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Lesson 5.1

Finding a Real Estate Agent

Samantha Reeves | Real Estate Expert

Expert in Your Corner

For many consumers a home represents the biggest single purchase of their lives. When it comes time to start the home shopping and purchasing process, why wouldn’t you want an expert in your corner who does this every month?

Most homebuyers do. In fact, about 90 percent of homebuyers use a real estate agent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Here are a few reasons why real estate agents are essential resources:

No One’s Better at Locating Property

Modern technology certainly makes the house hunt easier. But wading through online listings can be overwhelming, and online property listings aren’t always up to date. Real estate agents have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which includes up-to-date property information that doesn’t reach the wider web.

You Have an Advocate During Negotiations

Just as you wouldn’t head into a courtroom without good legal representation, you don’t want to enter real estate negotiations without an experienced advocate. Real estate agents are expert negotiators who know the local market and how to stretch your dollar. Skilled agents can help advocate for your best interests and secure your property under the best possible terms.

Buyers Can Work With an Agent at No Charge

Sellers pay your real estate agent’s commission in most transactions. That means buyers pay nothing out of pocket for an agent’s expertise and service. Agents can help you quickly locate potential properties and expertly negotiate the terms of your purchase contract.

With nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain, we hope you understand the importance of using a real estate agent for your home purchase.

Find a VA-Experienced Agent

The VA loan is a specialized program, and military borrowers often have unique needs. It’s important to try and find a real estate agent who understands both.

That’s why Veteran United Home Loans works with Veterans United Realty, a national network of more than 5,000 real estate agents who are handpicked based on their experience with military buyers.

The VA requires properties to meet specific criteria and be in good repair. Condos and homes that are part of an association require VA approval. Private wells, septic systems, termite inspections and shared maintenance of roadways can all have specific VA and lender guidelines.

It’s critical for military borrowers to use an agent who’s worked with VA loans and understands the program’s requirements. Agents who can maneuver through the agency’s procedures can save borrowers from big-time hassles and headaches on things like appraisals and property criteria.

Start Your Home Loan Journey

Other Ways to Find Agents

Potential homebuyers can also consider these other methods of finding a real estate agent:

  • Online reviews: Hop online and read reviews of local agents. Look for those with lots of listings and positive reviews.
  • Referrals: Get referrals from family and friends. This is a common and often reliable way to find trusted agents.
  • Ask your lender: Lenders often have preferred agents who have helped previous customers find the perfect home.

Questions to Ask an Agent

Spend a little time getting to know an agent before forging a partnership. Make sure to get answers to the following questions:

  • Do you have significant experience in this market?
    Ask your agent how long they’ve lived and worked in the area. Learn more about how many homes they sold last year and for what average price. Make sure you’re comfortable with their experience. Look for seasoned real estate agents who know your desired neighborhoods and have a track record of success.
  • Do you have VA loan experience?
    VA loans aren’t more onerous or complicated than other types of loans. They’re just different. Make sure your agent understands that you’ll be considering or using VA financing and why this program is so powerful for military borrowers.
  • How many clients are you working with, and are they mostly sellers or buyers?
    You can’t expect to be an agent’s sole client, but you also don’t want an agent who never has time for you. Working with a lot of clients can actually be a sign of efficiency and demand. Learn more about how the agent strikes the right balance.
  • Will I work with you from start to finish?
    Ask if the agent will handle every part of the homebuying process. Some may have an assistant take care of more transactional or administrative tasks. That’s not always a bad thing, but it’s important to be able to talk directly with your agent regularly.
  • How will you keep me informed during the process?
    Make sure your communication needs and expectations match. Some buyers want to connect via text message or email, while others prefer phone calls. Agents can also be more hands-off for buyers who would prefer to lead their own home search. Some agents may give you access to their property search database and allow you to take full control.
  • Can I have references?
    Ask your agent to provide contact information for some recent clients. Steer clear of anyone who hesitates. These previous buyers can provide helpful insight if you’re choosing among multiple potential agents.

Personalities clash, and some partnerships simply don’t succeed. House hunters spend a lot of time with their agents, and that time should be productive and enjoyable. Keep in mind that your agent will be with you for all home tours, during negotiations and throughout the closing process.

Buyer-Broker Agreements

Before you decide to work with an agent, it’s important to be familiar with buyer’s agreements. Many real estate agents will expect you to sign a buyer-broker agreement before they agree to represent you. A buyer’s agreement creates a formal, legal relationship between you and your agent. It’s practically mandatory for buyers and lays out the rules of your partnership.

Here are the three most common types of buyer’s agreements:

  • Exclusive Right to Represent: This is the most common form of buyer agreement. By agreeing to an exclusive right to represent, a buyer cannot employ more than one agent to locate property.
  • Non-Exclusive: In a “non-exclusive” agreement, a buyer can work with more than one agent to locate property.
  • Non-Exclusive, Right to Represent: In a non-exclusive agreement with a “right to represent” clause, a buyer can purchase a home through another agent, provided the home is not introduced to the buyer by the initial broker.

Always read a buyer’s agreement carefully and ask about exit clauses. Some agents are willing to prematurely end a buyer’s agreement if the relationship is no longer working, but some will not. When in doubt, start with a short contract (30 days is a good place to start). You can always choose to renew the contract at a later time.

Evaluate the Relationship

Our needs, wants and lives can all change. So do business relationships. At some point after selecting an agent, you may need to reassess your working relationship.

Ask yourself these questions to help you decide if you should continue working with a particular agent:

Does your agent seem eager to help?
If you feel like your agent is doing you a “favor” by helping you find a home, you probably need a new one. No matter how much you’re spending on a home or how long it takes to find one, you should feel valued and respected.

Does your agent show up on time?
Poor time management is often an indicator of other shortcomings. Your time is valuable. Don’t put up with an agent who doesn’t respect you or your schedule.

Does your agent seem prepared?
Make sure your agent has done his or her homework before meeting with you. Your agent should be well informed on the homes you are considering and recent comparable sales.

Does your agent exhaust all options?
Good real estate agents are experts on the local market. The best agents can help their buyers become experts by showing you a wide variety of homes and keeping you in tune with the market. Someone who is unwilling to take this extra step might not be your best advocate. But there’s a careful balance here. You want to see a healthy selection of homes, but someone who continues to show you homes that aren’t a good fit for your needs probably isn’t a good fit for you, either.