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Buying

Should I Use My Friend or Family Member as My Realtor?

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A good Realtor is sort of like your own personal Yoda -- someone you can trust with your most pressing questions and biggest decisions, guiding you safely toward your destiny (of a brand new home!).

But how do you choose the right Realtor when there are literally hundreds of options in your area?

"They say in California the difference between a driver's license and a real estate license is that not everyone in California has a driver's license," says Tim Freund, an agent and broker in Westlake Village, CA. The joke rings true in other states as well.

With so many options, why not go with a known commodity? Like, for example, a friend or family member -- someone who not only knows you, but has a license and is thus perfectly qualified to help you buy your dream home. Sounds like a dream scenario, right?

The answer is usually "no way" for a host of reasons (except in a few rare cases). And don't feel guilty about not sending business their way -- recommend them to someone else!

Heed the following expert advice about why you should be wary of mixing business with friendship:

The pitfalls

While your personal relationship might seem like an important qualification, if your Realtor doesn't have the other key attributes you need, you're not doing yourself any favors. Experience with and understanding of the area where you're hoping to move, rave reviews from previous clients, and the ability to assess your situation dispassionately are absolutely essential.

"Real estate often brings out the worst in people. It's very stressful," Freund says. "It's a big and expensive life decision. Sometimes you just need the assistance of someone who doesn't have a personal relationship with you."

And, if the home-buying process isn't going well, you need to be able to fire that person, Freund says. Better to tell your friend you can't hire them right off the bat than risk canning them -- an act almost guaranteed to ruin your relationship.

And your relationship will definitely be in jeopardy if you have trouble relinquishing control. Your agent will likely need to hold the reins -- after all, they're in a better position to quickly find you an amazing space.

"If you get two controlling people, there's going to be problems," Freund says. "You have to be able to find someone whose personality will mesh with yours."

How to ease the sting

Still feel like you need to extend the offer to your frealtor? (Yes, we just made that a word.)

If they're local but you're not confident because of their experience level, Freund suggests asking them to co-list with someone from their office -- giving them valuable experience during the buying process. That way, they feel involved and you still receive expert guidance.

And if they're out of the area but still want to help, Freund recommends arranging for them to receive a referral fee from the agent you choose, and leaning on them for advice and commiseration during the process.

"That's a nice thing to do, and you always have them in your hip pocket to rely on if the Realtor you thought was great turns out not to be," he says.

When to say yes

OK, but maybe your friend has tons of experience, is super-familiar with all your favorite 'hoods, and your personalities meld perfectly. If you're 100% comfortable entering a business relationship with them, go for it!

A good agent who is also a good friend "is going to work harder for you than any other agent you can hire," Freund says. "

Not only will they work hard, but they may be better able to understand your specific needs. For example, if they've seen the mess your children make in the living room, they probably won't encourage you to temper your playroom dreams. And, since they know your preferences, they might just spot an oddball house you wouldn't have considered otherwise -- which may turn out to be perfect.

Bottom line -- as Freund puts it: "A real friend wants to do right by you."