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Buyers and sellers often enter the market with misconceptions about real estate agents – how they work, how the process works and what the agency relationship is all about.
It’s helpful to point out, without getting too far into the weeds, that in any one real estate transaction, there are most likely two agents: one for the buyer and one for the seller.
Here are five myths (and five truths) about working with both buyer’s and seller’s agents.
1. Agents get a 6% commission, no matter what
Most people assume that their agent is pocketing the entire commission. That would be nice, but it’s just not accurate.
First, it’s helpful to know that the seller pays the commission, and they split it four ways: between the two brokerages and the two agents.
Finally, the brokerage commission isn’t fixed or set in stone, and sellers can sometimes negotiate it.
2. Once you start with an agent, you’re stuck with them
If you’re a seller, you sign a contract with the real estate agent and their brokerage. That contract includes a term – typically six months to a year. Once you sign the agreement, you could, in fact, be stuck with their agent through the term. But that’s not always the case.
If things aren’t working out, it’s possible to ask the agent or the brokerage manager to release you from the agreement early.
Buyers are rarely under a contract. In fact, buyer’s agents work for free until their clients find a home. It can be as quick as a month, or it can take up to a year or more. And sometimes a buyer never purchases a house, and the agent doesn’t get paid.
Before jumping into an agent’s car and asking them to play tour guide, consider a sit-down consultation or a call, and read their online reviews to see if they’re the right fit.
Otherwise, start slow, and if you don’t feel comfortable, let them know early on – it’s more difficult to break up with your agent if too much time passes.
3. It’s OK for buyers to use the home’s selling agent
Today’s buyers get most things on demand, from food to a ride to the airport. When it comes to real estate, buyers now assume they need only their smartphone to purchase a home, since most property listings live online.
First-time buyers or buyers new to an area don’t know what they don’t know, and they need an advocate.
The listing agent represents the seller’s interests and has a fiduciary responsibility to negotiate the best price and terms for the seller. So working directly with the selling agent presents a conflict of interest in favor of the seller.
An excellent buyer’s agent lives and breathes their local market. They’ve likely been inside and know the history of dozens of homes nearby. They’re connected to the community, and they know the best inspectors, lenders, architects and attorneys.
They’ve facilitated many transactions, which means they know all the red flags and can tell you when to run away from (or toward) a home.
4. One agent is just as good as the next
Many people think that all agents are created equal.
A great local agent can make an incredible difference, so never settle. The right agent can save you time and money, keep you out of trouble and protect you.
Consider an agent who has lived and worked in the same town for around ten years. They know the streets like the back of their hand. They have deep relationships with the other local agents. They have the inside track on upcoming deals and past transactions that can’t be explained by looking at data online.
Compare that agent to one who’s visiting an area for the first time. Some agents aren’t forthright and might be more interested in making a sale. Many others care more about building a long-term relationship with you, because their business is based off referrals.
5. You can’t buy a for sale by owner (FSBO) home if you have an agent
In a previous generation, sellers who wouldn’t deal with any agents tried to sell their home directly to a buyer to save the commission.
Smart sellers understand that real estate is complicated and that most buyers have separate representation. And many FSBO sellers will offer payment to a buyer’s agent as an incentive to bring their buyer clients to the home.
If you see a FSBO home on the market, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to step in. Most of the time the seller will compensate them, and you can benefit from their knowledge and experience.
- How Do I Sell My House: Getting Started
- Do I Need an Agent to Sell My House?
- How to Price Your Home to Sell
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Originally published June 2018.
What’s the next best thing to owning a Frank Lloyd Wright house? It’s buying one built by one of his protégés. In fact, we’d venture to say that a Wright 2.0 might be an even better investment than an original.
Wait, hear us out!
Today, just over 400 of Wright’s buildings are still standing, so they’re a rarity—and it’s no wonder they often sell for a premium. Yet if you’ve ever actually toured a Wright building, you’ve no doubt noticed the strikingly low ceilings, oddly shaped rooms, or inconvenient layouts. You may have heard that these buildings are notoriously difficult and expensive to maintain, because any repairs must be approved by landmark associations.
But Wright had hundreds of students—first at his home studio in Oak Park, IL, and then at the Taliesin school near Spring Green, WI. And while this famous architect disavowed copycats slavishly devoted to mimicking his own style, many of his protégés did go on to design some very Wright-esque houses. So if you like the look of a Wright building but want to live in something a little more practical, plenty of properties abound that will fit that bill.
Before you fall in love with these Wright wannabes, keep in mind that these homes may have hidden drawbacks, too.
“Some of these homes may have deed restrictions or limitations on what kinds of improvements or updates can be done,” warns Maryland home inspector Welmoed Sisson. So carefully examine any covenant documents, preferably with an attorney.
And if the home you’re admiring has those distinctly Wright-inspired floor-to-ceiling windows?
California real estate developer Tyler Drew notes that buyers will most likely want to replace them with double or triple panes. This can be difficult and expensive, but is essential to save on heating and cooling costs. Plus, the many beautiful wood details these homes tend to have can attract wasps, bees, and termites.
And as Drew points out, “wood rot isn’t fixed with a simple jaunt over to Home Depot.”
That said, Drew points out that homes by Wright protégés are 20-plus years ahead of original Wright homes in terms of building technology. This means you probably won’t have to deal with corrugated piping and ancient wiring.
“You are less likely to find Depression-era newspapers stuffed in the walls for insulation,” Drew adds. “The houses are newer. You are getting a better model for probably half the price of a Wright.”
Intrigued? Here are five homes built by Wright protégés that you can buy right now.
Architect: Herb DeLevie
Features: Taliesin graduate DeLevie loaded this 1966 house with high drama. Grasp the Spanish medieval pulls on the 15-foot double doors, and you’ll open to a natural stone fireplace, a dining room with 15-foot cathedral windows, and wood paneling everywhere. The 8,015-square-foot house has four bedrooms, including a master loft, three bathrooms, and a sunroom.
Architect: Raymond Carter
Features: Carter’s 1965 sprawling ranch sits on 6.5 acres. A later expansion to five bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms imbued the original design with a touch of luxury. There are marble vanities, a whirlpool tub, wood-burning fireplaces, and a study. A beautiful pool comes with a waterfall. You can host friends and family in the two-bedroom guesthouse with living room and kitchen (you’ll appreciate not hearing one of them rummaging through your fridge at 3 a.m.).
Architect: William Kaeser
Features: This 1948 midcentury modern classic is nestled on 2 acres of woods next to a monastery. But if that’s not your thing, there’s also a nearby country club and a state park. Cool brick walls and cedar ceilings and trim run throughout the three bedrooms and 2.5 baths. You can take in all the greenery in the sunroom or the patio.
Architect: Edgar Tafel
Features: The first thing you should know about this 1954 house is that it has direct waterfront access, with views of the Long Island Sound. The second thing to know is that Tafel worked with Wright on the famous Fallingwater and Wingspread homes, among other projects.
This four-bedroom, three-bath house comes with a private beach, marina, tennis courts, basketball court, playground, and even a dog park. Huge windows allow you to take in views of the surrounding marshland.
Architect: Don Schuyler
Features: This three-bedroom, three-bath, Prairie-style house is loaded with gorgeous details in leaded glass, stone, wood, brick, and marble. Built-ins abound in this well-preserved home. The spacious kitchen is updated and includes an island counter and stainless-steel appliances.
Here is just a taste of what you’ll find in this house. The windows, the French doors, the light fixture—it’s like this all over.