The Right Way To Brief Your Buyers’ Agent - November 2020
I once had a client describe me as a magician, after I helped her source a property, negotiate the purchase and get it settled within weeks of meeting her.
It was after she’d spent months and months out in the market on her own, struggling to find a new home that was suitable, and then battling with sales agents in vain to get it.
Flattering though it might be, we’re not magicians. We’re just very good at understanding what our clients need and then making it happen, thanks to years of experience and expertise in real estate, our networks of contacts, our notion of how the game is played, and out intimate knowledge of markets, suburbs and trends.
But the secret to making the process as simple and pain-free as possible is knowing as much about our clients as possible. And this is where you come in. There are many considerations to keep in mind when you’re briefing your buyers' agent.
This is what you should do.
First things first…
The first step when working with a buyers' agent is to tell them where you’ve been. Talk through your search so far – the areas you’ve looked in, the types of properties you’ve explored, what you liked and disliked about each, and what challenges you’ve encountered so far.
Think about why you haven’t bought yet. What’s stopped you from finding a place you like and securing it? It might be the budget. Perhaps you’re aiming a little too high. Or it could be the areas you’re searching in – demand is significant and you’re finding it hard to compete.
Maybe you’re simply too busy and the entire stressful process has taken it out of you. Or perhaps the market itself is confusing – you’re struggling to get your head around local trends, drivers of supply and demand, what you should be offering and how much a property is really worth.
By going through this process, your buyers' agent will get a sense of how to help you achieve your property goal without the fuss you’ve encountered.
The three lists
Prospective property buyers who go it alone usually follow the same path as others have before them. They go to a popular real estate listings website, type in a suburb or two that they’re interested in, and then begin trawling through the results.
They might know that they prefer a house over an apartment, or can only afford a unit, and how many bedrooms they need their future home to have.
But really, apart from that, most buyers haven’t spent a huge amount of time thinking about their needs and wants. To get the most out of your buyers' agent, you should invest that time in really narrowing down your search criteria.
You can do this by drafting three lists.
Make a list of the must-haves. If you have kids, it could be an outdoor area or close proximity to a good park. If you’re a working professional, it might be a spare room for a home office, or a nook at the very least. If you’re a little older, it could be a home without stairs or in a building with an elevator. For many, it might be access to safe and secure off-street parking.
This list should be the things that you absolutely can’t budge on. Depending on your budget, it might need to be a very realistic and bare bones list.
The next list you should write is your ‘like to haves’. These are the features and inclusions that you’d love your next home to have, but it’s not a deal-breaker if you can’t quite afford it just yet. This might be a separate living or dining room. It could be a fully kitted out kitchen with all of the modern conveniences and high-end appliances you’ve eyed off in interior design magazines, rather than a standard kitchen. It could be the style of property too. Do you like modern or traditional?
And finally, perhaps the most important list for your buyers' agent, is your ‘must not haves’ list. These are the characteristics that are deal-breakers when considering potential deals. Think about more than just what’s inside the property. Perhaps with small children you don’t want to live on a slightly busier street. Maybe you need your car for work and so a property without a garage is a no-go.
Have a tough conversation with yourself
Once you have your lists, you might find that each is filled with many, many items. This is good. It shows that you’ve really thought about what your next home should be.
But it could also dramatically limit your search by removing any form of flexibility.
Take some additional time to be realistic. What’s the one or two most important items from each list that you absolutely cannot budge on?
On the need list, it could be that you must be a five-minute walk from a train station or bus stop so that your commute isn’t a nightmare each day. It might be that a yard is a must, for your dog or children.
On the nice to have list, try to consider your budget and ability and prioritise the things that you could realistically achieve. If you’d like to have a media room or plunge pool, does your budget actually allow for that right now?
And on the must not have list, think about whether there’s a bit of wriggle room. There are probably some firm deal-breakers here, and that’s OK, but see if you can compromise. Few properties are absolutely perfect unless you spend a fortune or build them yourself.
You should also be honest with your buyers' agent and yourself about the location you want to be in. Everyone wants a home in the trendy area, or the upmarket family friend suburb or the beachside hot spot. Can you afford it?
On the topic of budget….
You might’ve found one of those online calculators that tells you how much you could possibly borrow from a bank. They’re fine. They’re a good starting point for those who want to figure out their potential buying budget.
But there’s much more you should do to determine your ceiling price. After all, someone, somewhere might be willing to lend you that amount, but can you afford the repayments? Will they dramatically alter your lifestyle and are you happy with that? Can you still afford it if interest rates raise, you lose your job, or your circumstances change down the track?
Seek loan pre-approval to get a real sense of what you can borrow. Not only will this fast-track the process once you’ve signed a contract, but it will give you and your buyers' agent certainty about where to look. I recommend working with a top mortgage broker and we can recommend the right one for your situation help you get the best loan structure and rates.
Another note on budget – be open and honest with your buyers' agent about how much you can spend. Some people with plenty of purchasing power might indicate a tight budget to their buyers' agent thinking it will compel them to find a bargain. Others might overestimate their budget in hopes their buyers' agent will locate an over-the-top property and then get an unrealistic discount on the asking price.
The fact remains, we are operating in a free market and your true and honest budget allows us to do our job with a minimum of wasted time and effort. Knowing your budget helps us quickly source the most appropriate properties within your criteria.
Think about the long-term
I’ve worked with a couple of first-time buyers over the years who have a very good idea of what they want, need and would like to have, as well as their budget and repayment ability.
But most haven’t thought about where they might be a decade from now.
There’s every chance that a young couple now will have a small child by then, and so the simple one-bedroom flat they’ve settled on buying will very quickly become unsuitable. So too would the funky terrace in a busy, urban area far away from good schools.
Talk with your buyers' agent about how you can future proof your home by thinking about what might be coming for you. It could be that you may start a family or, on the other end of the spectrum, farewell your grown children from the nest and be needing a smaller and more easily maintained property.
Be open to advice
They live and breathe this stuff. They’re out on the ground in property markets every single day and they know what makes a suburb tick.
You’ve enlisted an expert for a reason. Listen to them, let them guide and advise you, and rely on their wealth of expertise and experience. You’ll be in your new home having avoided the bulk of the stress and angst before you know it.
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call us on 1300 655 615 today.