Before you jump into an agent's car to go look at homes, consider two factors:
- Has the agent actually previewed any of the homes?
- Has the agent counseled you to find out exactly what you want?
If the answer to both of those questions is no, you might be wasting your time. Serious home buyers do not have endless amounts of time to spend looking at unsuitable homes. Moreover, in buyer's markets, due to the extraordinary amount of excess inventory, it is virtually impossible to look at every home for sale.
Why Agents Look at Homes
Buyer's agents who are on the ball always preview homes, either through MLS or broker tours or by making an appointment to look at specific homes on a buyer's behalf. Top agents spend one or two mornings a week previewing new listings. It's how agents stay informed about the market. Agents can't effectively sell a product they haven't seen.
Before you hire a real estate agent, ask the agent to share with you how many homes the agent tours each week. Determine if the agent has intimate knowledge of the neighborhood inventory by asking the agent to describe for you:
- Active Listings
- Sold Listings
Determine Your Specific Home Parameters
- Make pre-purchase decisions before shopping. Write down every amenity you want and find out if those types of homes are in your price range.
- Weigh the benefits of desired amenities, wants and needs, over location. If you want a three bedroom but can realistically afford a two bedroom in the neighborhood you want, are you willing to move into a smaller home? Or would you rather look in a different neighborhood of three bedroom homes, offered at a price you prefer?
- Rate the importance of each specific and figure out which you will compromise on and which you will not. For example, are you willing to give up a garage to live in an urban area where garages are scarce?
- Explain to your agent how you arrived at your specific parameters and why. If you need a four bedroom because one of those rooms will be used as a den, you will eliminate the three bedrooms with a den if your agent doesn't probe for your reasons.
- Put together a list of home types you definitely do not want to look at. If you decide to limit your search to single-story homes or prefer to avoid looking at fixer-upper homes, convey those thoughts to your agent.
Using Your Agent For Looking at Homes
Few reasons exist for an agent to show you a home that the agent has not personally looked at beforehand. Ask your agent to take photographs of the home and e-mail them to you. That way, if you have your heart set on looking at a home that you suspect might not be a good fit for you, you can eliminate this home from your search after looking at the pictures and asking your agent questions about it.
Photographs of homes in MLS are shot by listing agents who want to make the home appear as attractive as possible. Sometimes those photos are shot with a wide-angle lens, which distorts the image and makes small rooms appear larger. Your agent's photos should be more authentic.
It makes sense that if you want to buy and your agent wants to sell, the agent should show you homes that you actually would buy. By skipping homes that don't fit your parameters, you have more time to look at homes that do fit your specifics.
Realize, too, that you can't always use square footage as a guideline without looking at the home. After looking at the home for you, your agent should be able to tell you if it has a bad layout or is more spacious than the Internet listing appears online.
After all, wouldn't you rather look at 10 homes that are nearly perfect for you instead of 50 you can't even remember? It's your agent's job to help you find the right home, but it doesn't mean you have to do all the legwork yourself. Consider putting your agent to work instead.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.