Welcome back to our series, 4 Steps from Rent to Own - a guide for those wondering if now is the time to buy a home and how you can prepare for this big milestone in life. At this point in the home-buying process, you ideally have already begun saving for a down-payment and checked up on your credit score, but those aren't necessarily essential before this next step we'll dive into - chatting with an agent. This is where things can finally get really exciting and fun and whether you've found yourself in a financial state you're happy with or not, you'll be very happy to hear that this step is free. But do you really need an agent these days and if so, how do you go about finding one that suits you?
One thing I feel I should get out of the table in the spirit of transparency is something that may surprise you - I myself am an agent. So obviously I have a little bias here but I'm going to try to deliver you some truly sound advice and suggestions rather than just say you should work with Olin Eargle, the very best agent in Chicago and perhaps the whole world (it's my blog I'll brag if I want to). If this is your first home-buying experience you may be surprised to learn that some people "try" doing this on their own, but don't need to – because it is FREE to use a buyers agents services. You can DIY or there are several services online that may attempt to suck you in by promising to save you money but it's important that you remember that working with a buyers agent is free - they are there to walk you through a lengthy and arduous process but the seller ends up paying their fee. So why not use the free, expert help?
There are so many benefits to using an expert when making one of the biggest financial commitments of your lifetime. The experience and knowledge that realtors obtain over their careers is something you can't really put a price on but it can absolutely end up saving you not only in cash but also in energy and time. As fun as it may be to scroll a site like Zillow for hours, trained realtors have tons of resources, private listings and detailed information not accessible to the general public that will help you find exactly what you're looking for. And at just about every stage in the process there is paperwork like contracts, disclosures, forms etc. that may look like piglatin to the layman but realtors will know like the back of their hands.
The years of experience realtors acquire also comes with skills and assets that are less administrative but perhaps even more important. When you're a realtor, you yourself really are the service that you provide and with that comes the need to network in order to find success. Good realtors have extensive lists of contacts they can utilize for you including mortgage brokers, interior designers, home inspectors, contractors, movers and more. Another skill good realtors possess that will help you is that ability to negotiate a deal which from my experience - especially in a market as hot as the one we're in - is essential. A great negotiator will not only get you the best price on a home but can also ensure you get an agreement that allows enough time for inspections, contingencies and anything else that comes up.
One final reason that I personally strongly recommend that you use an agent when buying a home is that they can be there for you as a realtor, a friend, a guide, and a therapist in this process that can be daunting. They will spend their time driving around town, researching comps, checking out listings and more all to ensure that you are able to find the perfect place to call home and can be there for you every step of the way. This may seem like a cute anecdote but I can tell you from over a decade of experience that the partnership between a client and their realtor can be an amazing one.
You can throw a stone in this city and almost guarantee to hit a realtor bouncing around town so how can you find the best one for you? While the relationship is not one-sided, an agent will ultimately be working for you so don't overlook the power of an interview. Sites like Zillow will send leads to agents based on the properties you view, which can be handy but can also lead someone to skip over the consultation process so I encourage you to ask any realtor you're considering working with a few questions about their firm, their selling/buying experience, and even their personal experience with renting/buying. An agent doesn't have to own a home to be a good realtor but it can certainly help to have that lived experience. Keep in mind that while you want your personalities to be compatible, you're not looking for a friend as much as you're seeking an advocate.
Another factor you may want to address, especially in a city like Chicago, is where geographically the realtor has experience. Most will list specific neighborhoods that they specialize in. You may also want to consider an agent's availability to give adequate time to your home search along with all of the other clients that they are working with. Realtors with administrative assistants or teams can better balance several clients so that is always a plus but not essential. Lastly, seek out references and reviews for realtors that people you know have worked with or have rankings online to hear real people share their experiences.
Finding the best agent for what you're looking for may take some additional research time and you may have to vet a few before landing on the perfect one but like I mentioned before, if you find one you work well with that values you as a client then it can be the blossoming of a great relationship that can last beyond once you've moved in and make the process of buying your first home much more enjoyable. All this to say - give me a call if you need a great agent :)