Exclusive buyer's brokers work only with buyers and don't take listings. They're obliged to help you find the best deals and lowest price. Unfortunately, agency standards have changed so much in the past ten years that real estate agents themselves are likely to be confused about their obligations to buyers and sellers, even though in most places they are supposed to give you a disclosure form explaining your relationship. Bottom line: You don't truly have an advocate in your corner unless you both sign a contract saying so.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine
If you ever doubted the value of real estate agents who work solely for home buyers (as opposed to traditional agents who report to sellers, consider this: A recent study by U.S. Sprint found that 232 relocating Sprint employees who hired buyer's brokers paid an average of 91% of a home's list price. People who use traditional agents typically pay about 96%. On a house originally priced at$150,000, that's a difference of $7,500.
When Sallye and Jim Ryan wanted to move from their Tampa apartment to a three-bedroom home this spring, the busy couple used a buyer broker, Beth Tansey, to help. Within a week, they had bid on the house they now own. Sallye liked being able to delegate the house-hunting. "With both my husband and me working, it was a lot easier," she says. "I don't think I would have found this house that I really love without her. There are so many homes for sale here, I would probably still be looking.
Because Tansey is a buyer broker, who exclusively represents the home buyer's interests, the Ryan's trusted her to find the best deal on a house that suited their needs. By contrast, a traditional real state broker is legally bound to work for the seller who pays the commission and therefore may be more intent on selling listed homes than finding your dream house. Even Realtors who don't hold the listing on a given house act as subagents to the seller. So unless a broker says that he or she is working for you -- brokers are now legally obliged to disclose who they represent -- you can assume the broker is working for the seller. Such agents must pass on information such as the buyer's income to the seller, who then has a better idea of what price to hold out for.
Because these brokers are obliged to get buyers the best deal possible, they approach houses with a critical eye for apparent flaws. You'll still need an inspector to uncover hidden defects, however. Buyer brokers also show properties sold by the owner, which can be cheaper because the only commission is what you agree to pay your broker. Sellers' agents usually won't show these homes because they don't make commissions on them.
Brokers representing buyers should also appraise the value of the house, negotiate the price, and pre-qualify you for a mortgage, sometimes at a better rate. Buyers' Agent brokers, for instance, narrow mortgage bids from 15 lenders nationwide to the three best offers -- and then get those three to rebid. "A well-trained, experienced buyer broker is a great asset," says Peter Miller, author of How to Sell Your Home in Any Market ($12, Harper Perennial) and other real estate guides. "You won't do any worse, and you may do a lot better.
Usually, the buyer broker splits the sales commission with the seller's agent, just as a subagent who didn't have the listing would with the broker who did. So the fee still comes out of the sale price. Some people might assume that buyers' agents have an incentive to keep the price high. But again, the broker must get you the best deal. "In my experience, all of them do," says Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.
A conflict of interest is more likely when a real estate firm that represents sellers assigns you one of its brokers as a buyer agent. That's why many people believe an "exclusive" buyer broker is preferable. If there aren't any in your area, and you have to use a listing broker, "make sure they disclose when they are showing you properties they have a financial interest in," says Brobeck.
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How Much Home Should You Buy?
You may have heard a real estate Agent or someone else say, "Always buy the biggest home you can afford. It is a good investment and the larger the investment the larger the return on investment will be".
But is that good advice for you? Maybe, maybe not.
When deciding to buy a home the first thing you need to do is get a loan. Yes, get the loan before you shop for homes. The lender will give you a letter stating how the maximum amount they will lend you given your income, debts, and the amount of cash available for down payment and closing costs.
Now that you know the maximum amount you can borrow and what the monthly payment will be on that amount, ask yourself some questions about your "comfort level". We all have a different comfort level when it comes to debt.
Some things that affect each individuals comfort level are:
Do I worry a little or a lot about money I owe?
Am I comfortable that my job is secure and my income will be stable for the next few years?
Do I reasonably expect to have a considerably larger income in the near future?
Am I willing to change my lifestyle (travel less, eat out less often, keep our car for a few more years) in order to make a house payment?
Think about all of that and then decide what payment you are comfortable with. If it is the maximum amount the lender has stated, fine. But if it is less than that amount, then buy less home.
The new home should be a place of comfort, not a place to sit in and worry about how you are going to pay for it!
Besides, you can always "move up" later if you situation or comfort level changes.