Now that there’s Zillow and Redfin, do I still need an agent?
Since the beginning of the new millennium, Zillow, Redfin, Trulia and other web-based real estate search engines have become widely used tools to help home buyers, sellers and real estate agents find each other. But, heads up, 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 consumers in the real estate industry is understanding the legal implications behind the various brokerage relationships. In Colorado, there are three such relationships and which one you choose can have a tremendous impact on the quality of your home buying experience. These are outlined in detail on a standard disclosure provided by the Colorado Real Estate Commission and are known as Seller’s Agent, Buyer’s Agent and Transaction Broker.
I don’t want to sign a contract. Do I have to?
If you are a buyer in the market for a real estate broker to help you find a home, the bottom line is that you can hire a broker to work with you either as a “buyer’s agent” or as 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. In other words, a TB is prohibited by law from doing anything that might be interpreted as advancing your interests over those of the seller. When you’re putting an offer together — or when you’re negotiating that offer or inspection issues — a TB can’t provide any consultation, or they could violate their legally mandated neutrality. In Colorado, transaction brokerage is the default position, meaning that a broker must work as a TB 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 today will agree to act as an 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, instead of just using them to unlock doors and fill out papers? A Buyer Agency Agreement is not just a way for an agent to rope you in, it also protects YOUR interests and assures your agent is actually working for YOU. If you are nervous about making a commitment to an agent on this level, we recommend asking the agent to include a clause in your agreement that gives you the right to terminate the contract at any time if you’re not satisfied with the work they are doing for you.
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 with the seller and is 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 and has moral and legal obligations 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 any information about yourself or your situation to this agent. That information can and probably will be used against you in future negotiations. In fact, we recommend you never 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,” agents who have paid to be featured on the site, Zillow provides reviews and the number of recent listings each has had. On the surface this would appear to be a great way to pick an agent. Keep in mind though, that most agents on Zillow, in fact most agents in general, specialize in listings – in other words, working on the seller side of the business. Exclusive Buyer Agents like us at Agents for Home Buyers, LLC have little or no presence on Zillow or the other home buying search engines because we don’t take listings and have no sellers as clients. But wouldn’t you rather have a home buying expert represent you since you are a home buyer? Call us…we can help you find the best home for your needs. More importantly, we will help you purchase a home safely and intelligently in this challenging market, no matter where you find it.
Any buyer who works with a broker that is not representing them under a buyer agency agreement is probably making a serious mistake.