If you’re in the market to buy but think you’ll just go it alone, read this first.
1. You deserve your own dedicated representation.
In any real estate sales transaction, there’s a buyer and a seller, and in most transactions, a real estate agent represents the seller in the sale—a seller’s agent. The seller’s agent is responsible for marketing the property and representing the seller’s best interests in the transaction. That doesn’t help you. When you engage the help of an agent, a buyer’s agent, you’re locking in your own representation. A buyer’s agent is there to fully represent your interests so you can feel confident that you’re getting the best deal. Unless unavoidable, you wouldn’t go into court without a lawyer, and the same is true about buying a home. It’s important to embark on the search for a new home expertly prepared and armed with the highest level of support possible: a buyer’s agent.
2. It typically doesn’t cost you anything.
Real estate agents earn a commission from a sales deal, but what many buyers may not realize, is that it’s the seller who typically pays the commission, not the buyer. This is a point worth repeating: working with an agent is usually at no cost to the buyer, meaning that financially speaking, there’s no downside. There will be plenty of costs and fees throughout the buying process for which you will be responsible (e.g. attorney fees, appraisal, down payment), so take advantage of an invaluable resource that generally comes without a price tag.
3. They’ve been through this before, so they know how the process goes.
As the title “first-time buyer” suggests, you’re charting unknown territory. So why go it alone when you don’t have to? Choose an agent who specializes in (or has significant experience in) working with buyers, as he or she will be able to expertly guide you through the process. Your agent will be able to tell you what to expect starting at the very beginning, what type of paperwork will be needed, common obstacles you may run into, etc. Let your agent use his or her transactional experience to guide you. That’s an agent’s job!
But let’s back up. Before beginning your search, it’s important to understand the market’s inventory. Your agent will walk you through the different types of NYC properties: condo vs. co-op, new development vs. resale, pre-war vs. post-war, etc. If you aren’t familiar with the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods, your agent will also be able to talk to you about—and help you explore—your options. Determining a target borough and neighborhood will allow you to focus your search.
While the down payment is generally the largest fee a buyer pays, there are several other fees to be aware of, for example, attorney fees and closing costs. Though less substantial, they can add up, and it’s important to be familiar with the fees for which you’ll be responsible before you take out your checkbook. This is another area in which your agent will assist. He or she will walk you through all of the costs involved in buying, so there are no surprises later on.
4. They know the market, trends, and availabilities.
Are you well-connected to the brokerage and landlord communities? No? That’s fine—that isn’t your job. In addition to knowing about on-the-market availabilities, real estate agents are aware of properties that aren’t widely known about. Through connections with past and current clients, other brokers, and industry professionals, agents are often aware of options unknown to other consumers. Working with an informed agent ensures that you have access to all available (and soon-to-be-available) apartments.
5. They do the legwork.
If you decide to work with a stylist, you expect him or her to come up with the vision, bring you plenty of options, and help you put together a look that makes you feel stylish and confident. Think of a real estate agent in the same way. The job of a buyer’s agent is to handle all of the legwork involved in buying a home. This includes looking for apartment options, setting up appointments for you to view homes of interest, communicating with the agents representing the properties, and more.
6. They’re experienced in negotiation.
You’ve finally found the right place and you’re ready to make an offer. Lean on your real estate agent for guidance throughout the offer process. He or she will be able to help you put together a strong offer that you’re comfortable with, and will negotiate if necessary on your behalf. It isn’t your job to go back and forth with the seller or seller’s agents. It’s your own agent’s job to understand and respect your budget, and get you the best possible price on the home you’re after.