One of the first questions buyers generally have is “Should I buy a home directly from the listing agent?” That’s a very good question and one that, if you don’t know the answer, could result in a big—huge mistake!
OK, so what are you saying?
Well, we’re saying that, first of all, asking questions is the best way to avoid common home buying mistakes. And second, that if you don’t know how to buy a home, it could end up costing you… and no one wants that!
So what should I do if I want to buy a home?
There are several ways to go about buying a home. So let’s talk about the best way to buy a home and the one thing you should NEVER do if you don’t want to pay more than you have to for your new home.
Let’s start with defining some real estate lingo so you are fully aware of the role each party plays when it comes to buying a home.
Believe it or not, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to what each party actually does because some of the real estate lingo makes it sound contradictory. So let’s clear up all that confusion, so you will be more educated about what everything means than most of the Lakeland, FL home buyers out there.
What Is a Listing Agent?
A listing agent is the real estate agent that represents the seller (homeowner) in the sale of their home. The main objective of a listing agent is to help the homeowner sell their home and work in a manner that looks out for the best interest of their client (the homeowner) and to obtain the best possible terms for the sale of their home.
What Is a Buyer’s Agent?
A buyer’s agent helps a home buyer find a home that meets their wants and needs, identify a home’s potential pitfalls and red flags, helps the buyer negotiate an acceptable sale price, and guides the homebuyer every step of the way. Everything from inspections, through the mortgage process, then through the closing and transitioning to their new home. This is just a quick overview of what a buyer’s agent does. But the truth is…he/she does so much more.
What Is a Single Agent?
In Florida, the law states a single agent is one who has a fiduciary responsibility to either the buyer or the seller in the same transaction, but not both. When there is a single agent relationship, either the seller or the buyer is the principal (the party with whom a real estate broker has entered into a single agent relationship) and the real estate broker is the agent.
But there’s more…in Florida, all real estate agents are presumed a transaction broker.
So in the case where one agent is representing both parties, he/she then has to transition from a single agent relationship. It’s at this point an agent then becomes what is called a transaction broker because dual agencies are outlawed in Florida and many other states as well.
Are you still with me?
What Is a Transaction Broker?
A transaction broker is a real estate agent who provides his/her services to both the buyer and the seller. But since a real estate agent has a fiduciary responsibility to only assist one party in a real estate transaction, that licensee has to transition to a transaction broker. A transaction broker is able to assist both parties in a real estate transaction by providing a limited form of representation to both parties (the buyer and the seller).
This is just another reason why having a buyer’s agent is so important!
What Is a Premier Agent?
You will frequently see the term premier agent when browsing real estate advertising websites. But most people have no idea what that is. A premier agent is one who pays for a featured advertising spot next to all the other property listings on real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia, etc. There is no special training or any certifications required to be a Premier agent. The only requirement is that the agent pays a monthly fee for premium ad space.
What Is the Difference Between a Realtor® and a Real Estate Agent?
Many people use the terms Realtor® and real estate agent interchangeably; however, they don’t quite mean the same thing. A real estate agent is a person who is legally required to be licensed to represent buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction.
A Realtor® is any real estate agent or broker who is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Only members of this association can be identified as a Realtor®. So the only difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor® is that Realtors® agree to follow a set of standards and ethics guidelines that were designed to ensure the integrity of the agent and to protect clients.
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NOW…DRUM ROLL PLEASE…THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…
Should I Buy a Home Directly from the Listing Agent?
Did we say NO?
Because, no matter how hard a real estate agent might try…there will always be a conflict of interest. Mainly because the real estate agent has a financial interest in selling a home at the highest possible price.
Buying a home from the listing agent is the one thing you must never do if you want to be sure you are getting the best possible deal.
Let’s look at a scenario:
Let’s say a real estate agent is conducting an open house and at that open house, a couple who has just toured the home tells the agent how much they love it. Then that couple goes on to tell the agent that their lease is about to expire, and they need to buy a home right away before they have to sign another lease. The agent then has that couple sign a contract for that home. However, the couple has decided to submit a lower than asking price offer.
And here is where things get dicey.
The listing agent that conducted the open house and sold the home tells the seller how much the couple loved their home and that they need to buy something quickly. And for those reasons, the real estate agent tells the seller that he/she doesn’t see any reason for them to accept that lower than asking price offer because he/she believes, based on the conversation he/she had with the buyer, that they would probably pay the asking price.
This is just one scenario that resulted in a conflict of interest. And since a real estate agent has a financial incentive to sell a home at the highest price possible (so he/she can receive a higher commission), the buyer is usually the one who loses. Whereas, if the buyer was using a buyer’s agent who was legally bound to confidentially represent them and their best interest, that wouldn’t have happened.
Why Hire a Buyer’s Agent?
The reasons for hiring a buyer’s agent are endless. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize just how important the role of a buyer’s agent really is. So they find a home then contact the listing agent just because they unknowingly think that’s who they are supposed to contact if they want to see that home. Unfortunately, that’s the worst thing a homebuyer could do, as we talked about a moment ago.
Hiring a buyer’s agent will ensure the homebuyer has someone who is working strictly in their best interest versus a listing agent whose sole responsibility is to their seller.
The Risks of Buying a Home Without a Buyer’s Agent
Some homebuyers believe that if they work directly with the listing agent it would put the buyer’s agent commission back in their pocket, but that’s not usually the case. In fact, not working with a buyer’s agent is likely to cost you more money after everything is all said and done. Why? Because there are so many variables when buying a home.
- You could overpay for the home, especially if it’s a “For Sale By Owner” listing because the seller might not know the actual value of their home, in turn, wasting everyone’s time and money. And, most sellers greatly overestimate the value of their home.
- Real estate agents are held to a professional standard; therefore, if they know there is something wrong with a home, they are obligated to tell you. However, a seller might not tell you of a defect. Real estate agents sell homes for a living and deal with repair and maintenance issues all the time. Therefore, they will frequently be able to spot problem homes and red flag issues from a mile away! This type of experience is PRICELESS!
- A real estate agent knows how to decipher an inspection report and can help the buyer negotiate which repairs are reasonable and which ones aren’t. If you don’t have a buyer’s agent by your side, it could cost you!
- A buyer’s agent knows the legalities of buying and selling homes. If you aren’t using a buyer’s agent you could inadvertently get yourself into legal trouble either now or down the road.
- What if the home doesn’t appraise for what you contracted it for? A buyer’s agent knows how to negotiate, work with the seller, or using other techniques to help work everything out in your favor.
How Do I Find the Right Buyer’s Agent?
Finding the right buyer’s agent will make the home buying process a whole lot easier, as well as ensuring the homebuyer gets a home that meets their particular wants, needs, and budget.
The best way to find a good buyer’s agent is to research, then interview at least three agents. Never just take the first buyer’s agent you meet without first learning about their background and experience. If you want to find the right buyer’s agent for you, there are some questions you should ask.
- Do you have experience in this area? If so, how many years?
- How many homes have you sold in this area in the last few years?
- How long have you been a real estate agent? Try to find someone who has at least two years of experience and a successful track record in the real estate industry.
- What is your schedule? Are you full-time or part-time? If you’re part-time, who will be covering for you when you’re not available and what is their experience and success rate?
How Much Does a Buyer’s Agent Cost?
- Commission from the Seller: In most real estate transactions, the seller’s agent lists the property for sale and offers a commission to the buyer’s agent as an incentive to bring a buyer. The seller pays this commission to the listing broker, who then shares it with the buyer’s agent. The commission is usually a percentage of the final sale price and can vary, but it is commonly around 2.5% to 3% of the sale price.
- Agreement with the Buyer: Before working with a buyer’s agent, the buyer and the agent typically sign a buyer’s agency agreement. This agreement outlines the agent’s responsibilities and the terms of compensation. In some cases, the buyer might agree to compensate the agent directly, especially if the seller is not offering a commission, or if it is insufficient to cover the agent’s fees. This situation is less common but can occur.
- Splitting the Commission: If a commission is offered by the seller and the buyer’s agent is not compensated directly by the buyer, the commission is typically split between the listing agent’s broker and the buyer’s agent’s broker. Each brokerage may have its own arrangement for how to split the commission. The buyer’s agent, in turn, receives a share of that commission as determined by their brokerage agreement.
- Paid at Closing: The commission earned by the buyer’s agent is paid at the closing of the real estate transaction. It comes out of the proceeds of the sale, so the buyer’s agent does not receive their payment until the deal is finalized.
It’s essential for buyers to understand how their agent is compensated and what is outlined in their buyer’s agency agreement. Buyers should also consider that, even though the seller pays the commission in most cases, it’s ultimately reflected in the purchase price, as the seller typically factors in the commission costs when setting the asking price for the property.
The specific details of commission rates and agreements can vary by location and real estate market, so it’s essential to discuss these matters with your chosen buyer’s agent before starting your home search.
What to Do Once You Have Found a Buyer’s Agent
Once you have found a buyer’s agent, he/she will ask you to sign a contract called an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement. This agreement simply confirms that real estate agent’s services and the commission they are entitled to receive after they successfully find and close on a home for you. Remember…the homebuyer isn’t the one who pays this fee, the seller does.
The Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement also states that the named real estate agent will represent you, the homebuyer, and that you agree to not work with any other buyer’s agent during the agreed upon timeframe. Most of these agreements are for at least 90 days; however, you can ask for an alternative commitment if you’d like. The purpose of this agreement is to provide compensation to the agent should a buyer switch agents in the middle of the process. This usually happens when the buyer ultimately buys a home from a different agent when the first agent was the one who actually found/showed the buyer that home.
The Benefits of Signing an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement
There are many great reasons you shouldn’t hesitate to sign an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement. This agreement will confirm the following.
- Full disclosure of pertinent information.
- A thorough accounting of all related matters.
- Strict confidentiality that your agent won’t disclose any personal motives or financial intentions you have shared with them to any other party.
- The agent will, to the best of their ability, help the buyer find a home that best suits their needs, wants, and budget.
- Will help the buyer negotiate the best possible sale price.
- The agent pledges complete loyalty to the buyer so there is no conflict of interest like there is when a buyer uses the listing agent to complete the purchase of their new home.
Another benefit that comes with using a buyer’s agent is that a buyer’s agent is allowed to show you homes that are not listed on the MLS. This broadens your selection of available homes.
If you are looking for a home and need a buyer’s agent, please Contact Us today. The Lakeland Real Estate Group has been helping the great people of Lakeland, Florida and the surrounding areas find their perfect home for many years. We are experienced Realtors® with a long-standing reputation in the community and look forward to working with you too!
Other Valuable Resources to Consider
Why Have A Buyer’s Agent Purchasing a House? – Bill Gassett
Buyer’s Agents Do More Than Just Unlock Doors – Kevin Vitali
Mortgage scams to watch out for – Paul Sian
Eight Mistakes Home Buyers Make When Purchasing a Home – Sharon Paxson
What happens at a Real Estate Home Closing – Lynn Pineda
About the author: The above real estate article “Should I Buy A Home Directly From The Listing Agent?” was written by Petra Norris of Lakeland Real Estate Group, Inc. With over 20 years of combined experience of selling or buying, we would love to share our knowledge and expertise. Petra can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 863-712-4207