As real estate agents we spend a lot of time and effort with our sellers. Especially in the beginning. We closely inspect the home with intense scrutiny. We make suggestions. We research the market. We discuss all the possible events that may and probably will take place. We literally spend hours before the property even goes on the market.
We are finally realizing that we need to this with our buyer clients as well. I think we took it for granted that our buyers understood how it was all going to go down. So what did we do? We just whisked them up and took them out to look at properties. And when they saw one they liked... We rushed to the office to fill out enough paperwork to choke a horse!
Frankly, that scenario can be very confusing... for the buyer AND the agent. there's a sense of urgency and we all know we shouldn't make important decisions under any kind of duress.
So here's my suggestion. Set up a "consultation" with your agent.
Your agent should take the time to get to know you. I'm big on this adage: "They don't care what you know... until they know you care" So take time to get a feel for the kind of person your agent is. Guess what? They should be doing the same sort of thing. The agent will get a feel for your likes... your dislikes... and what your motivations might be.
Your agent should take the time to explain agency. Actually, the law requires it. As an informed consumer, I'm pretty certain that you will want to be represented in the purchase, so you will ask your agent to conduct your real estate affairs as a "Buyer's Agent". The topic of signing an exclusive buyer's agency agreement will most likely come up here. Your agent can help you to understand how this relationship can benefit you.
The contract to purchase is also a pretty complicated document, and this is not a bad time to go over it... paragraph by paragraph. this way when time comes to actually sign one... it will be a little familiar to you!
It is also important for a buyer to realize that only 1 in 21 contracts ever get accepted as they are written. your Realtor will explain how the offer is presented and what might happen, as in counter offers... multiple offers... short sales.... cash offers... etc. Once you write that purchase offer up it can get kind of emotional. If you and your agent took the time beforehand to discuss how it all can go, you might feel a "little" better about what's happening (or not happening).
Financing is also very very important before you go out. Sure, you may have already had some discussions with a lender. And maybe you even got pre-qualified. But your agent works every day with these professionals. A quick discussion may evolve into you getting a better situation, or it may result in you feeling confident that you have the best terms currently available!
Most certainly your initial consultation will include you discussing the particulars of your next home. What you absolutely have to include... and maybe what you'd like to have... You know... that wants and needs talk...
So this whole consultation can take a little bit of time. But you know what? It's going to be worth it! You'll feel better and your agent will have a much clearer idea of where it is you want to go.