How To Buy A Home – Part Two – Finding A Real Estate Agent

Part two of a multipart series on home buying in Texas

You’ve decided it’s time to buy a home, you’ve contacted a lender and now you’re ready for the next step which should be to find a real estate agent to help you with the process.

If you haven’t contacted a lender at this point you should. Read my article, How To Buy A Home – Part One  to understand why it’s an important first step. (Go ahead. I’ll wait for you here.)

Finding An Agent… Where To Start?

More often that not, finding a real estate agent is not a problem. According to The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO) there are approximately 2 million active real estate licenses nationwide. There are over 77,000 licensed agents and almost 18,000 licensed real estate brokers in Texas alone.

So finding a real estate agent is pretty easy. But finding the right agent for you? Maybe not so easy. Where do you even begin?

Start With Friends And Family

By far, the easiest way to find someone to help you with buying a home is to ask your friends and family for referrals. Who did they use when they bought their home?  Would they use them again?  How was the experience?

According to the National Association of REALTORS, 74% of home buyers would use their agent again or recomend them to others. Ask around. You should be able to get several referrals. But if that doesn’t work for you…

Try The Internet

As with almost anything these days, the internet is a great place to find things. Real estate agents are no different.

There are a number of different ways to seach for one here:

  • Real Estate Portals such as Zillow and Realtor.com are a great place to find an agent. But they have two different ways of connecting you with one. They both have their good and bad points but both are an easy way to connect with an agent.
    • In Zillow’s case, as you are searching for and selecting homes to view, an ad is displayed to the right side of the page which has the name and picture of local agents who want to work with you. One of the four will be presented separate from the others. This will be the listing agent. You don’t want to contact that person if you’re buying. I’ll explain why in another post at a later date. The other three are agents looking to represent you, the buyer. Pick one you like, enter your contact info and click the Contact Agent button. You should get a response from them almost immediately.
    • Realtor.com has a different model. Once you’ve found a property you’re interested in if you provide your contact information and click the Contact Agent button, Realtor.com will send your contact information to a couple of agents along with information about the property you’re interested in. The difference is, you have no idea which agent(s) your information was sent to until you hear back from them. One or both of them should contact you immediately.
  • Local MLS – Your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) typically will have a directory of the agents who belong to that MLS. In the Houston Area it is called HAR which stands for Homes And Rentals and can be found at https://har.com. They typically have different ways to filter and search.
  • Google search – Do a google search for whatever it is you’re looking for in an agent, then go to their website or their brokers website and read about them. There’s normally contact information there if you want to meet them and possibly work with them.

Go Old School

If referrals from friends and family isn’t working for you. And the internet is, for whatever reason not an option. You can always go old school.

Get in your car and drive around the neighborhood where you think you’d like to buy a home. Look for real estate offices and when you see one, pull in, go inside and introduce yourself. There’s almost always going to be an agent there who will be happy to see you.

And because that office is in or near the area where you want to buy a home, there is a good chance the agents are knowledgeable about the area and should be a tremendous help to you.

Am I Required To Use An Agent?

The short answer is no, you are not required to use a real estate agent. You can buy and sell real estate in Texas without the assistance of a real estate professional.

But if you’re buying a house, why would you NOT use an agent.

After all, this is someone who’s familiar with the area. Someone who’s familiar with the market.  Someone who’s familiar with the process. Someone who will advocate and negotiate for you. And someone whose knowledge, experience and expertise is available to you at no cost!

Yes, you read that correctly. With very, very few exceptions, buyers of real estate in Texas pay nothing for or to their real estate agent. Why would you pass that up?

Do they work for free? Are they on a salary? No, and in most cases, no. For the most part, real estate agents whether representing the buyer or the seller, only get paid if the deal closes and funds. They are independent business people and there is no salary (or health insurance, or benefits, or vacation days, etc)

But in almost all cases, the fee that the seller pays to the seller’s agent (listing agent) is shared by that agent and the agent who is bringing you, the buyer, to the table.

Unless it is a For Sale By Owner or some other unusual circumstance, if you’re buying then you’re off the hook when it comes to paying your agent.

So no, you’re not required to use an agent but you’d be silly not to.

Some have the mistaken idea that they can negotiate a better deal for themselves if they are not using an agent. Most of the time, they’re wrong.

According to Dave Ramsey, using a real estate agent means you’re more likely to make more money on the sale that going it alone (For Sale By Owner).

And if you think , as the buyer, that the seller is going to cut their price in your favor because they’re not paying your agent… then you’re kidding yourself.  They’ve contracted with their agent to sell the house for a certain fee. That’s what they are bound by contract to pay.

If you don’t use an agent then typically, the seller’s agent just keeps the entire fee instead of splitting it with your agent. There is no incentive for the seller to cut their price just because you’re not using an agent.

A real estate pro knows what the house should sell for and chances are they would have saved you money.

Additionally, they are not emotionally involved in the purchase the way  you most likely are and can help keep your decisions rational.

Most importantly, they can significantly reduce the potential of an expensive mistake being made or of you being taken advantage of.

Beware Of Strangers Bearing Gifts…

New home builders have begun putting wording in their contracts that prohibit you from being represented by your own agent. In return they are giving a discount on the price of the home or free appliances or some other incentive.

But most builders will do that anyway. Even if you use your own agent.

So is it really worth it to save a couple of thousand dollars or get some free appliances?  Those things may end up costing you a lot more than they’re worth in the long run.

Keep in mind that the person selling you a new home represents the builder/seller. Their obligation is to the seller. Not you. So why would they prevent you the benefit of having someone whose job is to look out for YOUR best interest?

Is that someone you want to do business with?  Maybe it is.  I’m just saying beware. You have to decide what’s best for you.

Just Do It!

In the word of the Nike ad… Just do it. Take the time to find a good agent.  One that you like and feel confident in. Work with them to buy your home. It will be time well spent and you’ll benefit greatly from the relationship.

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