Ready to house hunt? It’s a jungle out there: Prepare for a flurry of paperwork, stampedes of
buyers competing for the same digs, and other challenges before you get your hands on those
house keys. We won’t lie: The process can be complex and stressful—which is why having a
pro by your side can make all the difference.
You might have heard of buyer’s agents, seller’s agents, listing agents, and so on. You’re a
buyer, so what is a buyer’s agent? True to their name, buyer’s agents assist home buyers every
step of the way; they can also save you tons of time and money on the road to homeownership.
Read on to learn how a buyer’s agent can help, and how to find the right one for you.
Benefits of using buyer’s agents
“A buyer’s agent will guide you through the home-buying transaction and be at your disposal for
any questions or concerns,” says Shane Wilcox, a Realtor® with Partners Trust. Here are some
of the things a buyer’s agent can do:
● Find the right property. After determining what clients are looking for and what they
can afford, the agent will schedule appointments to tour homes that fit the bill. The agent
can also explain the ins and outs of various properties and neighborhoods to help buyers
decide which home is right for them by explaining the pros and cons of various options.
● Negotiate the offer. The buyer’s agent will advise clients on an appropriate price to offer
and present it to the seller’s agent. “Then they will negotiate on your behalf and write up
the contracts for you,” says Matt Laricy, a Realtor with Americorp Real Estate in
Chicago. This is where the agent’s experience in negotiating deals can save you money
and help you avoid pitfalls like a fixer-upper that’s more trouble than it’s worth.
● Recommend other professionals. A buyer’s agent should also be able to refer you to
reliable mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, movers, and more.
This can also help expedite each step of the process and move you to a successful sale
all the faster.
● Help overcome setbacks. If the home inspector’s report or appraisal brings new issues
to light, a buyer’s agent can advise you on how to proceed, and then act as a buffer
between you and the sellers or their agent. If negotiations become heated or hostile, it’s
extremely helpful to have an experienced professional keeping calm and offering
Buyer’s vs. listing agent: What’s the difference?
Buyer’s agents are legally bound to help buyers, whereas listing agents—the agent representing
the home listing—have a fiduciary duty to the home seller. “That’s why it’s in your best interest
as a buyer to get an agent who is there to represent you,” explains Alex Cortez, a Realtor with Wailea Village Properties LLC in Kihei, HI. “Think about it this way: If you were getting sued,
would you hire the same attorney as the person suing you? Of course not. You need someone
who will diligently fight for your interests and rights.”
Let’s say, for instance, you walked up to the listing agent at an open house and gushed about
how you love the home and want to buy it, but you will need to move soon because you’re
expecting your second child and need to decorate the nursery pronto, or the lease on your
rental is up in a couple of months. A seller’s agent could then use this information against you
by informing the seller that your clock is ticking, so they shouldn’t budge too much on their
asking price—or at all.
But when you make this same confession to the buyer’s agent you’re working with, and it’s all
fine—this professional would know to keep this info private from sellers (and their agents) so it
can’t be used against you.
The agent/buyer contract
A good buyer’s agent can ease your way to homeownership—and a bad one can result in a
bumpy ride. Once you agree to work with an agent, you will have to sign a contract called an
Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement outlining the agent’s services and compensation (more on
that next). This contract also means that this agent will be your sole representative and that you
won’t work with other buyer’s agents.
How much do buyer’s agents cost?
Homebuyers don’t need to worry about the expense of hiring a buyer’s agent. Why? Because
the seller pays the commission for both the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent (who work for
and are licensed under what’s called a brokerage, basically a real estate company. Typically the
commission equals about 6% of the home’s sales price, which is split evenly between both
brokerages, which then disperse a portion to the agent, based upon their employment
In the end, whether you have a great agent or a novice or part-time agent working for you, it
costs you nothing. The obvious question is, who do you want representing your interests?