Home Buyer’s Guide to Saving

Buying a home is a huge investment, usually the largest one made in a lifetime. Locking in on the best price is a big part of the deal, whether the home will be a short-term one or a lifelong residence. That’s where a buyer’s agent comes in. Much in the same way a seller’s agent represents the interests of their clients, a buyer’s agent helps find properties and negotiates the fairest price possible for the buyer.

“Their job is to basically consult the buyer on all of the important facts regarding the property,” said Bettie Meinel, an associate broker at Laffey Fine Homes and past president of the Long Island Board of Realtors. “It’s not to get the house, it’s to get them a fair market value on the house they want.”

Buyer’s agents search for houses that meet their clients’ exacting specifications and are within their price range. They can help buyers select the best communities for their needs and personalities, as well as perform competitive market analysis to determine how similar homes in the neighborhood are priced. Hiring one also brings peace of mind to the notoriously stressful home buying experience. A good buyer’s agent handles the majority of the hard work: going through listings, talking to sellers and separating the wheat from the chaff. If it turns out a client’s must-haves are hard to find in the budgeted price range, s/he can offer insight into whether making improvements (putting on an addition, adding a pool, etc.) would affect the future value.

“We’re not selling a house, we’re more of a concierge,” said Lora Cusumano, broker/owner of L.I. House Hunters. “We try to make the appointments and find the best house for the person and their situation.”

Buyer’s agents can also take away a lot of guesswork. They know the market well and can advise on whether there’s wiggle room in a price or if a property is hot and the buyer should pay what’s being asked to make sure they get it. They can even help set up a home inspection. “I’m with them the entire way through the process,” Cusumano said. “I follow the home inspector around to make sure everything’s good on the house. Sometimes [the buyers] get a little scared. They need someone to explain things to them if there are a few things wrong with the house that aren’t too bad.”

Any licensed realtor can act as a buyer’s agent. But, realtors who are trained to represent buyers are known as Certified Buyer’s Representatives (CBR) or Accredited Buyer’s Representatives (ABR). When entering into an agreement, the buyer may have to sign a contract. The main stipulation is usually that they agree to exclusivity with the agent for any negotiations during the process.

Actually, there’s no excuse for a buyer not to hire their own realtor, since most times the seller pays them. “Each situation can vary…and is made clear in the initial agreement, but most of the time the sellers will be responsible for the commission fee,” said Suzan Kremer, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman. Kremer explained the agent will often be paid directly by the seller or set up the transaction so the seller provides a credit to the buyer to cover the cost of the real estate commission.

For people who are relocating a great distance (or those looking for a vacation home), a buyer’s agent can do most of the legwork. Much like personal shoppers, buyer’s agents weed out the fluff. “A lot of people have high pressure jobs. How much looking can they do?” Cusumano said. “They don’t have time or they’re coming from the city, they want it narrowed down.”