Although buyers are certainly free to navigate the murky waters of real estate on their own, there are myriad benefits to enlisting an expert. Realtors are versed in which homes are a good value in the current market, what locations are most desirable and what characteristics determine resale potential, as well as how real estate law and contracts work. “If a buyer doesn’t have extensive knowledge of all the aspects of a real estate transaction – such as negotiating price terms and conditions of purchase – they can easily be taken advantage of,” says Mark Minnis, a broker/owner and buyer’s agent with InSight Real Estate Portland, Ore. “But a Realtor is obligated by law to protect your interests.”
Retaining a Realtor usually requires no out-of-pocket expense on the part of the buyer, says Brady Moore, a Dallas-based Realtor with Dave Perry-Miller & Associates. A buyer’s agent’s commission will vary upon the intricacies of the listing and the agent’s own contract.
So, you’re sold on getting help from a Realtor. How do you pick a good one?
Other than making sure that you’re working with a licensed broker or real estate agent, your best bet is to start with referrals from friends or family who have recently purchased a home with an agent they were really happy with, says Minnis, especially if it was in the same area in which you are looking. If you’re new to a city, you can also use the “Find a REALTOR” function at Realtor.org, the Web site for the National Association of Realtors. Sometimes new buyers are tempted to find Realtors by calling listing agents for properties they like or stopping by open houses in favorite neighborhoods, but be wary: having an agent who also represents the seller help you negotiate the price is probably not in your best interest.