Just imagine, you’ve made the decision to pick a particular buyer’s agent that someone recommended to you and you are ready to buy your first house.  The agent sends you 500 listings and asks you to pick 3 houses you want to see.  You choose a sunny Saturday afternoon, and you walk through each house.  At the end, the agent asks “Which house will you be putting an offer on?”

Unless you REALLY like one of the three houses, run.  This agent isn’t looking out for your best interests.  Sometimes, I will hear an agent say horrible things about something along the lines of taking up the agents time and needing to sell houses to buy a car or feed the family.  It’s not right.  We must always be putting our clients first and our needs or wants second.

As long as I know my buyer is committed to buying a house, I will work with the buyer for however long it takes.  If it takes two years, it takes two years.  What’s most important to me is that my buyer feels comfortable with the home they’ve chosen.

Because it can take a long time to find the right house, I’m not able to take on a lot of buyers at once.  This is why it is so very important for sellers to understand why they are paying a commission to a buyer’s agent as well as their listing agent.  I might have to show hundreds of houses to a buyer, and that time isn’t exactly free.  When 87% or more used an agent to purchase their home, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to lower that portion of the commission.

Also, with a limited amount of buyers that I can service properly, I have to work with buyers who are committed and motivated to buying a house.  This is why I don’t often chase a buyer who shows little interest in taking the steps necessary to purchase a home.  For example, unless you are paying cash for a home, you are going to need to be approved for a mortgage.  If a buyer I’ve met can’t be bothered to get a pre-approval, I can’t be bothered to show them houses, because in a competitive marketplace, we aren’t going to be able to get all the information required to be pre-approved before the seller has taken another offer.

One thing that I do ask my buyers is that they always drive by to take a look at the outside of the property in person before asking to go see it.  Some agents bristle at this, but it does two things.

  1. It shows a level of commitment by the buyer.  We should all value each other’s time on this earth.  While it might come as a shocker, sometimes agents want to do other things than show a house on a freezing cold dark night.  Especially when the chance of writing an offer is 0-1%.  When a buyer does take a look at a property ahead of time, it shows that they are really looking at all of their options and trying to get a new home.
  2. It eliminates many houses. The best real estate agents know how to get great pictures out of a marginal listing.  Houses next to large commercial areas, houses on busy streets, and houses where the lot is terrible can all be minimized in a framed picture.  In my experience, the lot the home sits on is worth at least 50% of the purchase decision.  If you don’t like the outside of the home, you aren’t going to care about what is inside, so basically it’s a waste of time.  I will admit, sometimes there are houses that are so awful outside that you just have to see the inside, kind of like watching a train wreck.  But still, you aren’t going to write an offer on the house, so it is kind of a waste of time.

I think the main reason why some agents get uncomfortable when their buyers go driving to see the houses ahead of time is that they are worried the buyer will find another agent at one of the houses and decide to dump their agent.  If that is the case, as a real estate agent, you didn’t really have a good connection with your buyers anyway.  It’s probably better off that they left you.  Some agents want to control their buyers, and I am totally against this.  Let the buyers see what is out there, and let them make informed decisions.

If you take my advice above, you will enjoy the house hunt and will end up with a great house.  If you do get into a spot where you’ve seen only three houses and you are expected to make an offer, you aren’t likely to get that house of your dreams.  It takes quite a while to educate yourself on the market conditions and also to figure out exactly what you want in a home, the ideal location of your home, and how much you are willing to spend to get to that place.