Buying a home later in life with a real estate agent

Buying a home later in life with a real estate agent can help you navigate those first-time home buyer questions that resurface. After many years, you will find that a changed market for home buying. You will need help and feel like a first-time home buyer again. A real estate agent will help you buy the home for your next stage in life.

Buying a home later in life with a real estate agent

Q: My wife and I have owned two homes during our marriage. We lived in the first one for 20 years and have owned our current home for almost 20 years. So, we are not first time buyers but still not overly experienced with the process of buying real estate.

We are ready to downsize to a single-story ranch to hopefully age in place. I have read some of your comments in your book, 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. I also get your weekly newsletter about buyer’s agents, seller’s agents, dual agents and transactional agents. I’m unsure of the best way to handle our situation.

Should we find a buyer’s agent to represent us in finding a new home? Should we hire a seller’s agent to sell our current house? We will be staying near our current location so our seller’s agent would know of the local homes for sale that could match our needs.

Is it too much of a risk to use one real estate agent to handle both our buy and sell?

Real estate agent rules have changed over the last 20 or so years

A: Great questions. Over the last 30 years, real estate brokerage has changed in many respects. Perhaps the most significant change is how buyers and sellers obtain information about the real estate market and the value of homes. Today, it’s all about the internet. Twenty-five years ago, pre-Google, buyers and sellers worked with agents who printed black and white listing books once or twice a month. Agents were the gatekeepers of all real estate knowledge. They made the process unfair and unfriendly (sometimes to the point of hostile) for some.

You may find it challenging when buying a home later in life. You’ll need to decide how much help you’ll need and find the right real estate agent can help you navigate the process.

Traditional vs. non-traditional real estate agents

Another significant change has been in how buyers and sellers are represented in the transaction. Traditionally, a real estate agent represented the seller, and only the seller. Buyers commonly thought the broker or agent who shepherded you around to showings and helped out with closing documents represented you, but that wasn’t the case. The idea was that the seller was paying the brokerage commission. Thus the listing broker and any broker the buyer worked with were actually agents of the seller.

Of course, the idea that the seller paid the commission belied the truth that the buyer is the one providing the funds for the transaction. More recent changes to state laws have separated the responsibilities a broker owes to a buyer or a seller. Now a listing broker to represent the seller and a buyer’s broker to represent the buyer.

Why is this important? Well, if you’re working with a broker, you may share information with that broker about your likes and dislikes and about your specific financial situation. You might even tell the broker what you’re willing to pay for a home.

You want all that personal financial information you share to be used to help you get the best deal, and not to assist the other party to your transaction.

Buying a home later in life with a real estate agent

At some point over the last 20 years, real estate brokerage began to change and a small percentage broke away from traditional real estate to service niche markets. A small number of agents and brokers decided they would only work with buyers and advocate only for buyers interests. Some companies decided to offer sellers a reduction in the commission if the sellers would handle some of the work typically assigned to the listing agent.

Other models, which industry observers now categorize as “iBuyers,” eliminate the use of a listing agent altogether. These platforms allow buyers to tour homes that the company is listing or even that the company has purchased to fix up and resell. And, finally, a small percentage of sellers will try to sell their homes without the aid of a listing agent. Although they may still pay a fee to list their home on the local multiple listing service used by Realtors. But they sell the home as a “For Sale By Owner” or “FSBO.”

Options for different kinds of buyer agents

Today, there are a full range of options available to you when it comes to buying and selling a home. And, as Ilyce often says, “If you haven’t bought or sold in the last five or 10 years, go ahead and treat yourself like a first-time buyer, because the game has changed.”

The most important thing to remember is to find someone who is competent and trustworthy. You’ll want them to have your best interests at heart. If you find someone who really understands your neighborhood, price range, and whose company has a long list of buyers looking for a home just like yours, it’s fine to use the same person to sell your home and buy the next one. Many home sellers go that route. But since we’re in one of the strongest sellers markets in history, you could try to sell your home by owner. You can then find an agent to represent you on the buy side, if housing stock is scarce in your neighborhood of choice.

Comfort with your real estate agent is key

Your comfort is key. So, consider forgetting the specific labels attached to any one type of agent. Instead find someone who comes highly recommended by many people. An agent who has lots of experience in your neighborhood, and meets whatever other needs and requirements you have.

Thanks for reading Ilyce’s books and following our weekly columns. Good luck with the sell and buy.

And, as you prepare for your sale, you should review a list of closing costs that you might encounter and you’ll need a home inspector for your purchase as well.

©2021 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin.