Buyers often ask me how to work with a Realtor, or what is expected of them as they contact a Realtor and gather information. What if you call the listing agent and ask questions about the property? Are you obligated to work with that agent? What if the listing agent shows you a property? Are you then obligated to work only with that agent? Have you unofficially retained that Realtor to the exclusion of all others?
Working With a Realtor
If you have not signed a “Buyer’s Agency Agreement” with a Realtor, you have no contract and you have not hired that agent. I do not recommend signing such a written agreement. They tend to trap buyers into a relationship they later wish they could get out of. The National Association of Exclusive Buyer’s Agents believes that all buyer’s agents should insist that their clients sign such an agreement. If your buyer’s agent is so good, why would he or she demand you sign a written agreement?
Hiring a Realtor
I believe that buyers should have the freedom to chose any Realtor they feel is best qualified and trustworthy. But the interview process should not be one phone call or even a short five minute discussion. As a buyer, you need to continue the qualification process until you have your Realtor draft an offer on a home. Then you’ve hired him or her, but until that point, you are still interviewing based on what you learn about your Realtor, the extent to which he or she reveals his or her real estate knowledge and experience, and your confidence level as you learn more about this person.
It is good to select a Realtor as soon as practical, but not before you are certain you have the right agent. While it is okay to call a listing agent once to get some information, it would not be polite to repeatedly call that agent and have that agent show you many houses and then hire another agent. However, you have to do what is best for you, and if you decide over a period of time that a particular agent is not the one you want to hire (even after spending time with him or her), you need to diplomatically excuse yourself from that relationship and find the right one. A Realtor without a contract might argue that he or she is the “procuring cause of a sale,” but that requires a lot of time and work by that agent on your behalf.
In the early stages of looking at homes and deciding who you want to hire as your Realtor, you should have freedom to chose the Realtor you feel is best qualified and with whom you feel you can have a great relationship. Whomever you do hire, just realize it is one of the most important decisions you will make when you buy your last home.
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