Advice for buyers

Real estate agents earn their commissions from sellers, and the money is split between the sellers’ and buyers’ agents. As a general rule, as a buyer, you won’t be asked to enter into a contractual or financial agreement with a real estate agent.

Instead, a buyer makes a (sometimes non-verbal) handshake agreement with the real estate agent. You’re basically agreeing to exclusively rely upon that agent. And that’s fair.

Agents often work hard and spend a lot of time engaging with buyers, watching the market, writing contracts, showing properties, reviewing disclosures, and so on. Imagine how they’d feel after spending months working with a client, only to be informed that another agent found them the home they want?

Before you shake hands, do your homework. Ask friends for references, and check out online agent reviews.

Going to open houses is a good way to meet and interview agents who work where you want to buy. Don’t jump in with the first agent you meet. Like any relationship, start slow and feel it out. It’s harder to break up with your agent if you have too deeply engaged.

If you’re not quite ready to be tied down, it’s better not to engage an agent until you are ready. Early on, a good real estate agent should read your situation well and provide the appropriate amount of attention as needed. They’ll act as a resource, and be available when you need them. Once the search kicks into high gear, agents and buyers will spend lots of time together and communicate 24×7.

If you do find that a relationship is not working, be honest and upfront before more time passes. Offer the agent constructive feedback about why it’s not working for you.