What Is a Buyer’s Agent? Does a Home Buyer Need a Buyer’s Agent in Washington State?

WaLaw Realty Combines the Best Features of a Real Estate Agent with a Lawyer's Expertise

WaLaw Realty Combines the Services of a Real Estate Agent with a Lawyer’s Expertise and Duty to the Client

When getting ready to buy a home, people frequently wonder whether they need a buyer’s agent.  If they found the house themselves – which is common these days – then what value do they get from a real estate agent?  The truth is you don’t need an agent to find your next home.  However, only a naive buyer would try to navigate the home-buying process all the way through closing without the assistance of a professional.  The goal is to find a qualified professional who can provide the right assistance, for the right price.

The Home Buying Process is Expensive and Complicated

Buying a house is a big deal.  First and foremost, it’s expensive.  The median price for a home in King County is $375,000 – that is, quite simply, a lot of money.  If you sign a contract that obligates you to spend (and likely borrow) several hundred thousand dollars, you should be sure that the contract adequately protects your interests.  For example, you probably want the ability to inspect the home and, if it’s a lemon, to back out of the contract without penalty.

Buying a house is also a complicated process.  Buyer and seller must agree on the terms of a contract that typically is a dozen or more pages long.  Moreover, there are a lot of moving parts: getting a loan, making sure there is no problem with title, identifying any defects in the home and getting the seller to address them, and confirming you have abided by a buyer’s obligations to the IRS, to name just a few.

So you’re about to enter into a complicated, legal transaction where you will commit to spending a half-million bucks or so.  Don’t YOU think you should have a knowledgeable professional on board to assist?

Traditional Agents Are Not Well Suited to Representing Buyers

Unfortunately for consumers, the system that has evolved to assist buyers is not well suited to the task.  Originally, every real estate agent worked for the seller, even where the agent helped only the buyer.  So every agent, even the one working with the buyer, had to protect the interests of the seller.  And since every agent worked for the seller, the agents fully cooperated with each other to get the property sold, period, without concern for the buyer.

Towards the end of the last century, most states passed laws to better align the duties of the agent with the needs of a buyer.  Today in Washington State, an agent who works for a buyer is a “buyer’s agent” with a duty to the buyer, not the seller.  Nonetheless, the official term for the buyer’s agent remains the “selling agent” (as opposed to the “listing agent” who represents the seller).  And notwithstanding the change in the law, brokers routinely cooperate and share information with each other in order to sell a home.  A new law does not change a culture that evolved over decades.

Furthermore, agents are neither adequately trained nor licensed to provide complete legal representation.  Yes, an agent can provide you with insight as to a neighborhood or the value of a home, and presumably can easily refer you to another competent professional for related services (like a home inspector).  And an agent does provide some minimal guidance in terms of getting an enforceable contract in place.

But an agent is not a lawyer.  An agent is not trained to interpret or explain the terms of a contract.  An agent is not supposed to draft unique contract terms to protect the interests of a particular client (like a buyer’s right to approve the restoration of a beautiful garden following repair of an underground sewer line).  In Washington, when drafting an offer an agent can only complete the blanks in pre-printed forms that were previously drafted by an attorney.  Got a question about the terms of the contract?  Your agent is not supposed to answer.  Worried about a unique aspect of your transaction?  Your agent is not authorized to address it.  Agents simply cannot provide the full representation needed by any prudent buyer.

WaLaw Provides the Right Representation at the Right Price

At WaLaw Realty, we’re not just agents.  We’re lawyers too.  So unlike every other agent, we are 100% qualified to provide complete legal representation.  We can answer your question about the contract.  We can draft unique terms to protect your unique interests. We’re your lawyer.  And that is exactly the representation needed by any prudent buyer.

And here is the best part: We’re less expensive, too!  We charge a flat fee, and we rebate our commission to you at closing (a practice favored by the U.S. Department of Justice).  Our flat fee is $7995, while the commission is usually 3% of the sale price.  So the more expensive the home, the less expensive we are compared to a typical agent.  Buying a $400,000 home?  Use WaLaw and save over $4000 at closing.  Buying an $800,000 home?  Use WaLaw and over $16,000.  Buying a $2m home?  Use us and save $46,000!  Nope, that’s not a misprint.  For a $2 million dollar home, where legal representation is practically essential given the stakes, we’re more than 45 grand less than an agent.

WaLaw Realty, the right representation at the right price.  It’s why we’re a better way to buy a home.

Posted by Marc

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