Every real estate brokerage is pretty much the same -- right? Even though this seems like common knowledge among buyers, the truth is that the real estate brokerage where your agent hangs their shingle can have a pretty big influence on your home buying experience. Some brokerages excel at holding buyers' hands while others really leave you to your own devices and depending on which style you'd prefer, you can find a brokerage that caters specifically to what you need. Here are a few things that an average buyer can expect from their real estate brokerage.
Provide financial resources
Buying a house can feel daunting, especially for first-time buyers who haven't jumped through all the financial hoops and might not know how they'll ever be able to afford the mortgage. If that sounds like you, then seek out some financial preparation and education classes through your local real estate brokerages. These are sometimes hosted at the brokerages' offices or in libraries or other community spaces, and you can learn about government grants and loans, different types of mortgages available, the average price of a home in your area, the costs associated with buying a home that you might not have considered, and much more.
Connect you with a mortgage broker
Real estate brokerages have likely had contact with most (if not all) of the mortgage brokers in your area, and they are intimately familiar with which brokers are best qualified to work on which mortgages, which ones are most responsive (and least responsive) and which ones will stretch above and beyond to close a deal and make sure a buyer gets a fighting chance at putting an offer on a home and getting everything arranged for the closing table. When you reach the point in your home purchase process where you're ready to talk to a mortgage broker, a real estate brokerage can help point you toward the very best person for the job.
Provide information about neighborhoods, schools, and more
Many buyers have a general idea of where they'd like to live, but they have some flexibility around the precise neighborhood, block, and street. There are probably some suitable places for your future home that you've never seen or encountered, and real estate brokerages excel at providing information about the neighborhoods where you might want to live. Many brokerages offer detailed data and even guides for schools, crime, activities, and more, and they can help guide you toward the one neighborhood among many that will suit you and your household to a tee.
Access listings early
A lot of preparation goes into putting a house on the market, from deep cleaning and staging to photographs and writing the listing description, all before the house is ever listed for sale. Brokerages are keenly aware of all of those homes because their agents are working on the listings, and some brokerages offer a "pocket listing" service that can connect buyers with homes before those homes are ever listed for sale. In an exceptionally hot market, this can be a huge resource for buyers because they might not have to compete with as many other people to get under contract.
Provide convenient open house events
Going around to physically look at homes can be one of the most fun parts of shopping for a house, but it can also feel physically exhausting, especially if you're doing it every weekend. Some brokerages offer convenient open house events, where you can walk through several homes in the same neighborhood or even on the same block, or will book shuttles between homes for buyers, or virtual tours where you can sit in a room inside the brokerage and digitally walk through homes before deciding to visit them in person.
Educate your agent
Though there are plenty of seasoned agents who prefer to work exclusively with buyers, they tend to be the exception; many agents who work with buyers tend to be in the early stages of their real estate careers. How do you know that your agent knows everything they need to know? The real estate brokerage where your agent works is responsible for making sure that the agent understands the implications of recent legislative changes or market shifts, and this can make a huge difference to the buyers who are working with those agents. When you're interviewing agents, it's not a bad idea to ask them what kind of continuing education their brokerage offers and whether they have ever taken advantage of those offerings.
Streamline the transaction process
There are a ton of details involved in buying a house, and those multiple tiny tasks can feel overwhelming for first-time buyers especially. Some brokerages leave it up to individual agents to manage the transaction processes, in which case your experience as a buyer will be very much contingent on that single agent's level of skill and organization. Others have standards and procedures that they expect agents to follow throughout the transaction, including keeping you updated as to the current status and what's next. There is even administrative staff at some brokerages that solely manage the transaction portion of the real estate business, providing a continuous point person for you who will always know exactly what's going on and what you still need to do.
Suggest appraisers and inspectors
It's usually the buyer's responsibility to handle the appraisal and inspection -- because the mortgage lender is the entity that requires those things, and the mortgage loan is between the buyer and the lender. You might not know the first place to start when it comes to hiring an inspector or an appraiser, but your real estate agent will definitely know some qualified professionals through their brokerage. Just like mortgage brokers, most real estate brokerages have had contact with the majority of inspectors and appraisers in your area, so they have a good idea of what to expect and can help prepare you accordingly, too.
Help you move in
Nobody really enjoys moving, and some brokerages recognize this pain point and do their best to alleviate it with services, vouchers, or other perks that make things a little bit smoother. Full-service concierge brokerages will arrange for your utility transfers and change of address with the post office, arrange for movers to pack your things and shlep them to your destination, hire someone to come over after you've been there a week or two and make any minor repairs you might not have noticed until you were living under the roof, and more. Even if your brokerage isn't a full-service concierge business model, brokerages often have strong ties to movers and have heard all the horror stories in the area, so they can point you the best option for you.
Host neighborhood events
Real estate brokers probably know a lot of people in your neighborhood because they helped those people buy their homes. Many brokerages celebrate their communities and help connect their clients to one another by hosting regular events, usually once or twice a year, where people can casually drop in and out. You can meet the neighbors, have a drink or a bite to eat, enjoy the entertainment, and take advantage of your brokerage's network in the nicest possible way.
Hook you up with contractors
It's not always easy to find a contractor under the best of circumstances, and of course, emergencies happen in the very worst of circumstances, when you don't have time to research and vet the electrician or plumber you've summoned to your house. Ask your real estate brokerage for a list of trusted professionals they refer to clients so that you've at least got a jumping-off point if something happens after hours in your new home and you have no idea what to do about it. And real estate brokerages can also be good resources for other projects, like adding a room to your house or building a deck outback.
Is every real estate brokerage the same? Not remotely; they all prioritize different facets of the business and provide different services for both buyers and sellers. It's not a bad idea to ask your agent about why they chose their brokerage and whether there are any buyer resources you should know about as you're interviewing real estate agents, both to learn more about your agent and to know what benefits are available to you from the brokerage.