Home Team Advantage

When you're buying a house, it pays to have a strong lineup of specialists on your side

needs, budget, and number of real estate companies competing in your area.

When Mark Eubanks moved back to his hometown of Durham, North Carolina, in 2000, he hired a real estate agent. “I saw an ad for Harriet Jones of Realty Ventures in a magazine,” says the 45-year-old international marketing manager. “After an initial meeting, I felt comfortable enough to sign a contract giving her an exclusive arrangement to represent me as a buyer’s agent.”

Unless a potential homeowner enters into a separate agreement, an agent works for the seller of the property and has a fiduciary responsibility to him or her, Walker explains. In Eubanks’ case, the obvious solution was to hire a buyer’s agent. Walker points out that a buyer’s agent can get paid a commission based on what the house sells for or he or she may also work for a flat fee, on an hourly rate, or a combination of both. Even when I represent a buyer,” she says, “I’m paid by the seller.”

Using a buyer’s agent may translate into bargaining power for home buyers. He or she can say things like, ‘This is a motivated seller,’ indicating there’s room to make a lower bid,” says Ilona Bray, real estate editor with Nolo Press in Berkeley, California. “An agent representing the seller won’t reveal things like that. If you find out that a roof needs replacing, for example, she says, “an agent working on your behalf can negotiate the terms with the seller and structure the financial arrangement.”

To control the amount of time he spent on a house search, Eubanks gave his agent specific information about what he was looking for. “I had a price range, of course,” he says. “I also told her which suburbs I would consider. One of my prime concerns was to have an easy commute so I told her that I wanted to be near a highway that would give me access to my job.”

A home less than 5 years old was another prerequisite. “I knew I wouldn’t have time to do a lot of maintenance,” says Eubanks, “so I didn’t want a fixer-upper, even if it offered good value.” He also wanted his house to have resale value. “So, I was looking for a home with a lot of flex rooms that a family could use as bedrooms. I also thought a location near a major mall would help resale value.”

Eubanks’ agent would e-mail him listings, with descriptions of available homes that could be accessed online. “I could preview the homes — some even had virtual tours — inside and outside. That helped me decide whether it was worthwhile to get in the car to see the house.”

As it turned out, Eubanks chose to purchase a home being constructed. “Another buyer had pulled out of the contract,” he says. “My agent was able to locate the contract by searching online. We stepped in, and I got the same price because I was able to close by the date originally agreed upon. The price

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