Monday, April 2, 2007

Homebuying 101: Get Cash Back From Your Agent

I bought my first home in December 2006. It is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of DC. It has 15 windows, a new kitchen and I love it. The process of buying real estate opened my eyes to a whole new word of negotiating and bargain hunting.

Real Estate Lesson #1: Make your agent work to earn your business. Some agents will actually pay you for the privilege of managing your real estate transaction, particularly in competitive markets like Washington, DC. Mine did.

After months of research, browsing listings, visiting open houses and crunching numbers, I decided it was time to take the leap towards homeownership. Around the same time, I told my client Mark, the manager of a small local real estate agency, that I was condo shopping. Mark called often to check in on my search, sent me e-mails with properties that met my specified criteria, and encouraged me to underbid on properties that were out of my price range.

I was drawn to Mark's confidence that we could find a "good deal," but had also been in contact with another agent at one of the more well known agencies in town. I had just visited a property I really liked and was considering asking Mark to help me write the offer. After describing the property to him, Mark said, "If you let me write this contract, I'll give you $4,000 back out of my commission." Done.

Don't settle for less than complete confidence you are getting the most effort and best deal possible from your agent.

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