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Home Buyers Guide
Buyer's Agent Smoothes Sometimes Bumpy Road to Foreclosure Purchase
By Rick Sharga, Vice President of Marketing for RealtyTrac

Whether it's the first time or the tenth, buying a home can be both an exhilarating and overwhelming experience. As with any major purchase, there's a significant amount of pressure to make the right decisions about such matters as where and what to buy, and ultimately how much to spend. How can you make sure you get the best deal possible on a property that suits your needs, or find exactly the right property to fit your budget and your lifestyle? Increasingly, many homebuyers are doing this by secure the representation of a Buyer's Agent.

Most people hire a real estate agent to sell their home, but overlook the importance of having an agent when buying a property. While in some cases it's possible to negotiate your purchase through the seller's representative, make no mistake: these seller's representatives are charged with making the sale and negotiating the best deal for their clients — the sellers! With that in mind, it's best to secure your own representation as a buyer, in order to minimize potential conflicts, and make sure your interests are represented.

In the more complex foreclosures market, a Buyer's Agent can be even more valuable. The agent can help you negotiate with the owner before a property comes on the market and can also act as a buffer during the negotiating process to make sure you've completed all the necessary steps before closing. Done right, it's like having your own personal tour guide to help you find your way through the foreclosure buying process.

For buyers looking to uncover substantial bargains in real estate, the foreclosures market does offer a treasure trove of opportunities. Foreclosure properties are some of the best opportunities in real estate today with savings of 10-30 percent below market value. Some properties offer savings of up to 50 percent or more! But like any investment offering a high return, there are sometimes higher risks involved in buying a foreclosure than in buying more traditional real estate. One of the ways to maximize the value while minimizing the risk is to work with Buyers Agents who specialize in this market, with specific experience navigating the twists and turns that come with purchasing a foreclosure.

"If you're in the market for a foreclosure property, you should really take some time to look for an agent with actual foreclosure transaction experience," explains James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer at RealtyTrac, the leading online foreclosure marketplace. "The nuances of this market make it a different animal from conventional real estate, so buyers owe it to themselves to secure a seasoned agent who's familiar with the foreclosures process, and has knowledge of local, regional and state laws."

RealtyTrac's National Agent Network connects prospective buyers of foreclosure properties with local agents who specialize in foreclosures. Homebuyers can go to to identify and research potential home purchases, as well as to find all the tools and professional resources they need to help them close the deal.

Of course, it's also important to consider the agent's knowledge of the area where you wish to purchase property, their ability to close a deal, and their access to other professionals such as attorneys, lenders, and title companies. It's often a good idea to interview two or three agents to ask about their credentials and to test out chemistry, just as you would when selecting any valued business partner. Ask for references from previous buyers to see what people who have been in your shoes have to say about the agent's credentials and demeanor. Ultimately, your agent should make you feel confident that they know how to steer you correctly through the foreclosure buying process.

Here are some questions to ask a prospective buyer's agent if you're buying a foreclosure:

  • Are you a licensed, full-time an agent?
  • Are most of your clientele buyers or sellers?
  • How long have you worked with foreclosure real estate?
  • How many clients are you working with presently?
  • Do you have former clients I can contact as references?
  • How will you help me contact owners in default?
  • Are you familiar with the foreclosure laws in this area?
  • How much commission will I pay as a buyer?

Once you've selected an agent, you'll need to set up some ground rules for how you want to work together, such as times you are available to view homes, expectations regarding the agent previewing properties on your behalf, and courtesies expected by both parties.

Keep in mind that even the most intuitive agents are not mind readers. You need to make your preferences, priorities and spending limits clear up front, so neither party wastes valuable time looking at properties that don't meet your needs.

Finally a word about etiquette: While you don't necessarily have to commit to working exclusively with a single agent (unless you've signed an exclusive agreement with them), it's most proper to ultimately extend your loyalty to an agent who spends a significant amount of effort helping you find a property. Remember, real estate agents work on commission, so the time they spend working on your behalf amounts to nothing if you don't ultimately make a purchase through them. If for some reason, you find that your needs are not being met by a particular agent, it's best to set the record straight early in the process, either to correct the problem or to retain alternate representation.

Working with a Buyers Agent can often result in a net savings on property purchases—whether traditional resale homes or foreclosure properties, and can also help inexperienced home buyers from making costly mistakes in negotiations, contract terms and property research.