One of my clients knows how to safely remove a brain tumor from the base of her patient’s neck, but she doesn’t have a clue about real estate agent protocol. Nor does she understand why some listing agents have yelled at her. In her mind, she hasn’t done anything wrong. She is only trying to find out information about a house for sale. It’s not that difficult once you know a few simple rules. Here are protocols you can use while shopping for a home that will keep you out of hot water:
1. Understand Agents Work on Commission
- Very few real estate agents work on salary.
- Most real estate agents are paid commission. If an agent does not close a transaction, she does not get paid.
- Agents are not public servants and do not work for free. Do not ask an agent to work for you if you intend to cut the agent out of your deal.
2. Keep Appointments & Be On Time
- Be respectful, use common courtesy and don’t expect an agent to drop what she is doing to run out to show you a home. You are probably not that agent’s only prospect / client. And if you are, lord help you.
- Do not make an appointment with an agent and then forget to show up.
- If you are going to be late, call and let your agent know when you expect to arrive.
3. Choose A Real Estate Agent
- Decide whether you want to work without representation: dealing directly with listing agents, or if you want to hire your own agent.
- If you decide to hire your own agent, interview agents to find an agent with whom you are comfortable.
- If you are interviewing agents, let each agent know you are in the interview stage.
- Never, never, never interview two different agents from the same company. Trust me, don’t do it.
4. Do Not Call The Listing Agent if You Are Working With a Buying Agent
- Listing agents work for the seller, not the buyer. If you hire the listing agent to represent you, that agent will now be working under dual agency.
- If listing agents show you the property, the listing agent will expect to represent you.
- Listing agents do not want to do the buying agent’s job. Let your buyer’s agent do her job.
5. Practice Open House Protocol
- Ask your agent if it’s considered proper for you to attend open houses alone. In some areas, it is frowned upon to go to open houses unescorted.
- Hand your agent’s business card to the agent hosting the open house. Sometimes this agent will be the listing agent, but often it is an agent also looking for unrepresented buyers. Announcing you are represented protects you.
- Do not ask the open house host questions about the seller or the seller’s motivation. Let your agent ask those questions for you.
6. Sign a Buyer’s Broker Agreement with a Buying Agent
- Expect to sign a buyer’s broker agreement. It creates a relationship between you and the agent, and explains the agent’s duties to you and vice versa.
- Ask about the difference between an Exclusive and Non-Exclusive Buyer’s Broker Agreement.
- If you’re not ready to sign a buyer’s broker, do not ask that agent to show you homes. Otherwise, procuring cause may pop up.
- Ask your agent if she will release you from the contract if you become dissatisfied. If she refuses, hire somebody else.
7. Always Ask For and Sign an Agency Agreement
- By law, agents are required to give buyers an Agency Disclosure.
- Signing an agency disclosure is your proof of receipt. It is solely a disclosure. It is not an agreement to agency. Read it.
- The best and most practiced type of agency is the single agency. This mean you are represented by your own agent who owes you a fiduciary responsibility.
8. Make Your Expectations Known
- If you expect your agent to pick you up at your front door and drive you home after showing homes, tell her. Many will provide that service. If not, they will ask you to meet at the office.
- Let your agent know how you want her to communicate with you and how often. Do you want phone calls, e-mails, text messages, IM’s or all of the above?
- Set realistic goals and a time frame to find your home. Ask your agent how you can help by supplying feedback.
- If you are displeased, say so.
9. Do Not Sign Forms You Do Not Understand
- Do not feel silly for asking your agent to explain a form to you. It is her job. Many forms are second nature to agents but not to you, so ask for explanations until you are satisfied you understand.
- Do not sign forms titled Consent To Represent More Than One Buyer. This is never in your best interest. Find another agent if this happens.
- Realize agents are not lawyers and cannot interpret law.
10. Be Ready To Buy
- If you aren’t ready to buy, you don’t need a real estate agent. You can go to open houses by yourself; call listing agents for showings — but be honest, say you are “only shopping”; look at homes online; but don’t waste an agent’s time if you aren’t ready to act.
- If possible, hire a babysitter to care for children who are too young to stay out all morning or afternoon touring homes.
- Bring your checkbook. You’ll need it to write an offer because an earnest money deposit may be required to accompany your purchase offer.