Have you ever tried to describe what an airline pilot does? It's a lot easier to say "they fly the plane" than it is to talk about the specific controls, buttons, and skills they use to help navigate a plane full of passengers and crew from A to B.
It's the same for real estate agents. In simple terms, a buyer's agent helps navigate buyers from "wanting" to owning a home to actually owning one. But in reality it is much more granular. Understanding the job of a good agent will help you find the right agent and make the buying process easier while getting MORE of what you want from your future home. Below, I explain three of the most important characteristics that makes a good agent.
1) An Educator
In today's digital era, a good agent will set up an electronic search in MLS. However, this does not magically 'find' the right home. Anyone can use Zillow to find a property. A good agent provides feedback and insight on properties that are found and can help use their knowledge of the market to guide buyers to properties that are more likely to be a good fit. A good agent isn't a search engine; it's a search filter to help a buyer recognize, learn, and process the various options being seen. A good agent also uses historical data to educate buyers on expectations.
Let me give you an example. Let's say a buyer wants to be in a specific neighborhood and wants a ranch-style home. A good agent will ask the question, "How often does a ranch-style home come to market in this area?" It's entirely possible in some neighborhoods, only one or two ranches will sell a year. A buyer now has the information to properly set expectations to be patient for the right home, competitive when it comes to market, or focus on a different area altogether.
2) An Encyclopedia
It's increasingly common for buyers to be well-educated on the buying process even before speaking with an agent; particularly those that love to read, research, and/or those who have bought or sold in the digital era. A good agent will help fill in any blanks of information, be knowledgeable about market specific data and trends, and know WHEN to speak up. This is a hard skill to develop and it's just as hard to recognize. It takes trust in your agent to listen when they speak up and trust that you have found "the right fit" in working with them. This trust, like all working relationships, is critical to the success of the relationship. A good agent is an encyclopedia of information that speaks with the answer to the question before you ask it.
3) A Negotiator
It's one thing to find a home and know things about it, and a completely separate thing to be able to negotiate based on those things. It's equally important to discuss what negotiation IS NOT as it is to define it.
What negotiation is not:
Stubborn attitude (there is a difference between holding firm in negotiation and the perception of having a stubborn attitude/approach)
"Beating someone else at something"
Objecting to anything the seller wants
Grandstanding over what is right
Making desperate or emotional appeals to the seller (or listing agent) about what a buyer needs, thinks, or feels
Kissing someone's rear end as a way to smooth talk things along
In contrast, a good negotiator:
Recognizes the difference between being right about something, and being EFFECTIVE at getting what their clients want
Aims to work WITH the other party to complete the sale of the home
Recognizes that BOTH sides of the transactions may have perfectly reasonable concerns and seeks to get their clients what is desired while mitigating the concerns of the seller
Completes the wishes of the buyer while looking out for their best interest, simultaneously
UNDERSTANDS the wishes of the buyer(s), both explicitly and implicitly
EXPLAINS that negotiation isn't a fight: it's a road from A to B and the only way to get to the end of the road is WITH the seller/sellers agent.
Doesn't disclose personal information related to the buyers without prior approval
Thinks creatively about the needs of their clients, the needs of the sellers, and then generates solutions
A happy seller is a seller that leaves the property in good condition and is generous during negotiations. That can only be achieved if a buyers agent coaches and guides their clients to set the right kind of tone from the very start. A buyer that appears to be kind, generous, and patient will get MORE from the seller(s).
Lives the mantra of "catching more flies with honey than a stick"
These are far from the only things that make a good buyer's agent; They are meant to be a blueprint and a road map to help buyers identify an agent that will both fit their needs while also being an excellent agent. In an ever-growing digital "market" of home buying, the most powerful tool a buyer has is to be educated. Find an agent that will educate you on what is important, what they will do for you, and how they will help you accomplish your goals.