When you decide it is time to buy a home, it can be tempting to immediately turn to real estate websites like Zillow or Realtor.com and start your search. After all, looking at houses is the fun part of the process, where you picture what it would be like to live in these beautiful properties you see online. Before you fall into the temptation of edited pictures and rigged mortgage calculators, take a step back. The very first thing you need to do in your home buying journey is to find the right agent.
You might think, “Oh, that’s easy, Tom. My neighbors told me about one that is fantastic. They’re all the same, right?”
Wrong. Traditional real estate agents don’t always have your best interests at heart. Instead, why not look for an exclusive buyer’s agent?
What’s Wrong with Traditional Real Estate Agents?
The problem with traditional real estate agents is that they’re part of a deeply ingrained sales culture. What that means is they aren’t necessarily loyal to you, the buyer. Most real estate agents represent both buyers and sellers, and they earn their income from commissions for both buying and selling homes.
When you think of a traditional real estate agent brokerage, you probably imagine a group of agents. Now imagine working with an agent and finding the house you love, that happens to be listed by another agent in the same brokerage. You want the best deal you can get, but you tell the agent you are willing to pay top dollar, thinking that the agent is there to represent you. Now, imagine that agent walking over to their colleague, who represents the seller, and telling them what you just said. It happens, and that’s how both agents end up double-dipping commissions at your expense.
While there is nothing illegal about how most real estate agencies operate, it certainly doesn’t leave you, the home buyer, in a good position. The goal of the traditional real estate agent is to sell homes – whether or not it comes at your expense is of little importance.
But there is a better way to buy a home, and that’s with an exclusive buyer’s agent.
What is an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent?
An exclusive buyer’s agent only represents home buyers. They never accept listings from sellers, never represent sellers, and will not work for a company that represents sellers. Their goal is to help you not only find the right home but to serve and protect your interests during the purchasing process. The fiduciary or legal obligations owed to you by exclusive buyer’s agents are known as CARLOAD:
- Confidentiality – Prohibits the agent from disclosing confidential information obtained from you, such as: the price you are willing to pay, the amount of mortgage you are actually qualified for, how much cash you have to work with, or the level of your motivation to buy a particular home.
- Accountability – Requires the agent to properly handle all money received (e.g., escrow deposits) and keep an accounting of the same for you.
- Reasonable Skill and Care – Requires the agent to protect you from foreseeable risks and to recommend that you obtain expert advice when your needs are outside the scope of the agent’s expertise. This would include home inspections, mortgage companies, real estate attorneys, etc.
- (Undivided) Loyalty – Prohibits the agent from advancing any interests that are adverse to your own. This loyalty is “undivided.” They cannot advance the interests of the seller or themselves or their real estate company above yours. This is an extremely hard fiduciary duty for agents to provide if they or their company also represent sellers or practices dual or designated agency.
- Obedience to Lawful Instructions – Requires the agent to act subject to your continuous control and for the agent to obtain and follow all “lawful” instructions from you.
- Advocacy – Requires the agent to act in your best interest at all times and for the agent to proactively support your position. In other words, the agent must step into your shoes and consciously and constantly be thinking, “What would I do if faced with the same situation?”
- (Full) Disclosure – Requires the agent to disclose all information, available or reasonably available to your agent, concerning your home purchase which might affect your best interest. This includes things such as the seller’s motivation for selling, the price the seller paid for the home, deferred maintenance or defects in the home, price comparables for similar homes, and the listing history of the home.
How Do I Find an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent?
Well, if you are in Massachusetts or Florida, you’ve come to the right website! In Massachusetts, we represent buyers in Franklin, Worcester, Hampshire, Middlesex, Berkshire, and Hampden Counties. In Florida, we operate in Palm Beach County and Broward County. Check out Tom’s full article on finding an exclusive buyers agent here.
If you live elsewhere, we can help you find an exclusive buyer’s agent. Click here to contact us and we will get back to you with the information you need.
Ready to get started on your home search? Click the image to your left to take our new client questionnaire – it’s the first step to finding the right home and exclusive buyer’s agent for you!