If you are currently in the market, I am sure you have had this experience. You are looking around, maybe on http://www.metroatlantagarealestate.com/ , you find the exact perfect listing. You call an agent, and low and behold, the home is under contract, or even closed already.
Or, lets say you are working with an agent, and by the time you are finding out about things, they are already under contract, you have missed the highest and best deadline, or you are competing against 60 other offers. Nope, that is not an exaggeration. 1818 Stonebrook Way, Lawrenceville, GA 30043 had over 60 bids.
This can grow frustrating and disheartening. So, what does a good agent do? Well, first, a good agent should be setting your expectations. It is one thing to know all this going in, it is another to have missed out on four or five homes a month into it and then find out about this.
A good buyer's agent should also set you up on a market alert system of some sort. If you are not getting daily emails with anything new that has come on the market that fit your criteria, then by the time you meet with your agent again and find it, it will be too late. If you have objected to the listing alerts, rethink your position. If your agent has offered them, rethink your agent.
A good buyer's agent should know what is going on and be able to pull comps for you so that you understand what the true market value is and also show you what the current market is doing. Your offer is up to you, but if you are putting in unrealistic offers, that does nothing but waste time and cost you an opportunity to own the house you want. However, the flip side of that, bidding way over list price and buying well above market value isn't smart either. Yes, homes are appreciating. Yes, you are competing against other buyers. Yes, you will need to pay market value. No, you don't need to pay 10% OVER market value. As agents, our income and livelihood is not determined by how many clients we have or how many offers we write. Our ability to fee our families is determined by our ability to getting the offer accepted, and ultimately, you closing on that home. That puts pressure on the agent to, perhaps, push you farther than you should go. Again, remember, I led with the fact that you should be putting in realistic offers. But, your agent should be able to counsel you on that and why. Paying above market is fine and perfectly understandable in this market. So long as you love the house, and you KNOW you are paying at the top of the market if not above the market.
A good buyer's agent should have a network of resources. The most important is a lender. So much of how well a transaction goes, is resting solely on the lender's shoulders. A bad lender can cost you the earnest money and the ability to close on the house you want. Not to mention loads of stress and frustration. A good buyer's agent doesn't get anything from a referral to that mortgage company other than the peace of mind that you will be well taken care of. Okay, so we also feel more comfortable that you will be able to close and that we will be able to get a paycheck.
A good buyer's agent should also have a few good inspectors and home warranty companies as well.
That is stuff that all buyer's agents should be doing. So, what is above and beyond. Well, we all know there is limited inventory and countless bidders. So, is your agent finding homes that aren't listed? If I can't find something that someone is looking for on the market, I knock on doors. Some seller's don't realize that they can easily sell their home right now. Does this work? Absolutely. I have several clients right now looking in the 130K and below price point. (this price point is in the highest demand of any) I have found two of them unlisted houses that I expect to go under contract this week.
In a balanced market, you can afford to wait for the 'right' listing to come along. In this market, your agent needs to go above and beyond.
A good buyer's agent take fiduciary responsibility seriously. Recently, I was helping a couple. I flat out missed a landfill that was proximate to the home they had just put under contract. You are probably wondering how you miss a landfill. I knew about the landfill. I did not realize that it was that close to the subdivision they were buying in. The entrance is well away from the home, it just covers a much larger area than I expected. Well, we found out about this AFTER they had put down a non-refundable $5000.00 deposit. It was new construction, and they were paying for upgrades. I knew that they were depending on me to inform them about anything like that. I made a mistake. So, I guaranteed that they would either get their money refunded, OR I would pay it from my pocket. Was there any legal requirement for me to do this? No. It clearly states in the contract that this falls under the buyer's responsibility. But, I knew that they were depending on me. That is why you get an agent, right? In the end, I was able to get their money back. (It is amazing how much weight it carries when your brokerage has such a huge market share in your area that the builder knows that a bad reputation would cost far more than $5000.00) Remember, you are hiring the agent to guide you in all parts of the transaction. Not just 'sell' you a house. This isn't a used car, and your agent shouldn't act like a used car salesperson.
A good buyer's agent should be available and be able to give you answers. I am perplexed about how many calls I get from other agent's clients. Their agent is on vacation and they would just like to look at a house. Their agent can't figure out what is going on with a listing and on and on. Everyone should be allowed to take a vacation, but an agent should never expect someone to put their home search on hold while they take time off. I have other agents I refer things to when I go on vacation. (Well, if I ever to decide to go on vacation, I have other people to refer clients to) There is no excuse for not having another agent lined up to help in the event that they are unavailable. Buying a home is a big deal. And, there are important time frames that must be met.
As far as the answers part of this. I admit, I have things that I look at that some agents don't know about, or don't think to look at, or are too lazy to deal with. Having the experience as an appraiser, loan officer and investor has taught me to be able to dig a little deeper than most agents. But, MOST of the time, any agent can answer most of the buyers questions about a property if they just took the time to look.
Finally, a good buyer's agent is your advocate. When you look at the property, they are looking for any potential issues. They aren't directing your eyes away from them. When they talk to you, they make sure to explain the situation fully and all the ramifications, but when they are talking to the other party, there is no sign of weakness or lack of unity. They write the contract to best protect you, not obligate you. They negotiate the best they can to get the other party to compromise, not get you to compromise.