"I'm so sorry to bother you," she said. "We've been looking on our own and we think we've found the perfect house. Your name was given to us by our SF Realtor®. " (Thank you.)
Listen, there's not an Agent out there, that doesn't appreciate a bonafide referral, but the truth is, waiting until the eleventh hour to select your Realtor® - no matter how experienced he/she/they is -puts you behind the eight ball, especially in a competitive situation.
While Realtors® certainly appreciate Buyers who have spent time getting to know the marketplace, and those that have done their due diligence as well, the sooner you select your Agent, the better off you'll be.
Because a local, experienced Agent can steer you towards homes you might not otherwise know are available (aka: off-market opportunities). They can distinguish and outline one neighborhood from another. They can educate you as to the going rate. They can point you in the direction of experienced mortgage brokers. They can help navigate the inspections, pointing out any RED FLAGS you might have missed. They can meet you at the property to help visualize changes. They can speak to local building codes. They can set up pre-inspections with the Sellers' permission. They can coordinate with other contributing parties, and they can communicate with the Listing Agent as to the level of activity. They can assist in finding insurance prior to writing an offer, and they can help creatively put your best foot forward when writing with competition.
However, if you are waiting until the last minute because you prefer a more "hands-off" approach, any competent Realtor® can certainly draft a purchase agreement in a few short hours, but it's tough to get the other pieces in place that keep you from being vulnerable should your offer be accepted. In short, if you're being polite, you're missing out on much of the VALUE that a seasoned Agent brings to the table.
"But we don't want to take up your time unnecessarily."
I appreciate that, but take my time; that's essentially what I'm paid for. You NEED my experience, my contacts and my knowledge. Moreover, once we define what you're looking for, it's easier to hone in on the properties that make sense. In other words, the earlier you reach out, the more informed we'll both be. Spending days, weeks, or months with Buyers IS par for the course (I've spent years with some.) so no apologies please. We're here to serve you.
While Instagram postings may make the process look easy, buying a home can be fraught with difficulties, minefields, and litigation. Nobody, nobody, but NOBODY wants a Buyer to bid under duress. It's always going to be better to take the time to contemplate, to plan, and to prepare, especially here in the Bay Area where properties move quickly and where you are often bidding against other equally-qualified Buyers.
Additionally, it can be unnerving to throw down a few million dollars at a property when you've only seen it for 15 minutes at an Open House, packed with other people. You should absolutely spend additional time at the house with your Agent to consider not only the home, but its history, and the surrounding community as well. Having prepared yourself appropriately, you're much less likely to second-guess the decision once in contract, and a secure Buyer is better for everyone involved, especially for the Sellers.
In a world that's quickly transferring more and more of its duties to AI, and where all things Real Estate seem to be available at the touch of a key, buying a home still strikes me as a transaction that requires a personal touch, no matter how much information you can find online. Because if you think you're getting the full story from a stack of disclosures and a quick visit, you're sadly, misinformed. A house is so much more than its physical structure, and represents so much more . . . so put your Realtor® to work . . . that's what we're here for.
(And no, this blog was NOT written by a robot. I'm still banging these out.)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 750 humorous but always informative, essays on life and real estate.