If you haven’t purchased a home before, you probably have lots of questions about the process. And if you’ve recently overheard a work colleague gloating about how they easily bought a house without a real estate agent, one of those questions might be whether you actually need to hire an agent at all.
In truth? Yes, you can buy a house without the aid of a real estate agent. But for buyers especially, a good agent can make all the difference — they’ll simplify the process and not only make sure you find the right home for your lifestyle and budget, but they’ll also be able to help you make the most of current market conditions and maximize your dollar.
Let’s take a closer look at 11 reasons why you should definitely hire a real estate agent.
1. An agent is your advocate
As a buyer, your agent works on your behalf. The full list of a real estate agent’s duties is exhaustive, and we’re about to dig into some of those nuances — but to give you an idea of everything you stand to gain from hiring an agent, here’s a quick rundown of the benefits you can expect.
An agent will:
- Help you find available homes
- Arrange viewings and gather information about the property
- Provide advice on first-time buyer programs and recommend mortgage lenders
- Help you identify possible opportunities for negotiation
- Work with you to write a compelling purchase offer
- Guide you through the steps of due diligence and inspections
- Coordinate with the closing attorney and seller’s agent to finalize the sale
- … And lots more!
They may not be lawyers, but it’s a real estate agent’s job to act on your behalf throughout the homebuying process. No one else in the deal is going to be looking out for you or your best interests!
And if you’re worried about agent representation costing you money, know that in most cases with real estate purchases in the United States, buyer’s agents earn their pay through a commission paid by the seller.
It’s entirely possible — and likely, even — that you won’t pay a dime for the services of hiring a real estate agent to buy your home.
2. Agents really know the real estate market
Unless you’re a real estate investor who deals with dozens of home sales every year, it’s going to be very difficult to learn as much about real estate as your agent already knows.
Scrolling through home sales websites may offer a helpful overview of what’s available around your local market — but they aren’t a deep dive into market conditions and inventory. They’re not even a reliable preview of a particular home!
“Photos are not a great source for understanding what kind of shape a home is in, how big the rooms actually are, and whether the floor plan is desirable,” says Michael Berg, a real estate agent in Scottsdale, Arizona, with 13 years of experience.
Busy agents are in and out of homes on a daily basis, which means that once they understand your wants and needs, they can direct you to homes that are likely to be a match.
“Experienced buyer’s agents have likely been in many of the homes in the neighborhood you are considering,” says Berg.
This is helpful not just for the purpose of locating homes that suit your layout preferences, but for finding those that match your budget, too. Agents will understand which neighborhoods are showing signs of becoming overpriced — and which areas may still have potential for you to snap up a good deal.
In short? An experienced real estate agent will quite literally have their finger on the pulse of your local market, and this knowledge is simply not something you can replicate from outside of the industry.
3. Is the price right? An agent will know
Real estate pricing varies depending on whether market conditions have created a seller’s market or a buyer’s market. When you’re trying to buy a home in a seller’s market (which are the conditions we’ve seen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic), you can expect a limited inventory of available homes and a high likelihood of multiple-offer scenarios when you do find one you’d like to purchase.
And this is when it’s especially helpful to have a buyer’s agent in your corner — because an agent will have the market expertise to advise you on how to make a competitive offer.
We’ll touch on this again later, but writing an enticing purchase offer isn’t just about meeting or exceeding a seller’s asking price; it’s also about navigating possible contingencies (such as needing to sell your current home before buying this one), knowing what to negotiate on versus what to leave alone (do you really need a $2,000 allowance for new carpet, or can you tackle that replacement after the home is yours?), and being able to close within a period of time that works for both you and the seller.
A great buyer’s agent will know what the “right price” actually means.
4. An agent can help you find a home faster
As we mentioned earlier, there’s only so much you can learn about your local market from scrolling past listings on real estate websites or driving through neighborhoods on Saturday mornings in search of “for sale” signs. No matter how many alerts and newsletters you sign up for, no matter how many streets you drive up and down, you’ll never have the same market intel as a real estate agent.
Particularly in a seller’s market where homes are moving faster than MLS syndication to third-party websites can keep up with, you’ll want to be among the first to know when a new property is about to become available.
She also notes that, particularly in competitive markets with low inventory and multiple offers, sellers (and their own agents) want to work with agents — not unrepresented buyers.
Real estate agents know how to communicate effectively and get things done because they know what needs to be done. Self-represented buyers generally do not have that knowledge, and certainly not in the same capacity as a professional agent.
“Buyer’s agents are working nonstop right now,” says Suits. “And keep in mind, they work for you for free because the seller pays them.”
Working with an agent will help you find a house — and make it yours — much faster than if you’re going about it on your own.
5. You won’t just have an agent; you’ll have a network
One great reason for hiring a real estate agent is because they’re well-connected with other industry professionals. Think mortgage lenders, inspectors, appraisers, closing attorneys, repair professionals, and lots more.
“The relationship with your real estate agent doesn’t end at closing,” says Kirsten Conover, an agent who has been working with Atlanta-area buyers for 17 years. “They can recommend movers, interior designers, contractors, and other professionals for all your home maintenance and service needs.”
And don’t overlook how that network can help you find your dream home in the first place.
“Real estate agents also have relationships with other agents, and this can work to a buyer’s advantage in terms of finding out about ‘coming soon’ listings,” says Conover.
In a competitive market, that early info can be your key to being first in line with a knockout offer.
6. Agents can expand your horizons
Whether you’re moving to a new city or staying put in a place you know well, chances are good that there’s a neighborhood or three that you’re not as familiar with as you might think. If you’re open to it, a real estate agent can introduce you to areas and homes that may not have been on your radar.
Maybe you thought a certain neighborhood was out of your price range, or perhaps you’ve been set on a two-story home. An agent who knows their stuff will be able to identify that, actually, a lakeside community can be in your budget — and they might even know of a ranch-style home with a clever layout that meets your needs even better than that hypothetical two-story.
It’s worth keeping an open mind, and it’s definitely worth hiring a real estate agent.
A good buyer’s agent can point out red flags and teach you what to look for while viewing homes. There’s a lot more to consider than just a pretty kitchen, and an agent could potentially save you money by pointing out a major issue with a home before you get to the offer and inspection stages.
- Michael Berg
Real Estate Agent
Real Estate Agent at Ranch Realty
- Years of Experience
- Average Price Point
- Single Family Homes
7. Agents can help you spot red flags
Busy agents are in and out of homes all the time. They know a good thing when they see it — and a bad one, too.
“A good buyer’s agent can point out red flags and teach you what to look for while viewing homes,” says Berg. “There’s a lot more to consider than just a pretty kitchen, and an agent could potentially save you money by pointing out a major issue with a home before you get to the offer and inspection stages.”
With the help of professional photography, thoughtful home staging, and the urgency of a hot seller’s market, it’s easier than you might think to overlook potential problems.
While certain issues with a home may be obvious — such as rotting window trim, damaged hardwood floors, or water stains on a ceiling — there are other problems that you may not even be aware of to consider as a point of caution.
A buyer’s agent, meanwhile, will know that termites tend to be an issue with homes of a certain age in this neighborhood, or that this particular house may not appraise as high as you’d hope because the kitchen renovation is simply above and beyond that of any comparable homes.
It’s all about having that local expert in your corner to offer a heads up when you’ll need it most!
8. Agents can help you be more competitive
We’ve already talked about how it’s not just price that creates a competitive offer — and, by this point, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that a real estate agent will have creative ideas and access to unique tools to help your offer stand out even more.
What if you could sweeten the deal for a seller by offering them a rent-back clause?
What if writing a heartfelt letter could be the nudge a seller needs to bump your offer to the top of their pile?
Sometimes we’re just not aware of the things we should look for or ask about, and while it’s often fine to bumble along and figure things out as we go — consider that the homebuying process may not be the ideal time for a self-guided journey.
9. Agents know how to write a contract (which becomes legally binding)
Real estate agents are not lawyers, but they do know how to write legally binding contracts for the purchase and sale of real property in accordance with state regulations.
What’s more, a buyer’s agent will be able to guide you through everything that needs to happen after the contract is signed and you’re officially on your way to owning a home.
“Transactions are complex, time-consuming, and no two are ever alike,” says Conover. “A home purchase is one of the largest transactions most buyers will ever make, and it takes support from a trusted professional during every step of the process to make that transaction successful.”
This means that your agent will keep you on track with your due diligence — which includes all the research, inspections, appraisals, and steps required by your lender to finalize your mortgage loan.
All of these things have to happen according to a certain timeframe as stipulated by the purchase agreement, and your agent will be there to help you each step of the way.
10. Agents know how to negotiate
Seller’s market or buyer’s market, buying a home isn’t just about pleasing the seller. You need to feel comfortable not only with the price you’re paying for a home, but also about the terms under which you’re acquiring the property.
What if you and the seller are only a few thousand dollars apart on sales price, and you’re at the absolute top of your budget? What if the home doesn’t appraise at your offer price? What if you need 45 days to close, and the seller wants to finalize in 30?
And what happens if the home inspection report comes back with issues you weren’t expecting? Sure, a leaky bathroom faucet might be a quick fix — but what if the inspector found signs of water damage in the unfinished basement?
A real estate agent can help you negotiate through anything — including knowing when to walk away. Any buyer’s agent who has been on the job for more than a few months has faced certain objections over and over and will know how to handle those challenges — and recognize when there’s nothing more that can be done.
Can you say the same for yourself?
11. You can’t DIY a full-time job
If you’ve ever tried to chop an onion with a spoon, you know there’s something to be said about having the right tool for the job.
When you work with a real estate agent to buy a home, you’re arming yourself with the expertise of someone whose actual job is to advise and advocate for homebuyers. And most of us are busy enough as it is — do you really have the time to take on finding and negotiating for a house as a DIY project in addition to your work and other responsibilities?
There are few scenarios wherein we have the opportunity to hire an expert at no cost to us — remember, the buyer’s agent earns their commission from the seller’s side of the transaction — so there’s very little reason why you shouldn’t find an agent who can help you with this major purchase!
How to find your ideal agent
There are lots of ways to find a great agent, including asking your friends, family, or colleagues for their referrals.
You can also explore HomeLight’s network of experienced agents all over the country — and don’t be afraid to chat with a few! (We’ll recommend three who we think could be a good fit for you.)
Remember, buying a home is a big deal. You can and should take the time to find someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to.
But do find someone, because hiring a real estate agent is the best move you can make — before you actually make your move.
Header Image Source: (Filiz Elaerts / Unsplash)