Real estate transactions include many players who perform various roles to get the deal from the initial offer to the closing table. The most important of these people to you as a homebuyer is the one who represents your interests.
Do you have someone working for you? Unless you've taken a few simple steps to ensure you're properly represented, you may be on your own.
A seller's agent
When you contact a real estate agent about a home he or she has for sale, you are speaking to someone working for the seller. This agent likely has signed a written agreement to represent the owner of the home and to secure the best possible terms for the seller.
The same situation usually holds true for any home an agent shows you where his or her name is listed on the ads or for-sale sign. That agent has agreed to sell the homes on behalf of the owners and is looking out for the sellers' best interests - not yours as a buyer.
Get your own rep
Regardless of whether an agent represents you, he or she is supposed to treat your fairly. However, if you tell that agent something that would help his or her client (the seller), the agent is obligated to tell that client about it. For example, you need to find a house fast because your lease is up or you desperately want to live in a certain neighborhood.
The solution? Enlist the help of your own real estate professional as your buyer's representative. This agent will show you houses that fit your criteria without having a connection to the sellers. His or her first loyalty will be to you and your interests, not the seller's.
Whom do you work for?
If you have any doubt about whom an agent represents, ask. Also, if you've spoken to an agent at length about a specific property or had similar discussions, you should have been provided a form that explains the relationship among buyers, sellers and real estate agents and brokers. The form, Information About Brokerage Services, is required by law to be given to you during your first "substantive dialogue" with a real estate licensee. Basically, that means at the time of your first meeting or written communication that involves a specific property.
Write it down
It's not enough to talk about someone representing you as a buyer. You and your agent should put your partnership in writing. A buyer-representation agreement outlines the rights and obligations of the broker and you, the client. It says that you and your agent will work together for a specified amount of time - it can be as short as one day - to accomplish your goal. Such a written record protects you and also eliminates possible misunderstandings that can happen down the road.
Where to begin?
Any real estate licensee can act as your buyer's representative. However, you might want to talk to a Realtor. Not just any real estate agent, a Realtor abides by a strict Code of Ethics that goes beyond what's required by law. And a Realtor possesses the expertise you need to find the right home at the right terms for you.
Finding a home can be a complicated process. The best way to navigate through it is with an buyer's representative at your side who's looking out for your interests.
Whether you're interested in buying your first home, your next home, or just want to know more about home-ownership in general, I encourage you to check out a couple of great online resources: http://www.texasrealestate.com/ or http://www.har.com/ and for all of your Pearland TX and Northern Brazoria and Galveston County real estate needs, please visit my site at http://www.danfrankrealty.com. All of these sites offer tons of useful, real estate-related information geared specifically for Texans.
Danny Frank is a local Pearland TX Real Estate expert
This column was published in the 19Oct08 edition of the Galveston County Daily News