Massachusetts buyer agency

Metrowest Daily News

When you’re involved in real estate, it seems like conversations about home buying and selling are going on everywhere around you. Last weekend I was traveling with my family when I woman walked by with her friend talking about her frustration selling her home. Later that morning in the coffee shop, I saw a young couple perusing the local real estate magazines.

When they picked up the phone to call the listing agent directly I cringed a bit. Like many new home buyers, they didn’t realize they could have their own representation. “Many home buyers mistakenly believe they’ll get a better deal if they go directly to the listing agent, or simply don’t know about buyer agency,” said William G. Mullen III, Esq., Legal Counsel & Director of Risk Management for the Greater Boston Association of Realtors.

As someone who fields numerous inquiries about buyer agency, Mullen has strong feelings on the matter. “People often think the process of buying and selling a home is easy. It’s not. But there’s no need to take a risk. You need full representation, whether you’re buying a home or selling.”

To that end, today I’m going to cover common questions about buyer agency and how this works in Massachusetts real estate.

What is a buyer’s agent?

In Massachusetts, there are usually two real estate agents involved in the purchase of a home. The listing agent represents the home seller while the buyer’s agent represents the home buyer. A buyer’s agent acts as your advocate throughout the transaction.

What is the value of a buyer’s agent?

A good buyer’s agent does more than set up showings. They work on your behalf to scout out listings to find the right match for you. Often if they know the area well, may get you in to see homes that are not yet in the MLS. They’ll also counsel you the pros and cons of each property. Then once you choose the home you want, they’ll advise you on what due diligence should be done before making an offer, help you determine a fair price, negotiate the offer, and provide input throughout the home purchase process. Since they’ve been through the process countless times, they can help you avoid common pitfalls, hopefully ensuring that thing run smoothly.

Where do I find a buyer’s agent?

Personal recommendations are the best way to find a reputable agent. Ask friends, family, and/or colleagues who’ve recently purchased a home in the area you’re looking what their experience was like and if they’d recommend their buyer’s agent.

What should I ask before hiring a buyer’s agent?

First, find out what services they provide. Your buyer's agent may:

* Preview properties for you (a very handy service if you have limited time to find a home or are relocating to a new area)

* Provide advice on each property

* Explain real estate contracts

* Ensure you have proper protections in your offer

* Advise you about current market values

* Negotiate the best price and terms

* Connect you with home inspectors, real estate attorneys, mortgage brokers, etc.

It’s also handy to ask the person recommending the agent:

* How knowledgeable is the agent about the area?

* Did they do a good job educating you about what to expect during the real estate process?

* Do they respond in a timely manner?

* Was there any sales pressure?

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person, so you’ll want to work with an agent you’re very comfortable with. “Look for someone who has a strong level of experience, and someone you can trust,” said Mullen. Some people will see a few homes with an agent first to see if it’s a good fit before signing a buyer agent agreement with them.

What will it cost me to have a buyer’s agent?

Usually this does not cost you anything. In Massachusetts, the entire home sale commission (usually 5-6 percent of the home sale price) is paid by the home seller. If there’s only a listing agent involved in the transaction, that agent retains the entire commission. If you have buyer representation, the commission is split between the listing agent and buyer’s agent.

What if I want to go to an open house?

If you’re working with a buyer’s agent, you can attend the open house with your agent or go on your own. If you’re going solo, be sure to tell the listing agent that you have an agent representing you. Just be aware that the seller’s agent is legally and contractually obligated to represent the best interests of the seller. This includes the right to share with the seller any information you give them.

Ultimately, having a qualified buyer’s agent on your side should help ensure your interests are well protected throughout the transaction.

Have a real estate question? Contact Kyle Mann to learn more about buying or selling your home in the Boston suburbs. Kyle is a Realtor with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty.