You have been searching online, going to a few open houses and you are feeling pretty good about your increasing knowledge of the local real estate market. The last thing you want at this point is an annoying salesperson breathing down your neck, and tagging along with you as you pursue your dreams and search out the stage upon which your life will play out. But you know enough at this point to realize you will eventually have to work with an agent to represent you in the deal and you are wondering when you should hire one.
You can and should search online on your own for a while. Go to open houses and talk with the agents you meet there.
Wait long enough to hire an agent until you have met a few and know what you like and don’t like.
You do not pay the agent; their fee is paid by the seller through a commission split with the seller's agent. But you are hiring them and you should treat the process like any hire; interview the candidate.
Ask questions to ask to determine their level of enthusiasm, integrity, and local knowledge. Let your intuitions drive you to where you can feel if there is any chemistry.
You should think of the agent as your coach. She should be able to help you focus and narrow down the number of properties you want to see. Most importantly he can help ensure you truly are ready to purchase a home. Have you been pre-approved by a lender? If so you are probably ready to work with an agent. An agent should assist you in getting ready to make a purchase offer and gently pressure you to get what you need to do, done.
House hunting is a time-consuming endeavor and as you get closer to actually making a purchase you will find it is increasingly difficult to manage your job and family life while every weekend is taken up with house hunting. An agent can arrange to show you houses at your convenience, around your schedule.
A good agent will also help in the home search by alerting you to homes as they hit the market, instantly sharing relevant listings through the MLS & other sources. They can also share information with you that is available only to agents; such as offer terms, property details, etc
And no matter what you think of your pricing skills, an agent will be immensely helpful in determining the fair market price of the homes you are interested in. By showing you what similar properties sell for, they can guide you towards making a reasonable offer that you will feel good about.
So do not wait until you are ready to make an offer to hire an agent. You will be rushed and likely end up with someone who does not have your best interests in mind.
Best of all, once you hire an agent you can blow off all those pesky real estate agents at open houses who are trying to get you to choose them to represent you.