What a Buyer’s Agent Does to Help Find Your Next Home

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Imagine having a secret weapon in your home-buying arsenal — someone who’s not just legally obligated to look out for you but also dedicated to getting you the best deal possible on your next home. That’s what a buyer’s agent brings to the table.

Although many agents switch between representing buyers or sellers based on the deal, there are some who specialize in working as buyer’s agents.

If you’re a buyer, you don’t technically need to use a buyer’s agent. But you may very well find that having a buyer’s agent on your side is a huge advantage, if not absolutely essential to closing a deal.

“They have a fiduciary responsibility to represent their clients how they would represent themselves,” explains Kevin Markarian, a top-selling agent in the San Francisco Bay Area. “So they’re going to do everything possible to help you be successful and provide you with all the information necessary to make a good decision.”

Let’s take a closer look at the role of a buyer’s agent and how they can help you in the quest to find your next home.

Step one: Talk to a few buyer's agents!

Tell us a little bit about your plans (where you’re looking to buy and when you want to make a purchase) and we’ll connect you with top-rated buyer’s agents in your area. It takes only a few minutes, and it’s free.

What is a buyer’s agent?

First, let’s spell out the basics. There are two sides to every real estate transaction: the buyer’s side and the seller’s side. Many agents help both buyers and sellers with transactions, but some agents specialize in handling one party or the other.

Seller’s agents represent sellers — that is, the home the seller is listing. These are also called listing agents. On the other side of the transaction, buyer’s agents represent buyers in seeking and purchasing a home.

What do buyer’s agents do?

Buyer’s agents are there to advise, guide, and steer you through the process using their licenses and expertise. Their supporting role for buyers typically includes:

  • Helping you make your wish list, a realistic collection of home characteristics you would like to shoot for within your budget
  • Identifying homes that fit these qualities, and taking you or directing you to see them
  • Landing on an offer price, writing your offer, and taking it to the seller’s agent
  • Advocating for your best interests in the sale, including on price and other contract negotiations
  • Managing the transaction throughout the process
  • Negotiating repairs or price adjustments that may be feasible as a result of appraisals or inspections
  • Completing the final walkthrough before you get the keys
  • Standing by for any necessary advice and support at the closing table
  • Ideally, handing over the keys with a smile, a warm congratulations, and an offer to take that first photo of you in front of your new home!

What are the pros of hiring a buyer’s agent?

You’re not required to have a buyer’s agent to buy a home, but there are plenty of advantages if you do. “There’s really not much of a downside,” says Markarian. “They will locate a property for you, submit an offer for you, make sure the contract is written properly, that you’re covered as far as any liability,” he says. “They put you in a position to be successful.”

Let’s explore the advantages of hiring a buyer’s agent.

Buying a home is often the largest financial transaction in a person’s lifetime. And a buyer’s agent is your best advocate to help you through such a major purchase (and major life event!).

“This is when a buyer’s agent comes in to help you see things that you may not have seen on your own,” Markarian says. “A seasoned professional who will go above and beyond to help you in the process.”

A buyer’s agent can help you stay on top of new listings. “It’s important to work with someone who has experience, who has knowledge of a local market,” Markarian says. “People operate differently from area to area, and it’s very important that your agent understands the local market.”

A buyer’s agent knows where and how to tap into unlisted homes — that is, homes not listed on the MLS where competition may be fierce in a hot market. These might include pocket listings, or non-standard sales like short sales or foreclosures, which can be even trickier to find (and to navigate).

“They’re going to have relationships with other sellers or owners of properties similar to what you might want, and they can put you in a position to get that property,” Markarian says.

A buyer’s agent is extra-skilled at negotiating buyer contingencies such as making the sale contingent on your ability to secure financing, an inspector’s findings during a home inspection, or your ability to sell your own house before you close on a new one.

A buyer’s agent will be attuned to red flags, from broader neighborhood concerns to specific insider details about the property.

“They’ll provide you with any disclosures on the property,” Markarian says. “What’s the condition of the property? The roof? What’s the history? Have there been any permits pulled? They can sometimes find information that’s not available online.”

A buyer’s agent can bring professionalism and know-how that’s not just comforting, but also a practical advantage in a competitive environment.

“If I have two really good offers, and one has all the right legal documents and looks great, and the other is done wrong or has a mistake, who do you think gets the house?” Markarian says.

“Having a skillful buyer’s agent can give you an advantage when you’re submitting offers in a multiple-offer situation. They’re going to go to bat for you and put you in a position to be successful.”

A buyer’s agent knows the transaction from the buyer’s side, inside and out. “They’re going to negotiate for you to help you save money on the offer price, they’re going to help you come up with an analysis on what amount to offer for the property,” explains Markarian. “They’re going to walk you through the entire process and track the timeline for you on your contract. They’re going to make sure that your deposit on a property is protected.”

Having a dedicated buyer’s agent means you avoid the risk of dual representation, where an agent might represent both the buyer and seller. Since the seller aims for a high price and the buyer wants a low one, an agent can’t truly represent both parties fairly. By choosing an agent who is only focused on your needs, you can avoid this potential conflict.

What are the cons of hiring a buyer’s agent?

Since buyer’s agents only work with buyers, they might not know about all the latest listings on the sell side.

Like any real estate agent, you will have to pay for their services. This payment comes in the form of a commission on the home sale. (If you don’t purchase a home from this agent, you won’t pay.) While it’s true that the home seller pays a commission that is split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents, this expense usually gets rolled into the home’s listing price.

If the seller runs into any snags on their side, your agent might not be able to assist the listing agent with untangling them because they don’t know about as many resources for sellers.

And that’s about it! Most people will find that having a buyer’s agent is not just a major benefit but often crucial for securing the best deal.

“Yes, you could do it as a buyer on your own,” Markarian says, but many people simply don’t have the background, expertise, or interest to carry out a home purchase successfully.

“If I’m going to be in a court case, I want an attorney to represent me, and I’m going to rely on their expertise, and their ability to help me be successful in that situation,” reasons Markarian. “Could I represent myself? Sure. But what do I know about law?”

How do you find a qualified buyer’s agent?

While you could browse online directories to find a buyer’s agent, or scan various real estate platforms for their agent directories, HomeLight offers an easier way to connect with a top real estate agent in your area.

HomeLight’s agent-matching service is completely free to use and agents don’t pay to be featured, so the results are purely based on professional performance and your specific home-buying needs. To get started, simply answer a few questions about your situation and preferences.

Our agent-match tool will sift through more than 27 million transactions to suggest top-performing agents based on their specialties and certifications, years of experience, and track record of successful home sales in your area. We’ll provide you with up to three matches who you can research and interview at your convenience to come to a decision.

When vetting potential buyer’s agents, be sure to look up their accreditations or association affiliations. Select groups offer accreditations and certifications to agents who are specifically trained to assist buyers. For example, the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council, which is affiliated with The National Association of Realtors (NAR), accredits agents as Accredited Buyer Representatives.

You can also search for a buyer’s agent on the website of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA), a professional organization of real estate buyer agents and buyer brokers. Members solely represent buyers — never sellers — and don’t accept listings or advertise properties for sale.

Another way to find a buyer’s agent is to ask your friends and family who they worked with. Make sure that the agent is familiar with your area, as an out-of-towner might not have the connections you need or know which neighborhoods are the most sought-after. You’ll want to confirm that your friend or family member’s experience with the buyer’s agent was positive before moving forward.

You can also scour online reviews and ratings, much as you would for a restaurant, auto repair shop, or doctor. Researching buyer’s agents online through reviews and ratings can offer valuable insights and recommendations.

And finally, you can find a brokerage that specializes in working with buyers and ask them to help. Call a few local brokerage firms and provide the managing broker with your details. They will put you in touch with some agents who meet your home-buying needs.

Header Image Source: (Ross Joyner / Unsplash)