Hands down, the best reason to have your own Real Estate Agent as a buyer, is that your agent works for you, and has your best interests in mind. They can provide valuable information and insight when looking for a home, negotiating a purchase price and during the home inspection and closing process and the best part is it costs you NOTHING!
A seller's agent is working on getting the best price and terms for the seller, and a buyers representative will do the same for you. By contacting a seller's agent directly, you may be giving away valuable information (such as why you are looking to buy a home, how much you are pre-approved for, how much you are willing to spend, and how motivated you are to purchase a house). The seller's agent is then obligated to share this information with their client, and that information could work in their favour during contract negotiations.
A real estate agent is responsible for providing specific fiduciary duties to their clients; these include undivided loyalty, confidentiality, full disclosure, obedience, reasonable care and skill and complete accounting. By contacting the seller's agent, you do not become their client, and they do not owe you the same obligations as they do the seller.
There are aspects under the Laws of Agency in Alberta that can put buyers who go to the listing REALTOR® at a real disadvantage.
When a member of the public goes to the listing REALTOR®, it puts the listing REALTOR® in a position where he or she becomes a representative for both sides. The question that comes up under the law is, "How can the listing REALTOR® possibly represent both parties equally and fairly?" Because of this, when the listing agent represents both the buyer and seller he or she becomes a facilitator, and cannot legally advise the same way he or she could if they served only one party.
Finding an Agent
The best place to start looking for an agent is within your sphere. Ask family and friends who have purchased homes which they used for their purchase or sale. Ask them about their experience with these people. 90% of REALTOR® business is from referrals; if someone has had a great experience with a real estate agent, they will be more than willing to share this with you.
Meet with agents until you find someone. People like to work with people who they like and trust. If you get a bad vibe from an agent, meet with another one. As a first time buyer, you are going to have a lot of questions and concerns as you work through the home buying process, you want someone available, patient and will provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions.
Download my First Time Home Buyer Guide here to find out how I work with buyers.
Buyer Representation Agreement
Once you have found your REALTOR® they will discuss with you what is known as a Buyer Representation Agreement.
In July of 2014, Buyer Representation Agreements (Buyer Brokerage or BWSA) became mandatory in Alberta. If you are interested in buying residential property and are the client of a real estate professional in Alberta you will be asked to sign a written service agreement.
These agreements outline all of a buyer's wants and needs for a property, clearly outlining services that your REALTOR® is obliged to deliver and remove any possible concerns around how commissions they get paid. It also ensures that the brokerage/agent has fiduciary responsibilities to work in your best interest.
What does the Buyer Representation Agreement entail? View one here.