Property buyer’s advocate: what they are and how they can help

Found your dream home? It may be time to involve a buyers' agent.

Found your dream home? It may be time to involve a buyers' agent. Photo: Getty

It’s an unavoidable fact of the property game – buying a home for most people is likely to be the biggest financial decision of their life.

And yet, most buyers will sign the contract of sale without seeking professional advice on a range of critical issues, from finding the right property to negotiating the best possible price.

That’s when people like Mal James can help. As the founder and principal of James Buyer Advocates, he has bought over 1000 homes for clients in the past 15 years. On average he looks at 10 homes a week and buys two. While his job is about getting his clients into their desired property, he is not afraid to tell them not to buy a property.

For the service, a buyer should expect to an advocate 1 per cent of the sale price, and an additional 1 per cent if the advocate helped to find the property. But Mr James says costs can vary.

“You can have cheap and useless, experienced and useless or you can have good value for money. Good value for money advocates are experienced, proven performers who charge a varied range for negotiating and/or searching for a property,” he said.

Here, he explains the role of a buyer’s advocate and how they help to get their clients into the best property for the right price.

Question: Why use a buyer’s advocate?

Mal James: It’s a common question. People use an advocate for a few reasons.

buyers advocate mal james

Buyer’s advocate Mal James.

The first is, buyers are typically inexperienced in the real estate process and often fail to understand there is a lot of money to be made or lost. The difference between a good decision and a bad decision on a $2 million buy-and-sell situation can easily be $400,000.

In a straight ‘buy’ situation on a $1 million home, it’s very easy to have a $100,000 difference, but many people don’t perceive that. Of course, selling agents make a strong case that you don’t need a buyer’s advocate.

The second reason is, many people are unsure of what it is they should be buying. For example, how do you balance price, position and prospects to get the best outcome? We all have choices and a buyer’s advocate can help to balance those things to maximise each of them. Good results are financial, emotional and physical. By that I mean, ‘Will that suburb still suit you in five years from now?’

Question: What mistakes can advocates help you avoid?

Mal James: The main one is they don’t want to miss out on the property and they are don’t appreciate that, if it’s a good property, they will face competition. Good properties average three to seven buyers.

The buyer also needs to understand themselves. Some people don’t make the best decisions under pressure. In fact, if everyone was being honest, very few of us make our best decisions under pressure.

They are also dealing with real estate agents, who are experts with their own interests and agendas. For example, understanding the agent’s processes can really help. That means you may be worth considerably less to them than another buyer. Also, understanding the dynamics and the fluidity of situations when circumstances change, and knowing how to respond.

Question: How much property is sold off-market?

Mal James: One-third of the homes we buy are off-market, one-third of the homes we buy are on-market, but the client didn’t see it as an opportunity for them. And one-third of clients find the house they want on the internet and then come to you. Buyers’ advocates can help find those properties which may not officially be ‘on the market’.

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