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What is the real estate agent's role in home buying?

From an informational standpoint, this may be one of the best times in history to be interested in buying a home. Mobile apps, word of mouth and the internet are among the many ways to see what houses are up for sale, what they cost and where they're located.

Yet despite these technological conveniences, many would argue that the real estate agent remains the best source of all. The home buying process has many players, from the buyer, to the seller, to the lender to the inspector to the appraiser. The real estate agent is the tie that binds them all together. Here's how:

Helps you find the right home

Nearly 2 million houses throughout the country are up for sale, according to the National Association of Realtors. That's a lot to choose from, each with its own specifications and distinctions that make it unique. A buyer’s agent specializes in helping you find not only a house, but the right house by asking you a variety of questions that can help narrow down your search. Many people who enter the home buying process don't know exactly what they want to buy but may have some preferences. A buyer’s agent will go over certain issues that can provide guidance.

Common questions include:

  • Where would you like to live - in the city, suburbs or rural neighborhood?

  • How many people will be in the house with you?

  • Is there a particular architectural style of house you like or prefer?

  • How important is the location to where you live in terms of your work commute?

  • Do you want a house that is move-in ready or a fixer-upper?

  • What price range do you want to stay within?

  • Have you been pre-approved?

The more information they have to go on, the easier it will be for them to show you houses that are to your liking and within your spending comfort zone.

Schedule showings

While many big-ticket items can be purchased entirely online - houses included - real estate remains something most people try before they buy. As such, your real estate agent will help you "test drive" a potential home by arranging appointments for you to see it in person. They may do this by getting in touch with the listing agent for the seller or finding out when the next open house is scheduled and coordinating with you to see what times work best.

Discuss your budget

If you plan on taking out a mortgage, conversation on money matters will largely be with your lender, but the real estate agent may also talk about finances with you. They do this to get a general idea of how much you're willing to spend and what is feasible based on your capability. This discussion can further guide them in terms of directing you to houses that you might be interested in buying, or at the very least seeing in person. Being pre-approved by your lender not only tells the real estate agent what price range of a home to show you but also you are a serious buyer.

Serve as a go-between

Generally speaking, sellers seek to maximize their property by getting the highest return for their investment; buyers aim to purchase as affordably as they can. The real estate agents involved help to find the middle-ground so everyone walks away happy. Once you make an offer, your real estate agent will take that number to the seller's agent to see what they think. They may come back with a counteroffer or accept the deal. Your agent may offer recommendations on what they think you should put forward based on their experience, what your budget is and the competition from other potential buyers.

Fill in the details

The biggest aspect of buying a home is, of course, the price. Today, the national median for existing homes is $295,300, based on the most recent figures available from the NAR.

But there is so much more than the list price to consider. There are also property taxes, closing costs, fees, and the history of the property, such as when it was built and the materials used for the basement or roof, for example. In this way, real estate agents are akin to detectives and fill in the gaps so you're more fully informed.

Attend the closing

There are many components to home buying, aside from the shopping process. Closing is among the biggest, which is where titles are reviewed, documents are signed, money changes hands, and the keys transfer from the seller to the buyer. Your real estate agent will be with you here to guide you through it all so nothing gets missed and the transaction is made official. Other attendees may include real estate attorney(s), the seller and their agent, a title company representative and the mortgage lender.

A real estate agent can make the home buying process go a whole lot smoother. Residential Mortgage Services looks forward to working with the one you choose.