Editors Note: As published in The Washington Blade.
Here is a little secret, if you are hiring an agent just to help you find a home, to unlock doors, and schedule appointments, you are hiring the wrong one.
A good buyer’s agent does so much more than open lockboxes and point out which room is the kitchen. A good agent is your guide, advocate, sounding board, negotiator, project manager, resource provider, and more. A good buyer’s agent is the one person working for you at every step of the process. They help you bring the entire team together—lender, home inspector, title company, and potentially others—to get you to the closing table.
Today, technology brings homes to you—on your laptop, tablet, or phone. Search engines and apps like Homesnap put listed homes, their stats, and their photographs right in the palm of your hand. While there is no replacing an in-person visit to a house, you can “find” a home you like on your own. And, of course, a buyer’s agent should point out home and community features and their benefits as you tour. Sometimes your agent even can tell you specifics about a home you can’t find online, they may have insights to the neighborhood, and they may know of listings before they come on the market. So yes, touring with your agent is important. But that’s just a small part of their role.
A good buyer’s agent—servers a different purpose. Navigating the home buying process can be daunting. There are contracts, addenda, negotiations, inspections, a mortgage to obtain, and settlement questions to be answered—just to name the basics. A buyer’s agent should serve as your trusted advisor through the entire process. You need one person who understands your situation, your desires in a new home, your motivations, your likes, and other factors that will impact your purchase.
The best way to set up that relationship is through a buyer consultation. A good agent will offer to host an in-person meeting with you to go over the entire process. Yes, it is more exciting to just head out on tours, but a good agent knows that an educated buyer is less stressed, more confident in their decision making, and has a better chance to present a winning offer.
With the consultation meeting complete, you will be ready to get started. One of the most important steps is being pre-approved or pre-qualified for a loan. In the DC market, where inventory is low and property can move quickly, being pre-approved, or pre-qualified, for a loan is a must, not a “nice-to-have.” Sellers will not even consider accepting an offer without a letter from a lender or proof of funds if you are paying with cash. A good agent can provide you with the names of several lenders so you can find the best match for your situation.
With pre-approval in hand, you find the house! Your agent will advise you on offer pricing strategies and other contract points to help you put together the best offer for your situation. Your agent will write up the offer, present it on your behalf, and negotiate the terms should a counter situation ensue.
Once under contract, your agent will help you locate all of the professionals who help you get to the closing table. From home inspectors, to a title company, a mover, and others, a good agent can give you resources to make the road to settlement smoother for you. Let’s talk about a few.
- Home Inspection: Your agent will help you find and schedule the inspector, attend the inspection with you both, and help you understand the inspector’s report. Should you find items during the inspection you want the seller to repair or compensate you for, your agent will present your position and again negotiate on your behalf working to get you the best terms possible.
- Title Company: Your agent will help you identify a title company to work with. A title company—in simplest terms—helps pull everything together for settlement—loan documents from your lender, title work to ensure the home can transfer from the current owner to you, property taxes from the jurisdiction, and your title insurance policy. A good agent will help you understand all of these pieces.
- Other professionals: If there are other services you need along the way— movers, contractors, utility companies—your agent can provide suggestions there too.
Yes, it’s a lot; and this is just a quick overview. Being a good buyer’s agent is so much more than scheduling tours, locating keys, and unlocking doors—they navigate your entire process from consultation to close.