Feb. 23, 2004 — Purchasing a home in the U.S. Virgin Islands can be an overwhelming task for anyone, especially for a newcomer to the territory. Whether you're looking to relocate entirely or are just searching for a vacation home or rental property, the U.S.V.I. presents an altogether different set of challenges for prospective buyers.
That's where Chuck Ulrich comes in. Earlier this year on St. Croix, Ulrich and real estate broker Carl Gotts opened Buyers' Agent St. Croix, the first exclusive buyers' agency in the territory.
So exactly how does an exclusive buyers' agent differ from other realtors? "The essential difference is twofold: an EBA works for an office that does not take listings of any kind and, number two, represents only buyers," Ulrich said. Another important distinction is that the buyer has a written agreement with the buyers' agent that lists the level and type of service he or she should expect. According to Ulrich, a buyer's agent has legal obligations to the client when representing him/her in a transaction.
What many buyers fail to understand is that a typical real estate agent represents the seller of the property and that their first obligation is to that seller. According to a 1980s study by the Federal Trade Commission, 72 percent of home buyers mistakenly believed they were being represented by their real estate agent.
While exclusive buyer agency isn't exactly new, the residential real estate industry has embraced the concept in an attempt to level the playing field between buyers and sellers and eliminate possible conflicts of interest in dual agency — a common practice in real estate transactions where an agent represents both the seller and the buyer.
Ulrich says that having someone dedicated to representing the buyer's interests exclusively can often make all the difference in the world.
With a degree in architecture and 20 years of construction and design experience, Ulrich says he has the expertise needed to help buyers make informed decisions about the quality of a home's construction and crucial issues like wind load. Additionally Ulrich points out that he's worked with vacation rental agencies and is therefore knowledgeable about many specific properties and what rental homes are popular.
Says Ulrich, "I can't believe there hasn't been an upsurge of buyers' agents already."
What advantages does an exclusive buyers' agent provide? According to Ulrich, a buyers' agent can negotiate on behalf of the buyer to get the best possible terms, assist with financing alternatives, and provide an unbiased assessment of a property.
And that just the start, Ulrich says. Since Buyers' Agent St. Croix isn't affiliated with one listing agency, Ulrich says he has a wider choice of potential properties to offer his clients. Unlike traditional real estate agents, Ulrich even has the potential to show his clients property listed as "for sale by owner."
Ulrich says that freedom also translates into a more objective opinion regarding available property. "Because we are not listing property, we have more freedom to say what is a good property. We don't have any obligation to sell property we listed or concern for additional profit we could receive from the listing commission. All of our attention is focused on the needs of the buyer."
Ulrich adds that although buyers' agents have been shown to save clients money, "our emphasis is finding the best property for a client at a fair price as opposed to claiming that we are going to save them tons of money. I think a good property at a fair price is what most people are interested in."
Operating primarily in St. Croix and to a lesser extent St. Thomas, Ulrich says Buyers' Agent St. Croix is taking things slowly for now. Although, BASC was able to help secure property for three buyers alone during the month of January.
Although some traditional brokers have tried to discourage buyer agency, Ulrich says the overall response from realtors in the territory has been fairly positive," adding, "Other realtors realize that I'm coming to them with buyers."
Ulrich goes on, "exclusive buyer agency doesn't have to create an adversarial relationship with traditional realtors. It's a win-win proposition. They want to sell houses, and I want to find the right house for my buyer. It's that simple."
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