Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Single Homebuyers: How to Buy Your Dream House, Part III

In the last installment of our house hunting series, Singletude presented a list of questions to help clarify what you want out of a home of your own. Hopefully, the answers have fleshed out your vision of the perfect pad. Congrats! You are well on your way to becoming a single homeowner, so role again and jump five spaces to the nearest real estate agency!

Since a house is probably the most significant purchase you will ever make, it's important to find an agent who is savvy, trustworthy, and respected in the business. So before you dial a number in some random ad, ask your family, friends, and colleagues about their own homebuying experiences. Last year, a full 43% of homebuyers found their agents through referrals. If no one in your circle can make a referral, research local agents via company web sites, open houses, or even mortgage brokers. Time-tested agents are a good bet, but don't underestimate the new kids on the block, who may be more enthusiastic and accommodating.

When choosing an agent, keep in mind that he or she can work in any of three capacities--as a buyer agent, a seller agent, or, well, a double agent (actually called a dual agent). Currently, 61% of homebuyers choose a buyer agent, and they're smart to do so. An exclusive buyer agent will represent your interests in negotiations, whereas a seller agent must work against you to squeeze as much money as possible out of the sale. Exclusive buyer agents can be found at specialized agencies and will contract to work on your behalf. Since these professionals are a relatively rare breed, you may want to consult the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents for a referral.

If you can't locate an exclusive buyer agency, your next best option is to engage an agent who works in both capacities to act as buyer agent in your case. Again, you must make sure he or she signs a contract to act as your buyer agent. Otherwise, he or she is not legally bound to represent you! Since most buyer agents are paid on commission, splitting a percentage of the sale with the seller agent, a buyer agent who isn't committed to your interests may undermine them for his or her own profit.

Most importantly, steer clear of the dual agent, who represents both you and the seller, as well as any agent who works for the same brokerage as the seller agent. These agents have conflicting allegiances, the foremost of which is not to you!

Feel free to interview prospective agents before you choose one. If you can find an agent who has experience in the singles market, so much the better. You should also feel comfortable with the agent's personality and salesmanship, so don't be shy about asking for a trial run to see a house or two.

Once you're ready to sign a contract, remember that its terms are negotiable. You can limit the contract's length, the neighborhoods and price points it covers, even your right to be released from it should either party decide the relationship isn't working. Yes, folks, you can break up with your agent or see other people. But, as in the game of love, monogamy is highly prized. Though it's fine to work an "out" into the contract, it behooves you to be loyal to your agent. This will motivate him or her to work harder for you and save you from the competitive pressure and unpleasant commission disputes that can arise when you two-time your agent.

So by now you might be wondering when we're going to stop talking about house hunting and actually track down a fine, two-bedroom specimen. When I started this post, I thought I'd take you on a virtual house tour today, but in the interest of digestibility, I will save that tasty morsel for "Part IV." Until then, my fellow single house hunters, enjoy our wild suburbia!

If you are a single homeowner, how did you find your real estate agent? What criteria did you use when picking an agent? What did you learn from working with your agent that you can share with prospective homebuyers?

Fun Link of the Day
(This is aimed at real estate agents rather than singles. I include it here because it addresses singlism in real estate sales.)

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!


The Singlutionary said...

I was a realtor at the time I bought my home so I represented myself which was great. I suggest going to open houses to find an agent. Its a natural thing to do when you're thinking about getting a house but don't limit yourself to open houses in your price range because what you're really doing is learning about the market. Even if you're thinking of buying a house in the future and aren't serious yet, it wouldn't hurt to go to a couple open houses.

Some of the time the agent at the open house actually represents the sellers. But often the agent does not represent the sellers and is holding open a listing of another agent to try and find new clients.

Either way, this is a great way to watch the agent in action and get an idea of their personality without them knowing that you're sizing them up. A good agent will try and connect with you, get your information and follow up with you even if you aren't interested in that house specifically. And you'll feel comfortable with a good agent. You won't feel pressured. Ask the agent about other homes in the area and see how informed he or she is. A good agent will talk to you about the other homes and ask you what you are looking for and will really listen to what you say.

A lot of single people have pets. There is a real estate listing site for pet-friendly agents. Agents pay a fee to be listed there so just cause they're on there doesn't mean they are any good but if you're a pet lover, it wouldn't hurt to check it out:

Your agent represents you. If you find yourself talking to the agent for the seller of the house, beware. That person represents the seller and anything you say can be used against you.

A buyer's agent doesn't cost you a thing. The seller pays a certain percentage to the listing agent and they agree to split it in half with the buyer's agent. If you don't have your own agent and just negotiate on your own (which you are free to do if you really want to), the seller's agent will get the entire fee (usually 6% of the home sale price).

Once you are ready to buy a house, realtors have industry connections with title companies and mortgage brokers. They will usually refer you to these people and other industry professionals like home inspectors, insurance brokers, etc. Feel free to shop around but also check out the person your agent reccomended. Good agents like to work with people who do a good job, communicate well and do things on time because it makes their lives easier and makes for a smoother closing. The choice is still yours and its best to ask people you know for referrals as well but don't feel that you can't go with the person your agent recommends either.

Clever Elsie said...

Singlutionary: Awesome advice from a pro! Thanks! If I'd known you were in the biz, I would've just asked you to guest blog. :) Regardless, thank you for passing on the inside info.