The spring and summer market seems to be caught up in the ice cold winter market. There does not appear to be a thaw on the horizon. Everyday more people decide to list their home. You can drive down some streets and see three, four or five for sale signs. At the rate we are going, open houses will be replaced with block party’s.
Speaking of open houses, I had the opportunity to host one this past weekend. I like to have copies of the listings for comparable properties available for any guest with a small map that shows where the other properties are located. This weekend’s map looked more like a walking tour of the neighborhood than a poor man’s version of mapquest.
I did notice one thing about the visitors that seems to be more prevalent than in years past. The guests that replied to the question “Are you represented by a Realtor?” in the affirmative, had no Realtor in tow. They were either just out looking on their own or their Realtor gave them a list of “open houses” and told them to report back if there was anything that interested them. This is a rather disturbing trend in our industry.
I first noticed buyers coming by “open houses” without their Realtor a few years back. They were usually represented by an agent that offered a cut rate service. The deal was something like – you go out and find a home that you like and I will then write an offer for you. These poor folks would faithfully take newspaper ads, a full tank of gas and go off spending their Sunday’s visiting as many “open houses” as they could fit into the one o’clock to four o’clock schedule. If they came across the home of their dreams, they would call the agent and start the ball rolling.
Those agents set a precedent that is horrific to those of us that understand the importance of true representation. Their cost saving business plan has begun a trend that does nothing for the poor consumer and lines the agents pockets with commissions paid but not honestly earned. Homebuyers are supposed to be excited when they find their dream home. The prospect of possibly paying less for full service and getting the home they want seems like a great deal.
All that appears on the surface is not the total picture. When a buyer enters an contractual agreement with a buyer’s agent, the agent’s responsibilities are much more than just writing an offer. Agents are trained in every aspect of the transaction. An agent sees more in a house than any buyer will see in a potential home. A Realtor begins using their knowledge when they first review a listing in the multiple listing service. Who is the agent representing the seller and what is the reputation of that broker regarding how smoothly the transaction will unfold? Does that broker have a reputation that indicates the transaction may not close on time if at all? How long has the house been on the market and why has it been on the market that long? What are similar homes in that area selling for? After compiling a reasonable list of homes that meet their current buyer’s needs, a Realtor goes over this information and PLANS TO VISIT the homes with their clients. Realtors know that the listing agents will give directions that take you through the best and enticing route. The agent representing a buyer should make sure that their client is aware of everything in the area surrounding the home.
Buyers love the feel of homes. Their Realtor is supposed to review the disclosures and condition of the home. Many first time homebuyers don’t know the difference between a furnace and a hot water heater. If they know that, they usually don’t know the tell tale signs of trouble on the horizon. Most buyers can not decipher the condition of a roof. A Realtor can judge the wear and tear with a glance. The list of potential pitfalls is quite long. It is much bettor to have these potential problems pointed out in the beginning. It is a disgrace that the “stay in the office and let them look agents” fall back on the “we can do a home inspection” route. Information gathered at a home inspection comes well after the buyers have fallen in love with the home. A hot water heater with little life left may not seem as important after a home has already been emotionally purchased. If that information had been shared at the initial viewing – it may have knocked the house out of the dream home category.
I suppose the major problem I have with buyers left to their own devices is that it represents a total disregard of what our profession used to stand for. People became Realtors because they enjoyed helping people buy and sell homes. Sending clients out on their own is a total abdication of responsible behavior. The agent is still liable for problems that arise out of their action or lack of action. Those that cut costs and fail to fully do their job may be rolling the proverbial dice and hoping nothing bad will happen, but I dare say they have failed miserably when it comes to doing the job they should be doing.
I am not soliciting anyone, I am just sharing a fact. If your agent is sending you out on your own, you may save a dollar now, but you are not getting the representation you deserve and are paying for.