Finding a good buyer’s agent and property manager can be the difference between having a very successful and prosperous investing experience, compared to having a horror one.
A buyer’s agent will be your point of contact when purchasing a property in the US, they will put offers in on your behalf and also keep a lookout for properties that you might be interested in. Because we are purchasing a property on the other side of the world, in an area we have not even visited before, let alone researched significantly, it means we are putting a lot of trust into the buyer’s agent to find us a property that suits us, and give us an honest price guide on the property. Because an agent works on commission, i.e. they make money by selling houses, it can be easy to believe that an agent does not have your best interest at heart and they simply just want to make the sale and collect their cheque.
Of course in my opinion I believe the agent should do everything they can to be honest and trustworthy to the seller, especially in our case. For our first property, we were simply trying it out to see if investing in the US worked well for us, if it did, then there is no reason why we would not be investing significantly more into the US property market. So by being dishonest and collecting a smaller commission, they are potentially missing out on building a solid relationship with us which will benefit both of us financially in the long term. We were lucky that the buyer’s agent we ended up going with was on the same line of thought with regards to this. She is initially from Australia, and now lives in Fort Myers, Florida, so being initially from Australia, she is able to better understand our concerns with regards to investing overseas, and is also able to decipher the jargon that is sometimes used in the US and relate it back to Australian terms that we understand better.
While we were looking at houses to purchase, we would have contacted probably around a dozen buyer’s agents in the Lee County area, and just about all of them were very responsive and seemed very eager to help us with regards to purchase a property, but I guess we just did not feel as comfortable as we did with the buyer’s agent that we ended up going with. It is important to note that the system in the US is different to Australia with regards to buying a property. A property is not simply listed with a single real estate agency and sold through them; it is listed on a database, and gives all real estate agents the ability to see all the properties on the market, so it is not like you are missing out on a good property by going with one particular agent. That being said, we were talking with one agent, who claimed she had information on properties that were about to go on to the market, and what price they were looking at. This way, you could put an offer on it instantly as it went on, and get it before everyone else saw it. I have a feeling this was not quite ethical and perhaps even illegal; anyway we did not feel comfortable working with this person.
Building trust with your buyer’s agent is another very important aspect of the process of purchasing a US property. You are not going to feel comfortable sending over $50,000 (or more) of your hard earned money into the US if you are not confident you are getting value for money. You want to make sure you are purchasing a good quality house and not getting something that is just going to continue to drain your money. The main way we were able to build trust with our agent was just by constant communication with her, and by continuously asking her questions just to make sure she knows what she is talking about. Another good idea would be to talk to other people who your agent is currently working with, we did not do this as we believed to be confident enough with her to not need to do this.
The process we used to find a house for us was fairly simple, our agent set us up to receive notifications of new houses that met a criteria on the database of properties. Basically all the houses for sale are listed on the database, and by entering certain criteria to find a house you are looking for, such as price, size, location etc. You are sent a list of all the current houses that match your criteria. When we got the list, normally there would be about 40 new houses or so a week, we just sent our agent a list, normally of about 10 or so properties that we thought looked good on the photos. Our agent with local information and being able to see the properties for a property inspection would then review the properties and provide her own opinion. One of the reasons we were comfortable with our agent was that she would reject 90% of the properties we suggested, which lead us to believe that she was not simply in it for the commission, and that she was looking out for our best interests. Our agent would also look at houses herself and send us (and her other customers) a list of all the properties with her review of them.
The last aspect that made us comfortable with investing with this agent, was that she too is a property investor in the area, and quite often with the properties she saw as good value, she would say that we should put an offer on the property, and if we didn’t then she would put an offer on the place herself. So if an experienced investor sees a property as a good investment, then it is a good sign that it would be a good place to put our money.
So as you can see finding a good buyer’s agent is very important, they are your representative on the ground and you need to work together to make this successful. At the end of the day, you need to find a good, honest, genuine and trustworthy agent that you feel comfortable working with; otherwise the process will just never work out.
If you would like more information and the contact details of our property manager, or have any other questions you wish to ask us, feel free to contact us.