Establishing a good working relationship with your agent is a major step toward a successful and low-stress homebuying experience.
Who Represents Whom - Understanding Agency
Agency is a relationship where one party (the agent) represents the interests of the other (the principal). At one time all real estate agents represented the property seller. This is no longer the case - agents can now represent either the buyer or the seller. Your agent, therefore, should be acting as a "buyer's broker" and representing your interests exclusively.
Use Your Agent's Experience
Most professional agents are extremely knowledgeable about the local real estate market. This is a valuable resource, so use it well. Your agent can help you decide which communities are right for you - and are within your price range.
Your Agent Has the Tools
Realtors have access to the Multiple Listing Service as well as data on recent sales and closings in the area. This information can be very useful when you are researching the markets, so make sure to include your agent in your planning sessions.
Even the best agent is not a mind reader. Tell your agent what you want in your new home and where you would like to live. Be honest about your price range. Discuss whether you are willing to consider a house that needs work. Talk about home size, style, etc.
Speed is often important, especially when dealing with booming markets or particularly attractive properties. Make sure your agent understands that you want to be contacted at once if something promising becomes available. Provide phone numbers (home, office, cell) where you can be reached at various times of the day.
Agents are salespeople - they typically have strong and outgoing personalities. Don't forget, however, that it is your home search. Don't let your agent take charge of the process and show you only a handpicked list of properties. Insist on reviewing the multiple listings and on making your own decisions about what you want to see.
There is one instance when your agent may have conflicting obligations - when you are buying his or her own listing. In this situation, the agent must represent both you and the seller. While this is not usually a problem, you may want to keep it in mind while you are negotiating for the property.