I think the key thing is to be very upfront with the Realtors you will be working with. Tell them about what your plan is, what you are looking for (wants and needs), your budget and your timeline; and how you are going about it. The ones you contact can decide if they want to work under this situation.
Keep in mind that this is how we make a living; so please respect their time and advises and keep them updated on your status. Once you have decided an area is not what you want, let them know immediately so you don't waste their time. If you don't like a realtor's approach on things, please also let them know immediately so they can try to accommodate your wishes instead of being in the dark.
Remember that some Realtors do work in certain Territory which might cover several towns or cities. Depending on the size of the city, you probably don't need one for each city - which will make your life much easier also.
Honesty and respect is the key to everything.
Best of Luck and Good Hunting!
You can rely upon Realtors for initial guidance for general information without committing to an exclusive relationship. It is best to be up front; it will take you a long way in both achieving your goals and getting the best service. As you explore some general areas, let the agents that you speak with know that you are simply learning about the communities and when you decide which areas are right for you, and not willing to commit to one agent, yet. Let them know it is your intent to choose one agent to work with, but you talking with various agents for the purpose of selecting your representative. At that moment, you can hear what they have to say about why they should be your selection.
If you look at a property at an open house, you have not established any relationship with that host agent as a result of your stopping in. Agents are paid on commission at closing, so if an agent makes an appt to show you a specific property, that agent will assume that the two of you have established a relationship, at least for that specific property. When I make an appointment to show property to a new buyer, I ask my buyer customers to sign a limited buyer agency agreement with me, stating that I would be their representative for that property. My limited agreement also allows them the oppty to â€˜fire meâ€™ if I fail to perform. As I establish a stronger working relationship w/ buyers, we enter into a written buyer agency agreement that specifies they are working exclusively with me from that day forward. Not all buyer agents work by written agreement, but we see this becoming more common. Even absent a written agreement, the expectations follow suit as described above. Therefore, only make appointments to see property with agents you are comfortable to have represent you. Dialog on the phone or email does not commit you.
If you chat with agents via phone and email, you will gather some sense of whether you have confidence in that agent, if the person is knowledgeable and hard working. You should feel free to ask the agent questions about themselves. A buyer agent is more than a keycode to a lockbox. Ask agents about their experience, availability and support. You are trusting this person to negotiate on your behalf, advise you and be your advocate. You want to feel confident about them. You can find potential agents online, through Trulia, open houses, and even print ads.
Be open about your criteria of what is important to you; both about the agent and about your ideal property. The more the agent knows, the better he/she will be able to respond. I know you posted a question about what area was â€œgood for familiesâ€, but â€œgoodâ€ is subjective in the eyes of the buyer. To one buyer, a parcel of land with 3 acres is wonderful for their family to enjoy. To another buyer, a cul-de-sac with neighbors to chat with is better. Without knowing your criteria, an agent guesses based on limited hints.
Once you know the area you wish to live, pick one agent, let that agent, and the others know you selected one person to represent you. Be clear on your mutual expectations of each other. Give lots of feedback about properties and communities, expressing what you liked and disliked. This will allow the agent to do a better job for you.
A good buyers agent needs to be able to advise you about pricing and competition and in order to negotiate on your behalf. In Warren Count, you could buy property that has septic or well. If those types of properties are under consideration, make sure your agent is knowledgeable in those areas, too. A good buyers agent will also have sales skill and training when presenting offers, probing for competitive details, and probing for seller motivation. Look for theses skills when talking with prospective agents.
I think it is good idea to locate realtors prior to determining where you want to live, as they can guide you and provide community information to help you make this determination. I would just be upfront with them and explain your situation the same way you did in your question. They will understand. This is a very common occurrence and we are here to help with all aspects of this move for you. I just came across this with a buyer(s) who wasnâ€™t sure if they wanted to live in MA or RI (I am only licensed in MA). I made arrangements with the RI agent to work simultaneously with this buyer(s) and we would give each other a referral fee if the buyer(s) opted to move to our own state. It was a win-win situation!
I'll be curious to see how Realtor's answer but here is my advice. Search the internet for locations that have an average/median home price about 10-20% higher than what you are qualified to purchase. Compare the school records/rankings of those to find the best. Pick your top 3 locations and call or email an agent in each location. Don't meet with them yet. Get a feel for each Realtor's skills, advice and follow-up. Once you have picked your favorite agent, then ask them about your favorite location verses the others. I believe a good Realtor would give you an honest answer and refer you to an agent in the best location (if its different) if they haven't spent time showing you a bunch of home in their location.
You are already ahead of the game by asking here.
The first step in my opinion is to contact a mortgage brokerage so you can get an idea of what you can offered. If you want to live in an area where the market does not allow you the opportunity to purchase, then you've just wasted your time looking in that area.
Knowing your financial situation is first on your list. As another agent stated, most full time agents earn a living when they sell a property because the real estate sales business is "commission only" in most cases, so you'll find it difficult to work with an agent for very long if you cannot commit to at least getting some sort of preapproval from a reputable mortgage brokerage.
Now you're ready to look at Realtor.com or here on Trulia and search for homes that meet your financial criteria on the towns you may be interested in living in. Nowadays, you can find almost anything about any town by using Google.com just to get some additional information about the towns you're interested in.
Then use this blog service to ask questions that focuses on your wants and needs (transportation requirements, schools, houses of worship, maybe crime issues, etc). Please be aware that you'll get lots of opinions in these blogs and sometimes not a lot of factual information based on the content. So it depends what you're asking for.
Drive the towns, especially during rush hour times and during the weekends to find out how the neighborhood elements closely match your tolerance levels.
Hope this all helps.
First, I'd scout out some neighborhoods, figure out a few I might want to start my home search exploration in. Then I would call a mortgage lender, tell them you want to purchase, and get a feeling for what you can afford per month; and also, what your comfort level is - you may be approved for more than you are comfortable spending.
Third, then you are ready to call a Realtor/Brokerage. I agree with others that finding one that seems right for you is important, so talk to a few. Now that you have a few neighborhoods and a price range in mind, you have a beginning point. Good luck with your search!
I don't know if you're still looking for a property, but if so I definitely think you should talk to agents in different areas. Just be honest and upfront with them at the beginning. I have clients that I'm showing houses to now in Millburn, Summit and Chatham who also have an agent in Bergen Co. I have no problem with that; I don't know that area of NJ, and our agency doesn't subscribe to the MLS there in any case.
It's true you can do a lot of groundwork on the web, but there's nothing like the experience of someone who lives and works in the area you're interested in. After all, that's a large part of the value we offer to buyers.
All the best luck in your search.