Deciding on whether or not to work with a real estate agent can be difficult to navigate. On one hand, they’re experts; on the other, you want to be in control of the search process. How do you know if working with an agent is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at what to consider before agreeing to work exclusively with an agent.
Do You Really Need a Realtor?
If you’re beginning the home buying process, you’ve likely come across the very common question of whether or not you should work with a real estate agent. Everyone and their mother will give you their opinion on best practices here. The kicker? Everyone is sort of right, and everyone is sort of wrong, because the only answer to this question is, “It depends.”
For some, working with an agent grants access to a knowledge base they wouldn’t have otherwise. Agents often bring years of study and experience to the table, and guide you around sticky situations you didn’t know you had to avoid. It’s also helpful to have a (reasonably unbiased) other party off which you can bounce ideas, to get insight from a different perspective.
Plus, the right agent won’t just be filling your inbox with listings. They’ll be accompanying you on tours, asking thoughtful questions on your behalf, and connecting you to their network of home professionals. While the decision will ultimately come down to you, your agent can do a lot of the heavy lifting to make a stressful situation somewhat more enjoyable.
That being said, agents aren’t for everyone (otherwise we wouldn’t be writing this article). Some homebuyers are adamant about going through the process alone. You want to be as informed as possible when searching for your new home, and if an agent provides knowledge you don’t have, it might be a good idea to work with them.
There are a few situations in which it’s not necessarily the most beneficial, though. If you’re a real estate agent, for example, you might choose to represent yourself; if you’ve got experience navigating the real estate market, then by all means, go for it! Or perhaps you’re on your 784th (OK, or third or fourth) home purchase, and so you’ve gained experience even though you’re not an official agent. If you feel you have the means to navigate the process without counseling, agents aren’t necessary.
But even with experience, we recommend caution before assuming you have all the knowledge you need. Working with an agent often prevents issues that don’t crop up until well after the home is sold. For example, if you’re relocating from afar, your agent will likely know which natural disasters to insure against, while you have no idea.
Additionally, agents network and communicate well with each other, which is incredibly helpful if you’re getting lost in the legalese of real estate. You don’t want your agent making decisions for you, but you do want a point of contact to their knowledge.
How do You Know if You Have a Good Realtor?
If you’ve never gone through the home buying process, you might not know what to look for in a qualified candidate. So what exactly makes a strong real estate agent? There are many questions you should ask your realtor to assess whether they’re the best one for you, but here are a few to get you started.
Consider how long they’ve been an agent, and whether or not this is their fulltime job. While neither of these has to be a deal breaker, they help give a better sense of who you’re working with. Newer agents may not have as many connections or as much experience as their seasoned counterparts, while part-time agents have other business obligations on which they’ll be focused.
Be sure to also connect with someone who is familiar with the area in which you’re looking to move. Most agents specialize in a specific area or region, and are up to date on local listings and can tell you about the community, schools, and surrounding area in addition to the home.
The most important thing, however, is that it’s someone you’re comfortable working with. While your decision factors can be as arbitrary as you’d like – you could, for example, choose to only work with a Sagittarius – get a sense of how they run their business, what their communication preferences are, and their experience your desired markets. Then, listen to your gut. Buying a home is a big endeavor, and you want someone accompanying you that you can trust throughout the process.
Can You Switch Your Real Estate Agent?
The home buying process should be an enjoyable experience, but things don’t always go as expected and it’s not unreasonable for emotions to run high. If you or your agent feel as though the relationship is not helpful for either of you, it may be better to call it quits so you can find someone with whom you work better.
How do you know you’re at the breaking point? After exercising due diligence to remedy the relationship, if you and your agent feel like it’s unproductive to continue, it’s time to part ways. You shouldn’t dread working with your agent, so speak up if you’re unhappy. You may even be pleasantly surprised to find your agent has a solution!
It might feel pretty awkward to end the relationship, but the good news is your agent is likely just as aware of the tension as you are. Put in writing you’re ready to move on, and be honest, but polite and concise; threats and rudeness will get you nowhere. If you didn’t sign a buyer’s contract – a legal agreement to binding you to work with a specific agent – then after giving notice, you get to go on your merry way.
If you have signed a buyer’s contract, things are a bit more complex. The agent may be entitled to a commission if you purchase a home they had previously shown you; and on very rare occasions, you might be required to prove your agent breached the contract to nullify the relationship. For specifics, review the agreement you signed.
As long as all parties maintain professionalism and continue to communicate, though, it’s likely you and your agent will come to a solution beneficial to you both. The final decision is with you. You get to choose which home you want to purchase, where you want to live, and which agent with which you want to work.
Mia Zozobrado joined Builders Digital Experience (BDX) in 2019 as a content writer. A graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in English, Mia is passionate about the written word and making connections.