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Hiring Some Help: Real Estate Agents And Buyer's Agents

Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to our tipline.

Skittish about buying your first home without the sage advice of a proven professional? We ain’t mad at ya. Why, I believe it was Socrates who said, “The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Or was that John Lennon? Either way, totally cool. There are two main sources of home buying if you’re looking for help. First, the Real Estate Agent.

A real estate agent is not unlike a car salesman. They have the goods and it’s their job to put you in those goods. It’s up to you to decide which of the goods they present to you is right for you—if any. And as a car salesman works for the dealer (and not you), a real estate agent is working for the seller (and not you). Even if you call an agent and ask them to take you around to some of their properties, that agent is working toward getting you in a home at the highest price possible for the seller (and, of course, the agent). We’re talking commission, people! Just as you expect to haggle with a car salesman, expect to haggle with an agent. Don’t give in, fight for every penny, and never—ever—let them know your actual ceiling. If they’re good, they’ll find it. Like a good dealership, a quality real estate agency has some pretty fine stock to choose from. If your dream home in Corktown is with Agent X, then Agent X is whom you’re beholden to.

Your other option is a Buyer’s Agent. A buyer’s agent works for you. You pay them to find your perfect house (and price). Their knowledge of the market should be an asset but always check for references and proper licenses. Make it their job to prove to you that their sales record is one that consistently saves their clients money—money saved that outweighs the fees they’ll charge you.

As with any service, some people are better at it than others. In the case of real estate and buying agents, both should be checked for their reputations and qualifications.