Now that there’s Zillow and Redfin, do I really need an agent to find a home?
Since the beginning of the new millennium, Zillow, Redfin, Trulia and other web-based real estate search engines have become widely used real estate tools. These platforms help home buyers, sellers and real estate agents find each other. You might be asking yourself, "Do I really need an agent to find a home?" This is a buyer beware situation if there ever was one. Just who, exactly, benefits from using these sites? Are your best interests protected? Before you tap into one of these resources, make sure you have a bit of knowledge about how the real estate business actually works.
The agent seems nice and helpful, but is she working for me?
One of the most common difficulties facing real estate consumers is understanding the legal implications of brokerage relationships. In Colorado, there are three such relationships: Seller’s Agent, Buyer’s Agent or Transaction Broker. Which one you choose can have a tremendous impact on the quality of your home buying experience. These relationships are outlined in detail in a standard disclosure provided by the Colorado Real Estate Commission. Real estate agents must provide this disclosure before doing business with you.
I don’t want to use an agent. Do I have to?
In this DIY world, many people believe that they don't actually need a real estate agent at all. If you feel comfortable with real estate contracts and real estate law, you might be OK. But consider this parallel scenario. You are being sued by your neighbor for a trip-and-fall accident at your home. He has an attorney. You don't. Who do you think is likely to win? Let's say you decide you do need a lawyer after all. Would you call you neighbor's attorney to represent you? If the attorney in question was unethical enough to agree, do you think she could do a good job of representing you both?
I don’t want to sign a contract. Do I have to?
In Colorado, a real estate agent can work with you as either a “buyer’s agent” or a “transaction broker.” The difference is both simple and dramatic. A buyer’s agent (BA) commits to representing only you and your interests. A transaction broker (TB) is “assists the buyer or seller, or both, throughout the real estate transaction, without being an agent or advocate for any of the parties. To be blunt, a TB is prohibited by law from doing anything that would advance your interests over those of the seller.
When you’re putting an offer together, or negotiating inspection issues, a TB can’t provide any advice without violating their legally mandated neutrality. In Colorado, transaction brokerage is the default position. Agents must work as transaction brokers unless and until they have a signed buyer agency agreement with you.
At Agents for Home Buyers, We are Buyer Representation Experts
Most Colorado brokers will agree to perform the duties as a agent even though they accept higher levels of responsibility and liability by doing so. At Agents for Home Buyers, we will ONLY work with buyers as buyer’s agents. If you’re going to use an agent, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of ALL their knowledge and expertise? Why would you hire someone to just unlock doors and fill out papers?
A Buyer Agency Agreement is not just beneficial to the agent, it also protects YOUR interests and assures your agent is actually working for YOU. But what if you are unsure about committing to an agent on this level? We recommend including a termination clause in your buyer agency agreement. A clause like this will give you the right to terminate the contract at any time if you’re not satisfied with the agent.
Who is the agent in that Zillow listing working for?
The listing agent in the Zillow listing you’re looking at has a seller agency agreement to represent the seller. They are most certainly not working for you. If it says Listing Agent next to their name, the agent is obligated to work for the seller’s best interests. They have a moral and legal obligation to market that home to you and buyers like you. You are their customer, not their client. This obligation is in direct conflict with your interests as a buyer.
Do not, under any circumstances, reveal information about yourself or your situation to this agent. For example, never tell a listing agent how much you can afford to spend or what your time constraints might be. That information can and probably will be used against you in future negotiations. In fact, we recommend you never even look at a property with the listing agent for exactly that reason.
What about those star ratings next to the agent’s name?
For “Premier Agents,” those who have paid to be featured, Zillow provides an enhanced presence on the site. On the surface, this would appear to be a great way to pick an agent. Keep in mind though, that most agents on Zillow, and most agents in general, specialize in listings. They work on the seller's side of the business.
Exclusive Buyer Agents like us at Agents for Home Buyers, LLC have a smaller presence on Zillow and similar search engines. We don’t take listings and have no sellers as clients, so there are no listings attached to our names. But as a home buyer, wouldn’t you rather have a buying expert represent you?
Call us...we can help you find the best home for your needs. More importantly, we will help you purchase that home safely and intelligently in this challenging market, no matter where you find it.