Does May find you looking for a home to call your own? In Santa Barbara’s current bargain-rich real estate market, you’ll find that you’re not alone! If it’s been a while since you last house-hunted (or if it’s your first time out), it’s important to go over some basics.
A real estate agent or broker who lists a property is usually working for the seller. Since it takes a buyer to make anything happen, there are also buyer’s agents. Although anyone is free to buy or sell on their own, there are good reasons why most buyers decide to enlist a buyer’s agent to represent their interests exclusively.
A Buyer’s Agent Protects You
Let’s say you stop by a weekend open house, and there it is -- your dream home! The listing agent is very nice and wants to help you to write up an offer to purchase through her. This is called a “dual agency,” and is not necessarily a great idea (some brokerages even forbid it). The problem is that the seller's agent rightly wants to get the highest price for the property because she represents the owner. If I were working with you as your buyer’s agent, my job would be to represent your interests, so an offer I wrote could look quite a bit better from your prospective. That’s why it is prudent to find a Santa Barbara agent to represent you before even starting your search.
Loose Lips Sink Ships
Whenever you are house hunting, be careful of what you say to the seller's agent. Resist the temptation to discuss financial matters or to mention that you are in a rush to buy: either could damage your chances of getting the home you want on terms you want. Always bear in mind that the agent is working for the seller, not for you.
Consider Signing a Contract
As soon as you sign a contract with a Santa Barbara buyer’s agent or broker, you put a real estate professional to work for you. It is a legally binding agreement in writing that obligates the agent to work to get you the best deal possible. You may also sign an exclusive contract with your buyer’s agent, which gives the agent an extra assurance that his or her work is likely to accomplish what you both want -- a deal that puts you in your new home. Worth noting: except in extremely rare cases, you as a buyer should never have to pay a commission. If an agent asks you for a fee upfront, that’s your signal to run the other way! It’s part of the MLS listing agreement that fees and commissions belong on the seller's side.