage of the sales price, to the seller broker at loan closing. The commission is then shared among the seller broker, seller’s agent, buyer broker and buyer’s agent.
Once you choose a buyer’s agent to represent you, you may be asked to sign a buyer broker agreement. This exclusive agreement outlines the duties and obligations of both parties, agency relationships, commissions and scope of duty.
Before signing an exclusive agreement with a real estate agent, be sure to read it carefully. This is a legally binding contract that locks you into working exclusively with that agent for the specified time period. If you find a house on your own, the terms of the agreement with your buyer broker, including payment, must still be met.