There is a ton of confusion out there about what someone should actually expect from their agent. Trust me, not every agent is created equal.
So, to give you all the tools you need, let’s start with the basics.
Make sure that the person you are talking to is actually licensed to sell real estate in the state you want to buy in. DUH! Thank you captain obvious!
I know, I know. This doesn’t seem like very valuable advice, but the liability in being caught up in this one is so high and the barrier to check so low, why wouldn’t you?
In California, you can go to the DRE website and verify the status of their license.
Now, here’s what you came her for:
A list of Buyer’s Agent duties.
They are the person who will be shepherding you through the transaction which is wrought with tons of land mines and pit falls. So, heres what you should expect from an agent:
1. No, it’s not searching for houses that are on the market.
Most of the time, once something is listed live in the MLS, it is pumped out to the majority of the major search providers within a matter of minutes. So, once it’s live, you will see it just as fast as your agent does.
Though, many markets will see anywhere between 10-30% of their inventory being listed off market. The rules on that are chaining but it still exists. So make sure your agent knows how to navigate this and get those listings into your inbox.
2. Your agent needs to be really well versed in building/architecture styles and their unique issues
In the East Bay, we transact as a true “as is” market. That means that the seller does inspections up front and a buyer is supposed to be able to read and understand everything related to the condition of the home prior to making an offer.
Then once the offer is made, the price should have the defects and issues baked in.
No, you cant expect a seller to fix things in escrow here.
The challenge is that all those disclosers often total over 300 pages of documents. Thats a lot for someone to digest.
Your agents should be well versed in how to read disclosures and be able to point out the high level items for you so you don’t waste your time on a house that has an obvious deal breaker for you.
There are also non-obvious items that you should expect them to be able to point out. Like knowing the reputation of the inspectors and/or identifying a lack of suggested or required further investigation
For Example: If you are looking at a property in Oakland, and you know it has a flat roof and stucco siding, you should expect that there is a test holes report done. That means the pest company tries to identify rot behind the stucco that can cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace.
Pro Tip: I always tell my clients to 2x whatever the estimate is on a test hole report. Once you open up walls, you are bound to find more issues.
If you see a report from someone who is not local and they didn’t do a test hole report, it’s very likely that either that person didn’t know to do one or the seller was being cheap and didn’t want to spend the extra money.
Either way, you as a buyer need to know, right?
3. Selecting Comparable Properties
The East Bay has a varied geography. From the beaches of the Bay to the hills in Oakland and Berkeley, you are really only talking a few miles. In the course of three blocks, you may enter a completely new neighborhood and only someone who is a true expert will be able to tell you the difference.
One practical example of this is in the Oakland hills. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s we had a big earthquake and massive fire. That mean that many homes were totally destroyed and later rebuilt. If you are trying to compare a home that was built in 1995 to one built in 1942, there will be obvious differences and your agent should be able to advice you on them.
You want your agent to be a pro when it comes time to presenting your offer. There is a skill to extracting information from the listing agent about how many offers they are expecting, what agents are writing them and what might sway the seller in favor of your offer.
Pro Tip: Make sure you ask your agent who the dominate listing agents are in the neighborhoods you are looking into. They should know that person’s track record, tendencies and tactics. If they don’t, you will want to find someone who does.
But before you even write your offer, your agent should be able to coach you on some strategies on how to make your offer more attractive.
For example: There are strategies that the ultra wealthy use to make a cash offer even though they never intended on closing with cash. You can do something similar if your agent knows what to do.
5. Contract Writing:
This one didn’t make it into the video but is important non-the-less. Your agent should have a real mastery of the contracts and forms you are about to write your offer on. A simple missed checkbox can mean the difference of you closing the transaction or putting you deposit at risk.
One way to verify they know the contract well is to ask a nuanced question. An example of one would be to have them explain what item 14.B.5 means on the standard CA purchase agreement.
HINT: It’s a loophole that can give buyers the ability to inspect and negotiate after the inspection contingency is lifted.
In summary, maker sure your agent can:
Get you access to ALL the inventory, even whats off market
Interpret the disclosures and needs of various architecture styles
Select appropriate comparable properties
Write a clean contract