🔑 Key takeaways:
Buyer's agents represent home buyers throughout the process of buying a new home — all the way from a casual first showing through closing.
Buyer's agents have the same basic credentials as listing agents: a real estate sales license from their state and the sponsorship of a real estate broker.
Some real estate agents specialize and represent buyers exclusively, but most also represent home sellers as listing agents.
Do I need a buyer's agent?
You don't have to work with a buyer's agent when you buy a house, but about 90% of home buyers do, because:
- They can help you navigate the stress of buying a house.
- There's no out-of-pocket cost to you since the seller typically covers the buyer's agent fee.
A good buyer's agent has several years of experience helping buyers, local real estate knowledge, and negotiating expertise. They help people buy houses for a living, so they know what questions to ask, what red flags to watch out for, and how to prepare offers that will protect your best interests.
👍 Reasons to work with a buyer's agent
👎 Reasons not to work with a buyer's agent
What does a buyer's agent do?
Buyer's agents assist home buyers at every stage of the home buying journey.
A buyer's agent's responsibilities typically include:
- Finding properties that match the buyer's taste and budget
- Booking showings so buyers can view the homes they're interested in
- Talking to listing agents to get more information about properties being sold
- Giving the buyer advice about the condition of a home and how much it might be worth based on other recent sales in the neighborhood
- Making and negotiating offers
- Attending the inspection and renegotiating as needed
- Acting as the liaison between you and the seller, listing agent, and/or attorney throughout the process
- Attending final walkthrough to ensure contract stipulations have been met and home is move-in ready
- Helping coordinate closing and any move-out / move-in logistics
🤓 More ways a buyer’s agent can helpYou can leverage your agent's local knowledge, especially if you’re from out of town and need to know about things like the best school districts, the safest neighborhoods, and so on.
Also, agents can usually recommend home inspectors, attorneys, moving companies, painters, handymen, landscapers, contractors, etc.
Keep in mind that while your agent's recommendations could save you time, they won't necessarily be the best. For example, an agent might recommend a home inspector because they're a personal friend, not because they're the best inspector in the area.
How does buyer's agent commission work?
The buyer’s agent fee typically comes out of the seller’s proceeds at closing. The total commission fee (usually about 6%) goes to the listing agent, who then shares an agreed upon portion with the buyer’s agent.
Buyer’s agent commission rates vary, typically landing in the 2.5-3% range. As of this writing, the nationwide average buyer’s agent commission rate is 2.71%
Because the buyer's agent fee typically comes from the sale proceeds, there's no out-of-pocket cost for the buyer.
How do buyer's agent agreements work?
Buyer's agent agreements formalize the agent/client relationship when a buyer is shopping for a house. These agreements include details like how much commission the buyer's agent wants, and the agent's responsibilities to the buyer.
⚠️ Quick tip: You aren't legally required to sign a buyer's agent agreement until an agent submits an offer on your behalf. A good buyer's agent should give you a chance to get to know them and see if they're the right fit before they ask you to sign anything. Signing an agreement without carefully vetting your agent could get you locked into an unsatisfactory situation.
Exclusive vs. non-exclusive buyer's agent agreements
An exclusive buyer's agent agreement allows you to work with only one buyer's agent for the duration of your contract. A non-exclusive buyer's agent agreement permits you to work with as many buyer's agents as you like.
Exclusive buyer's agent agreements, like this one below from the Georgia Association of Realtors, guarantee the buyer's agent will get paid commission when you purchase a home, regardless of who actually shows you the home.
Non-exclusive buyer's agent agreements give you maximum flexibility as a home buyer. If you aren't satisfied with the homes your agent is showing you, or the effort they're putting in, you can walk away and start working with a better agent.
How to find a good buyer's agent
Use an agent matching service
Agent matching services like Clever take the guesswork out of finding a good buyer's agent and help you get connected to agents faster.
Clever can match you with a carefully vetted buyer's agent in your area and you can even get cash back when you close on your new house. Plus, the service is 100% free and there's no obligation to work with a partner agent if you aren't satisfied with your matches.
Get recommendations from friends and family
Most home buyers find an agent through friends and family members. Talk to people you know who have recently bought or sold a house and find out who they worked with. Just make sure the suggestions are relevant. Prioritize recommendations from people in similar situations who bought homes in your area and price range.
Interview local agents
Search for local agents on Google and Zillow, then call a few of them up or even meet them in person to see what they're like and how they would address your goals as a buyer.
Finding and interviewing agents on your own is a bit more time consuming (and risky) than using an agent matching service or getting a personal referral, but it gives you more control over the selection process.
Good buyer's agents will have positive reviews from customers, extensive knowledge of their local real estate market, and a personable approach that takes your priorities into account.
How much do buyer's agents charge?
Buyer's agents are usually paid a commission of 2.5-3%, which comes out of the seller’s proceeds of the sale. As a result, it’s effectively free to work with an agent as a buyer, as there’s typically no out-of-pocket cost.
Some low-commission real estate brokers even offer rebates when you work with one of their buyer's agents.
Why should I use a buyer's agent?
Buyer's agents are usually paid from the proceeds of the sale, so there's no upfront cost to you if you want to work with one. Besides this obvious incentive, it's a good idea to have a professional working on your behalf when you make one of the largest purchases of your life.
A good buyer's agent can give you their opinion on the condition of the home, how much you should offer, and what terms and contingencies should be included in your offer.