I often wish Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility would descend when I enter a store – giving me time to size up the merchandise myself before anyone offers their help. My kneejerk response is “Just looking, thanks.”
If you’re like me, you approach the biggest transaction of your life in the same way, taking virtual refuge in the likes of Zillow and Trulia. In fact, research shows that home buyers spend several months in the browsing stage.
And that’s all to the good. Learning about the market and reflecting on your needs and wishes will improve your decision making.
But when you get serious about buying a home, you have a lot to gain from working with a realtor you like and trust.
- Realtors owe clients fiduciary responsibility, a legal term meaning that they must act in a client’s best interest at all times. This responsibility applies even if a buyer hasn’t signed an agency agreement with a realtor.
- Full-service realtors escort buyers through every step of a complex process. They will help clients search for and view properties, estimate fair market value, write an offer, negotiate with the seller, oversee inspection and appraisal, coordinate any repairs, and see the transaction through escrow to closing – including a final walkthrough and delivery of the keys.
- Spanning months or several weeks, a realtor’s many services are delivered without any financial obligation unless and until the sale closes. Even then, the seller pays the buyer’s agent as well as his or her own. Here in Oregon, compensation for the buyer’s rep is set in percentage terms in the seller’s agreement with the listing agent. Of course, sellers take these costs into account when setting prices for their homes.
The best brokerages hold realtors to high quality standards by soliciting anonymous client feedback. They also support brokers with training, services and oversight – so that clients benefit from the knowledge and experience of the entire team.
The bottom line: Browsing on your own is fine in the early stages, but there’s no substitute for a good realtor’s advice and services when you’re serious about buying a home.