How to know if your agent has your best interest in mind [5 Pro Tips]

Aug 18, 2020 4:51:30 PM / by Mark Gorman

Can you go to an open house without an agent? Yes. But there are many implications to consider if you choose to tour a home without a licensed agent to represent your interests. 

It's always a good idea to have an agent that's on your side when you're looking to purchase a home. Open house agents have the seller's best interest in mind rather than the people touring the home. Buying a home can be a complicated process and you should always have someone in your corner who can advocate for you and knows the right questions to ask. 

Open house agents represent the seller!

When you speak to an agent at an open house, ask an agent to show you a home, or even call an agent for more information about a house, you might be opening a can of worms if you don't intend to buy a home through any of these agents. Don't make the mistake of leading an agent on, even unintentionally, because it can come back to bite you.

young architect group in big bright modern new apartment looking blueprints and building plans

While all licensed real estate agent agents have an ethical responsibility to be truthful and not mislead anyone, they aren't necessarily able to advocate for someone they are not representing.  A listing agent can't fight for a potential buyer and still serve the seller's best interests. So, how can you be sure that your agent asks the right questions that benefit your interests? 

Having a buyer's agent in your corner is important

Many first-time buyers aren't aware of agency representation or agency disclosure, nor understand the concept of a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent. A real estate agent’s loyalties and responsibilities change depending on who the agent is talking to. Here’s a quick summary of roles an agent can play in any one transaction.

For starters, letting the agent know whether you intend to work with that agent is a must. Your best bet to avoid potential procuring cause disputes is to be upfront with each real estate agent you talk to! Along the way of inquiring about and viewing homes, you will continue to encounter agents. 

When you are ready, hire the best qualified to help you find a home, negotiate the purchase terms and navigate you to the completion of the sale. Once you select an agent, use these tips to help your agent establish procuring cause:

1. Sign a buyer's broker agreement

When you find an agent you want to work with, you can sign a buyer's broker agreement to officially commit to that agent. The agreement will clarify any confusion about their responsibilities in the process, including compensation and other details about their role in the purchase. Broker agreements can get complicated. If you're ever unsure about the agent's role in your home search, simply ask for clarification. It is essential to know that they are there to represent you and not the seller. 

2. Let other agents know you're already working with an agent

You should always be clear about your intentions when working with a real estate agent. Imagine you're already working with another agent.  In that case, you should make that clear to any other agents you encounter throughout the process. Agents are trained to ask you whether you are already working with an agent. If they forget to ask or choose not to ask, providing that information will be helpful. Make sure you are clear with other agents when you are already under contract with another agent. 

3. Discuss your agency representation options

It is vital to be sure that your agent is only representing you. In some cases, they can represent the buyer and the seller, which could be a conflict of interest. Make sure that you discuss the terms of the agreement with your agent to be sure they don't also represent the seller. Your best bet in this case is to be sure that you have a buyer's agreement in place. 

Agency disclosures describe the various capacities under which an agent can operate. Since an agent doesn't know the specific role until a property is located, all roles are described to you.  For example, here is the Broker Disclosure which describes all representation options allowed in the state of Missouri.

4. Try not to work with other agents

Your agent is eager to help you. If you find a home you're interested in touring, let them know. Part of your agent's duties is to show you homes for sale, even if those are homes you have located yourself. You are welcome to be active in the home search, but don't reach out to other agents when you are already under contract with one.

5. Let your realtor call the listing agents

Allow your agent to contact listing agents for more detailed information. Typically, they know the right questions to ask to make sure all of your bases are covered. To eliminate confusion, ask your agent to call the listing agents to ask about a property you're interested in. HomeScout provides a lot of information about the property and is an excellent resource for finding potential homes.

Know what to do at an open house

If you attend Open Houses without your agent, hand your agent's business card to the agent hosting the Open. Sign guest books with your agent's name next to your own. This helps protect you, so the open house agent won't try to corral you or request personal information. When touring a home without an agent, be very careful not to give away any unnecessary information. This could put you at a disadvantage when it comes time to negotiate terms with the seller. 

The next time you speak to a real estate agent about his or her listing, keep in mind the perspective of who they are representing in a potential transaction.  You may be creating a potential headache for yourself if you don't fully disclose your intention or if you speak too openly about your situation to someone who doesn't represent you. 
Ready to start the search?

Technology has transformed the process of buying a home. You can do almost everything from the comfort of your own couch. From finding a house on HomeScout, requesting a Live Video Tour, and signing the paperwork online, every aspect of the home-buying process has become easier and more convenient for the home buyer. For more information about buying a home during COVID-19, feel free to check out HomeTraq FAQ on our website or reach out with any questions you may have.

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Happy House Hunting!

Topics: touring homes, real estate agent, first-time, listing agent, buying a home, homebuying

Mark Gorman

Written by Mark Gorman

Co-Founder of HomeTraq. 30 years mortgage & real estate experience.

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