Lessons in Buying a House: Choosing a Real Estate Agent

houseThere hasn’t been much activity on this site for awhile, I mean on my part as far as writing anything new.  I’ve had a break from work, which rather than energize me, somewhat put me in a state of lethargy (deservedly so or not),  a slovenliness,  which, among other things, folded itself into a kind of writer’s block.

What’s been causing all this I already know: when I have a big decision to make, I also get stuck accomplishing other things.

Anyway, if you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know that I’m in the process of buying a house, my first house.  It’s been an ongoing challenge for awhile now because I’ve been so methodical about it all, trying to be smart and make the best decisions.  I’ve already got my financing, with help from the VA and the expectancy of the $8,000 tax rebate to boot.

After I had secured my financing, I found a house that I really liked through har.com, and I wanted to check it out,but I didn’t have an agent, so I contacted one, based on a friend’s recommendation.  Even though I put in offers on two different houses with this agent, I never felt really comfortable working with her, and for a number of reasons, just didn’t trust her.  She didn’t help much with checking out the condition or value of the houses; instead, she advised me to offer the limit of my financing, and, in fact, told the seller’s agent what my limit was.  In the end, she seemed only to be pushing me to buy so that she could get her commission.

After that experience, I just have held off for awhile, knowing that I had to find another agent, but I felt like I had a block, just like writer’s block.  After hearing about my experience with this first agent, several friends and acquaintances told me about agents who they thought could help me, but I haven’t wanted to do that because now I have an uneasy situation with the friend who recommended the first agent, because he knows that I had problems with her but she is also his friend too.

So I did what I should have done in the first place.  As part of my whole process of buying a house, almost a year ago, I took a couple of Leisure Learning classes about financing and buying a house.  All of the instructors were good, but I felt one guy was really knowledgeable and down-to-earth.

Just a few days ago, I broke out of my lethargy and called him, and he was just as informative and helpful on the phone as he had been in the class.

Yesterday we met to look at a place.  It isn’t going to be “my first place”, but I realized that I had made the right decision in contacting him.  He’s much more of a “people person” than the first agent, and I feel that he understands someone like me, who’s buying for the first time.  Even when we got to the property, he didn’t rush me into looking at the house, but chatted first about other interests that we both had.  We looked at the place together, discussing the pluses and minuses.  And there was no push to buy or not buy.  Then we agreed to look at some other places that I’m interested in sometime next week.

So how do you find a good realtor?  I still don’t have an easy answer.  Here’s a site that gives some good questions that a buyer should ask a prospective agent.  I have read through them and even printed them out to put with all my “house buying stuff”, but I’m not sure whether most new buyers would just pop into a real estate agency and start interviewing an agent.

One thing I’ve learned is that some agents may have you sign an exclusivity agreement, which is a sort of contract.  However, in that case, you can put a time limit, so if I were unsure about how well I liked this agent, I wouldn’t make the agreement for more than like three weeks or a month.  If you don’t get a house in that time, but you decide you like the agent, you can always extend the agreement, or if you don’t like the agent, you can find another.

I think buyers, especially first-timers, are really at a disadvantage in the home-buying process.  After all, both agents get a larger commission the more the house sells for.  The seller too has already been through the same process at least once, when he bought the house, and he wants to get as much money as he can.

So I think the best buyer’s agent has to be someone that you can feel some connection with, some rapport.  Probably, a guy will have better luck with a male agent, and any other similarities, like age, and like in my case, sexuality.  (Yeah, I thought he might be gay when I took the Leisure Learning class, but I think I have probably the worst gaydar in the world.)  The more the buyer and the agent have in common, the more likelihood that they will look at a property in a similar way.

I’m still not to the end of making a determination about real estate agents.  In fact, I haven’t veered far yet from my initial impression that they are not much less greasy than car salemen.  Likewise, though you know they have to drive around a lot in their line of work, you also get another question mark sprouting out of the top of your head when they drive up in big black European cars.

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