Questions from the Home Buying Workshop

Last weekend I did a Home Buying Workshop at the Connecticut Convention Center in conjunction with the CT Home and Remodeling Show. It was a very interactive discussion, and attendees asked many interesting questions. Here are two questions we covered that will hopefully be relevant to a larger audience:

Breaking out the balloons for a big open houseHow do I find out about open houses?

There are a few places to check to find out about the open houses in the Greater Hartford area. The Hartford Courant’s Sunday real estate section is usually a good place to start. It’s easy, however, not everyone gets the Courant.

Online resources are the other main option. Agents should be updating the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listing for their properties to note the open house. This pushes the data out to websites far and wide. As an example, the Raveis website has a section that lists all the known open houses for the coming weekend (no matter which broker is the listing agent). The Raveis houses actually show the listing agent’s name, while the competitor’s listings are more generic. Since not all agents know to update their MLS listings with information about the open house, you may be able to find out about more opportunities by searching each of the local broker’s websites individually.

Can I have multiple agents?

You officially “have an agent” when you sign a buyer contract. The contract specifies the time period and geographical area that you have hired them to help you with. If you have not signed a contract, then you do not legally have an agent.

With that disclaimer out of the way, can you have two agents at the same time? Yes, you can legally have two agents as long as there is no overlap in the geographical region. However, there are certain times when this makes sense and others when it really doesn’t.

If you are looking in two dramatically different areas, then you should have different agents. The specific question during the seminar was from a buyer looking in Simsbury and Clinton. Although I suppose it’s possible, it’s unlikely that you are going to find a single agent that is truly knowledgeable about two towns so far apart. It would be in your best interest to pick a Simsbury agent and a separate Clinton agent that are each active in the individual town markets. And you should make sure both agents understand your plan.

What doesn’t make sense to me is having two agents help you in a single town, even though it’s possible through careful structuring of the contracts. Buyers sometimes think that getting two agents to compete against each other will get them better service. But the incentives for the agents are to send you as many properties as possible (even if they doesn’t exactly meet your criteria) and then give you the hard sell so that you actually buy one of them. In effect, they’re working for the various sellers since they just want to get a deal done. If they don’t get you to buy with them, then they don’t get paid for all their effort, so they’re more likely pay attention to you sporadically when they are not working with their “real” clients.

That may be your idea of “better service,” but the idea behind hiring a buyer’s agent is to have someone in your corner, looking out for your best interests. Working with a single agent allows them to learn about your preferences and help you find a home that you will truly enjoy. They’ll be more likely to identify concerns with the properties you tour, making sure you have a good sense of both the positives and negatives of the home itself and how it compares to others on the market. And when you get to the negotiations, they’ll be far more comfortable negotiating aggressively because they’ll know that if you can’t reach an agreement on this home that you’re still serious about buying and will continue working with them to find other opportunities. A good buyer’s agent will work just as hard for you, but on a more consistent basis.

If you have things that you’re curious about, please feel free to send questions along via email. We’re always happy to help and there’s a good chance that someone else is wondering the same thing.