Nope! There is no rule or regulation that requires you to work with a real estate agent when buying a home in the east bay. However, many people, including myself, would say that you are on a fool’s errand to try it. Here’s why.
A plum or a lemon?
Frequently one of my clients will call me, full of excitement about a house they have just seen. Just like a first date, the chemistry kicks in, and everything looks rosy. Yet when we view the house together, I can easily see the flaws that my client has overlooked. Yes, I may burst your bubble. I cannot tell you how many times I have entered a home with a bubbly, excited client, only to leave with a crestfallen one. But seeing with clear eyes before taking such a huge leap is crucial, and a better, stronger house (and wiser investment) is always down the road.
For any home you consider buying, you will have to wade through hundreds of pages of disclosure. Many of these pages are standard documents that are identical for every home. But many of them contain crucial information regarding the condition of the structure and the overall value of the property. Do you know how to read an engineer’s report? What is “section 2” category on a pest report? How can you tell when a soils report or a survey are called for? Do you understand the purpose of a preliminary title report, and do you understand the different types of easements you may see there? When you read a general inspection report, can you identify those items that require immediate attention, versus those items you can just ignore? A great agent will dive into this task with gusto, for your protection.
Leave that listing agent alone
Here’s a secret you may not know: the listing agent does not want to hear from you. Listing agents like to communicate with other agents, not directly with the buyers. They are busy representing their own client, the seller. They don’t want to spend time explaining the disclosures to you, telling you what the showing schedule is, or speculating what the home may sell for. That is the job of the buyer’s agent. Thinking that you are giving yourself an “edge” by going straight to the source is a big mistake. Most top agents consider it a conflict of interest to represent buyers for their own listings. Personally I think it should be illegal. When I work with sellers, I am frequently contacted by prospective buyers who think they can get preferential treatment by dangling the carrot of a bonus commission. This is a big turnoff.
If I had to choose the number one reason for working with an expert buyer’s agent, it would be knowing how much to offer. Without this is crucial information, you are throwing darts in the dark. When many buyers compete for the same property (as is usually the case in today’s market) there is only one winner. That winner has a carefully planned strategy. You will not get a second chance. Your initial offer should hit that perfect number–enough to get the house, but not so much that you needlessly leave tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table.
The recipe for success
- Recognize a wise investment, and don’t be blinded by your emotions.
- Properly interpret the disclosures to distinguish fatal flaws from the fluff.
- Make a favorable and appropriate impression on the listing agent.
- Plan a successful offer strategy, and pay just enough to win your house.
Every single step in this recipe is essential for success when buying an East Bay home, and every single step requires the expertise of a highly experienced real estate agent.