(above) Heritage Strasburg, one of our beautiful 55+ communities in Lancaster, Pa
This is a very common question we get when working with our 55+ customers in Central Pennsylvania. Although purchasing a 55+ resale home in this area is often a better bargain, building your dream retirement home is something many of our retirees have been working towards for a long time. It’s easy to understand why a buyer might initially have doubts- after all, the builder’s representative knows a whole lot more about the community than any independent real estate agent does, right? How could a buyer’s agent be of any use?
How can a buyers agent help me while I’m still just researching?
We would say this is the time that we are usually MOST helpful. Our knowledge of the area and builders is at your disposal when you work with us! We often act as our buyer’s main point of contact during this phase. We understand while you are researching communities it is easy to get lost in who to contact, who to ask what, etc. Since we do this every day, we can often take over or assist you heavily in getting these questions answered. That being said, once you are ready to take the reins and schedule or ask builder representatives the questions yourself, you are more than able to (as long as you’ve disclosed your relationship with us to said builder). We can also organize video chats if you are out of town, show you the areas, and once we learn enough about your likes and dislikes, we can also do research for you to make sure you are considering all of your options!
We’ve also created several documents to help you compare costs and amenities in each of the communities we deal with- never be afraid to ask us for all the nitty gritty details you really want to know!
We could go on and on about how much we can offer you while you are researching, and we sincerely believe the sooner we can start helping you with your research, the better! When we meet new clients who have been going at it themselves for a while, we can literally see the weight lifted off their shoulders once we step in, so PLEASE let us help! You are never too early in the process to ask for an agent’s help!
How can a buyer’s agent help me while my home is being built?
Agents like us, who have many years helping buyers work with builders, can utilize those years of experience to prepare you for what to expect, what is normal, and what is not. Depending on your needs, we can attend your various appointments, help you compare the different new home options, advise you on what upgrades or options would better prepare you for resale, offer advice when something goes wrong, intervene if something doesn’t sound right, or simply be there as someone who’s with you along the way, explaining anything that doesn’t make sense!
We are lucky that in our area, most of our builders are local, honest, and fair, but that doesn’t mean that mistakes aren’t made and an extra set of eyes and a knowledgeable professional at your disposal will ever hurt.
In our area, we also deal with many clients who are moving to our area from out of state. Sometimes the builders in this area are not used to buyers not being easily available for last minute appointments or changes. Our out of town buyers also love that they have someone local who they can rely on to do small errands such as picking up keys, video chatting, attending installations & deliveries, etc. We also love sharing our preferred local professionals and vendors to our clients who are new to the area and need to find all new services!
What does the term ‘buyer agent’ and ‘builder’s representative’ mean, anyway?
In this article, the term ‘buyer agent’ means a licensed real estate professional that DOES NOT work for or represent the builder or builder’s broker. The buyer agent represents the buyer, looks out for the buyer’s best interest, keeping any confidential information private, and finds the best possible property for the buyer. Buyer agency is valid when the buyer signs a Buyer Agency Agreement with the agent, detailing length of contract, commission amount, and the scope of what that licensee (buyer’s agent) can provide, in addition to many other terms.
In this article, the term “builder’s representative” refers to the professional(s) who the builder has chosen to bring them buyers and usually, the professional(s) who walk the buyer through the building process. Often this is the person present at open houses, providing pricing or answering your questions, and often, the person who represent the builder while you are going through the process. The builder’s representative may be a licensed real estate salesperson, in which case they typically have a seller’s agency relationship with the seller. This means they are legally working for the seller/builder and looking out for the seller/builder’s best interest. The builder’s representative may also be an employee of the builder, in which case they are also obligated to look out for the seller’s best interest. Of course, you may also work with the builder or seller directly in some cases. However, the builder or builder’s representative will not be working for you – unlike your buyer’s agent.
By comparing the two, it should be clear where the risk is by not having a buyer’s agent represent you in the transaction- there’s no professional working on your behalf alone. If given the opportunity, why would you not have someone knowledgeable working for your best interest? If the seller has an agent, why shouldn’t you?
The good news for you is that both a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent (or any real estate licensee, for that matter) are now required to disclose any known material defects on the home the buyer is purchasing and deal honestly and in good faith. We are very lucky in our area that we have both great builders and great builder’s representatives working with us, and many of them do want to do what’s right. Many builder reps will tell you that they will still do their best to keep your best interests in mind without you having a buyers agent, and we have found in our area, they honestly do try that. However, (besides blatant lies or not disclosing material defects), they are always going to be obligated to make sure the seller is taken care of first, then you- that’s business, and that is what their contract states.
The terms “seller’s agent” and “buyer’s agent” and their responsibilities to customers & clients are also more heavily detailed in the Consumer Notice (link is at the bottom of this article).
But I never used a buyer’s agent when I built my home 30 years ago, why would I now?
Actually, buyer agency is a fairly new practice in real estate. Thirty years ago, even if you had an agent who was helping you to find a home and walk you through the process, that agent (called a subagent) was legally representing the seller in that transaction (although this was often not disclosed to consumers).
In the last 30 years, many laws and practices have changed to protect consumers and make sure they understand more about some of their biggest financial decisions, especially including real estate. That is one of the reasons that every licensee is now required to disclose known material defects in a property and must deal honestly and in good faith despite if they are working directly for a consumer or not. It is so hard to imagine for us to believe that this was not always a law in real estate, but its true- real estate sales people could lie through their teeth and would not get punished for it in the past! We, as consumers, are extremely lucky now that buyer agency was created with the buyer in mind, to allow a consumer to have representation that looked out for their best interests.
Its only adding to, not hurting your process.
It’s important to note that while utilizing a buyer’s agent to purchase your new home you are NOT changing your relationship with the builder or the builder’s representative/sales person. Whether you use a buyer’s agent or not, the builder’s representative is going to be working on the builder’s behalf, not yours!
Also, just because a buyer’s agent is brought into the discussion does not mean you will be paying higher fees to build or communicating directly with the builder or builder’s representative any less (unless you want to be). Bringing a buyer’s agent simply means you are allowing a professional working on your behalf to be involved when you need them. Think of it more as adding to your “posse” as opposed to limiting it- we are here to back you up and offer support. Of course, we can also negotiate or communicate on your behalf if you authorize us to do so. However, unless something goes wrong or you are not able to communicate for some reason, we do not usually need to do this.
By bringing a buyer’s agent to your first appointment at a new home community, you are simply allowing yourself to have representation and someone looking out for YOUR best interests throughout the process, instead of the builder being the only party with representation. Best of all, the builders (at least in our area) have already agreed to pay our commission if a buyer is clear from the beginning that they plan to utilize our services.
But what if I’ve already visited or contacted the builder directly?
Even if you have already visited the community or spoken with a builder sales rep, you still may be able to bring in a buyer’s agent (in our area, this just depends on the builder and how flexible they are). Whenever you decide you’d like to utilize a buyer agent, try to involve that agent as soon as possible and be clear to the builder rep that having buyer representation is important to you. However, you should know, depending on where you are in the process and on the builder’s policies, it is possible that the builder will say they will no longer allow a buyer’s agent to be involved unless you pay the buyer agent commission out of your own pocket, which is always another option, but obviously much less desirable!
(above) The Zimmerman Team in 2018 (from left) Shannon Yorty, Annie Zimmerman, Mindy Zimmerman, and Kate Santmyer
So, maybe the important question should be: why would a buyer NOT utilize a buyer’s agent when building a house?
When it comes down to it, we sincerely believe that buyers who decide to not utilize a buyer’s agent while building their dream home are typically only doing so because they don’t understand they can or because they lost their chance by not having an agent with them from the beginning. After all, why would you not utilize an experienced set of eyes and ears when its costs you the same amount with or without their expertise?
Feel free to take a look at our online reviews too, our past clients say it best!
If you are looking for more information about relationships that you can have with a PA real estate agent, here is a link to the Pa Consumer Notice document referenced above:
This article was written by Annie Zimmerman, a real estate agent on the Zimmerman Team with Iron Valley Real Estate in Lancaster, Pa.