What's the smarter choice?

14 Replies

I'm a first time home buyer, and I'm ready to purchase a duplex to house hack.  

My co- worker is a part time agent, with about 5 years experience,  who I trust.  She isn't familiar with the area of the house that I'm seriously interested in. 

Being that I'm new,  I requested information on Zillow.  An agent,  with 27 years experience,  who is familiar with the location contacted me.  

So,  do I go with a trusted associate or an agent with more experience in the industry and knowledge of the area of interest? 

Any feedback would be appreciated. 

The "experienced agent" paid to be on Zillow and get contacted, as long as there is nothing insanely unique about the area I would go with the friend.  Zillow offers agents the ability to be featured on the website for hundreds or thousands of dollars per month depending on how much exposure the agent wants.

@Janet Torres   I don't know what area you in, but if you are looking to house hack I would definitely lean towards the agent who knows the area well. Multi-families often tend to be in less desirable parts of town and can potentially attract lower quality tenants. If you are house hacking, you are going to be managing them, sharing a wall with them, and living in that neighborhood so I would want to make sure I knew as much about the area as possible before committing myself to living there with a tenant next door. 

Being slow to respond is something I would avoid but if you choose to go with an experienced agent, I'd go with one that you choose personally instead of one who just happened to pop up on Zillow because they paid to be there.

@Janet Torres . Interview the agent you don’t know. Prepare some open ended questions to get them talking. Do your own research first (I assume you have). See if the 27 years and knowledge of the area provide anything useful for you, they may or may not. Ask about the population trends in the neighborhood and impact on housing going forward. Ask about the tenant population you’ll be drawing from. Ask about the housing stock in the area and common issues to look for. If it’s older you may deal with boilers,casement windows, outdated electric, outdated plumbing, etc. Someone who really knows the market would have useful insights. If the agent can’t come up with anything useful you didn’t already know, you’re decision is easy. Trusted friend.

@Janet Torres Personally I would go with the more experienced agent. I think it would be a good way to expand your network. You would be providing them a service by giving them the full commission by not bringing in another agent, which means she would probably be willing to take you through the process and make sure the purchase isn’t a nightmare. On top of that, someone with 27 years experience always has something worth hearing that they’re willing to talk about. Experienced people always come with stories from which you could learn. On the other side of the same coin, if they suck and don’t take care of business, you could always revert back to your friend. Never turn down a chance to expand your network.

@Janet Torres

in my experience, dealing with friends in business just drags out the process since you are looking to do business and they are putting you in the friend-client zone. Work with the best agent that is going to respond quickly, be the most knowledgeable and able to fulfill your needs with this transaction. Hopefully you are starting a long-term relationship with this agent. I avoid using friends for any type of business dealing.

@Janet Torres - One thing I would keep in mind is that the agent with 27 years experience may be very busy with much larger transactions, and your duplex may not be very high on the priority list.  Also, that agent may only look at you as a transaction to close, and may not encourage you to take your time or perform proper due diligence.  It's quite possible that that agent could recommend a building inspector who is known for superficial work in order to increase the likelihood that you'll close on the transaction.  I'm not saying these things WILL happen, but they are certainly possibilities if you enter a relationship where trust is not certain. 

Conversely, your friend might work harder and be quicker to raise red flags in order to protect you and maintain the relationship.  The best agents will give you reasons NOT to buy.  Otherwise, a purchase of a duplex with conventional financing is a fairly straightforward process for an agent with 5 years of part time experience.  The biggest benefits here will be in increased transparency and integrity. 

The bottom line is that it is up to YOU to understand the math behind a viable house hack and to have thorough street-level knowledge of the neighborhood you intend to occupy.  It is up to you to know where that neighborhood has been and it's outlook going forward.  It's also up to you to vet inspectors, have a basic understanding of real estate contracts and know a little about negotiation.   Once you are in control of these things, you'll be much more empowered to prioritize working with people with particular character traits rather than specific levels of experience.

Best of luck!  

The fact that you are even asking about working with a friend is a concern. I do not hire friends to do work for me. It is a situation that can go bad very quickly. Never hire friends or family, it too foten interferes with logical decision making..

Hi Janet,

Trust is a big thing in real estate and you gotta trust your agent so I understand why you are having this dilemma.  There is also no substitute for experience and an agent who can give you the service you need and information.  In your friend's case.  The lack of speed and being part time will hurt you in this process. 

I would check and see if this new agent lives up to what they say and will give you great service.  27yrs experience doesn't mean squat.   I know old timers in the business who have been doing it 30+yrs that suck.  Rate the actions of the agent and information.  My vote goes with the full time agent.  No time to play around here this is business. 

Good luck Janet. Starting off house hacking a duplex is a great way to go IMO.