A-Hunting You Will Go
Unless you happen to looking for something that's next to a freeway interchange and directly below a 747's flight path, the Los Angeles housing market can be ridiculously competitive. Today's prospective buyers have an unprecedented array of resources at their disposal. Just a few short years ago, it was difficult, if not impossible, for anyone other than a broker to obtain useful information such as a property's sales history, price reductions, and neighborhood comps. But nowadays, all that data is readily available--along with the latest listings--to anyone with a laptop or smartphone. While Redfin, Zillow, Trulia, and other real estate websites are undeniably a major boon for the consumer, their widespread use means the days when it was actually possible to get a jump on a listing by showing up the earliest are over. (We do have one tip: think smaller. Los Angeles is home to several boutique agencies that specialize in specific architecture styles, such as Valley Modern and Architecture for Sale, that don't always list their properties in the usual forums.
Choosing an Agent
For the record, there's no rule that says homebuyers MUST work with an agent or broker--some buyers prefer to handle their transactions themselves, or enlist the services of a real estate attorney. But this independent approach is likely to be a tad too ambitious for the virgin buyer (not to mention the scope of this guide), so an agent or broker it is!
Given that LA has approximately eleventy billion agents, give or take a few, picking the one that's right for you can be rather daunting. But if you've ever had to find a new hairstylist or dentist, you know how it works--ask friends for recommendations, go on Yelp, et cetera. If you're partial to a particular style of architecture, look up a few past sales of this style of home and see who represented the buyer and seller.
Rare is the agent nowadays who doesn't blog, Twitter, or actively participate in some other form of social media--these pages can provide a golden opportunity to gauge a potential fit without having to actually engage.
What To Expect From Your Agent
Your agent should arrange home tours for you and accompany you on them, perform comparative market analysis, advise you on prices should you want to make an offer, put the offer together, negotiate with the seller's agent, schedule inspections, and oversee the close of the sale and contingencies. Typically in California, the agent's commission rate is about 5% of the sale price, but this is sometimes negotiable. Commission is split between the seller's and the buyer's agents if both sides are represented.
A good agent will make note of all the particular features you would like your home to have (hardwood floors! A fireplace! Two bathrooms! Wainscoting!), and know which ones are non-negotiable musts and which ones you'd be willing to compromise on. He or she should be familiar with and knowledgeable about the neighborhoods you are looking in, and will compare notes with other agents frequently to see if any interesting properties are coming on the market.
A good agent will NOT make you waste your time touring homes that are out of your price range, or desired area, or otherwise do not meet your stated criteria. This is crucial, because you will assuredly be wasting countless hours in your quest for a home already. Much of this time will be squandered looking at houses that are ugly, depressing, cheaply remodeled, and outrageously overpriced. But hopefully one day, the planets will align, and you come across a place that just might be The One.
· Curbed University [Curbed LA]