Buying a home for the first time is exciting. You’re done with renting forever (hopefully), you finally have your own space, and you no longer have to deal with that landlord who may not be your favorite person in the world. In addition to the excitement, it’s also extremely daunting. The money alone is hard to process - this is likely the most money you’ve ever spent on something - and then you think about what else buying a home entails and realize you have no idea what you’re doing.
Buying a home brings many “firsts” for a lot of people. First time hiring a lawyer, first time working with a lender, first time wiring a large sum of money and freaking out until you hear that it went to the right place... Doing something for the first time often means you don’t know what to expect.
You probably have heard words like “escrow” or “PMI” or the phrases “closing costs” or “purchase and sale agreement”, but if you’re like me, you are not exactly sure what they mean.
This is where your agent comes in.
My husband and I tried to buy a condo in Boston a few years ago, so we went to a bunch of open houses, talked with a few real estate agents that we didn’t really know, a couple that we did know through friends, and thought they were good enough. We didn’t really ask them many questions, not because we didn’t know if they’d know the answer, but mostly because we weren’t sure what their role was supposed to be. When it came time to put in offers, they just did what we asked - put in an offer for the price that we were willing to pay. I didn’t think any of this was a bad experience (except for the various offers that got outbid by people offering way over asking price, but that wasn’t the fault of the agent).
Fast forward two years and my husband and I are really ready to move this time. Luckily for me, I had Dwellful to turn to for a recommendation for an agent. I was mostly thinking about how the cash back will allow me to buy new furniture after spending most of my money on a condo in the city! But, what I got was so much more.
Thanks to Dwellful, I was introduced to Sean Quirk. Sean has been in the Southie real estate business for over 15 years with his wife, Jessica. In my eyes, a real estate agent is supposed to help you through the process, which to me meant to handle the offer, talk to the listing agent, and help us close.
Upon meeting Sean, I knew that my perception was very wrong. One of the first things he said was that he knew developers in the area that are working on projects and he knows about listings before they hit the market. That was the first time a light bulb went off for me. A real estate agent should know the ins and outs of the local market that you’re hoping to live in. They should be able to get you into places that might not be on the market yet, and they should know most of the people that work in the business, whether it be developers or other local agents. You shouldn’t have to just look at Zillow to find open houses - your agent should help you. So if you're still wondering if you need a buyer's agent, the answer is yes, you do.
From that point on after listening to him talk for only 20 minutes or so, we trusted him completely. Why? He knew the market we wanted to be in, he’s been doing this for a long time, and we were introduced to him by someone we trust.
My husband and I ended up finding a place that we loved. Our agent was able to tell us if he thought what we were offering was a good price to the seller but also a good deal for us. He was able to give us comparable condos in the area that just sold and what they sold for. He was able to tell us that even if we increased our offer, he thought we were still getting a good deal. These are all things that a good agent should be able to do for you.
So again, if you’re like me and have no idea what the buying process is like, you’ll have no idea what comes next. Once you sign the offer, you have to find an inspector and a lawyer. This was so foreign to me; I would have had no idea where to start looking and would have ended up on Yelp.
We have our trusted agent to come in and save the day - Sean recommended two inspectors and one attorney. We called the first inspector on the list and emailed the attorney. That alone saved us hours of researching. (Shoutout to B-Sure Home Inspection and Meg Landry at Ligris and Associates!)
During the weeks after we put in an offer and signed the P&S, we’ve had numerous questions, most of which I’ve outlined here. If we weren’t working with an agent we trusted, we’d likely ask our friends or Google, things like “do we need to be somewhere on the day of the P&S or is everything electronic?”. We’ve asked so many questions that my husband started prefacing every text to our agent with “hi, another first-time buyer question…”.
To sum it up, here are the things that having an agent we could trust saved us time and most likely money on:
- The offer process
- Finding an inspection company
- Various questions about what the inspection entails
- Interpreting the home inspection report
- Finding an attorney
- The P&S (our attorney fought back against a few things that the seller’s attorney had in - we never would have known what they had was bad - thank you, Meg!)
Whether it’s your first time or your fourth time buying, make sure you have a trusted agent by your side. Not only will it make your life so much easier, but it’ll also likely save you money, too.