Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Buyers who go it alone...the flipside of FSBO

As realtors, we spend a lot of time talking about for sale by owners or FSBOs and you can't pick up a copy of a real estate publication without it talking about FSBOs. But sellers are not the only ones that choose to work on their own, there are plenty of buyers out there that choose to purchase a home without an agent. And of course there is an acronym for them as well, BUBBAs (buyers unrepresented by a buyers agent). Yep, I'm totally serious and it really makes you wonder who comes up with this stuff. Last year 23% of buyers did not use a real estate professional to make their purchase. Of that 23%, 13% purchased directly from a developer or developer's agent, 9% purchased directly from the seller, and that 1% that was up for a real challenge purchased a foreclosure or trustee sale. While those numbers are not huge, seeing that made me wonder what would motivate someone to purchase a property without an agent.

With the wide availability of all sorts of real estate information on the web, from listings to how-to guides, I can see why people would try to navigate a purchase themselves. While that didn't answer the why in my head, it was answered for me this weekend when I was out with a first-time buyer. They loved the properties I showed them and wanted to continue working with me. Then here came the question, "how much do you ask for commission and what kind of agreement do we need to sign." Despite the vast amount of information out there, these were two basic items that are clearly misunderstood. As a buyer, you do not pay your buyers agent a commission, that is taken care of for you courtesy of the seller. As far as a buyer agreement goes, I stand with my broker on this one, I don't have my client's sign them. Period. My relationship with my clients are built on mutual trust. Call me idealistic, but if my client's don't trust that I am doing the best possible job in their interest then the agreement is meaningless anyway.

Another point that comes to mind is the potential dollar signs that seem to spring into people's heads. The "if I don't have an agent then the seller might give me a better deal because they don't have to pay a commission to the buyers agent." This scenario gets a little trickier because the agreement on commission is between seller and the listing agent and both would need to agree to a reduction in commission. And whose to say that the seller is willing to give up their potential savings to a complete stranger.

That's not it...we realtors make it look so easy, sign a couple documents and you're all done right? While sometimes transactions do go very smoothly, others seemed destined to hit every bump in the road. Let's back up a minute though, before you ever get to signing contracts, you need to determine what to offer for the property. You offer too much, you get a quick acceptance and seller willing to give you a break because they're getting what they want and then some, or you offer too low, the seller is insulted and won't even counter. It's easy to say that you take x% off the price, but even a blanket statement like that can be inaccurate depending on the neighborhood. Market time and motivation are only some of the factors that come into play when making an offer.

Everyone is entitled to do their own thing, and I respect that. One of the things I always ask a buyer or selling thinking of going it alone is, "how much is your time worth?" Who isn't busy these days? We all have our jobs and other responsibilities that we need to meet. Do you want to spend your free time going to open house after open house not really knowing if that particular property really meets your needs or trying to hammer out difficulties that arise? In the beginning it's always a lot of fun, but after a while it's burn out time. Remember that "weekend" project that turned into weekends. Yeah, it's kind of like that. Study after study has shown that we have less and less free time compared to previous generations, so my thought it why not make the most of it.

The resources available on the web for buyers is astounding and I think it will continue to be a great resource for buyers and sellers alike. And if you start hearing the term BUBBA, don't blame me, it wasn't my idea.