What Would An Agent Do? Long-Time Agent as First-Time Home Buyer

Guest post by Greg Whelan, Redfin Agent serving Chicago’s Near North Side

Deciding It Was Time to Buy

After helping more than two hundred people buy and sell homes during my last decade as a real estate professional, I decided last spring that it was time to become a homeowner myself.  I had been quite content renting my very reasonably priced apartment for the last several years, but I was finally starting to crave more space. After reviewing available rentals, I realized that renting the type of apartment I wanted would cost nearly as much as a monthly mortgage payment on a comparable place.  It was a perfect storm: low interest rates and declining home prices combined to make home ownership an affordable option.  It just felt like right time for me to buy.

Touring and Negotiation Processes

I had my eye on a house in the Ukrainian Village that my friend had lived in a few years ago. It had been pulled from the market as a short sale and was in the process of becoming a foreclosure. When it was finally relisted as a foreclosure in September, I got in to see it right away.  After spending an hour and a half touring the house, I realized it just wasn’t what I remembered it to be. It had been pretty badly beaten up in the foreclosure process and needed new floors and windows among many other repairs. This was a lot more work than I wanted to do, and it made me realize I really wasn’t in the market for a fixer-upper.

I expanded my search a couple neighborhoods up the EL to Logan Square where I found the two-flat (a two story building with separate apartments on each floor) I eventually bought.  After touring the home, I wandered the neighborhood at various times of the day and night, on bike and on the EL. I took the advice I give my clients: I ate at the little café on the corner, walked to the EL, and had a drink at the neighborhood bar to make sure I really liked the location.

I did a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) and found that the home was significantly overpriced, so I came in with what I deemed to be a fair offer at twenty percent below list price. I justified my offer with comparables, knowing that the seller might take offense at my “lowball” offer. Next ensued a week of fierce back-and-forth negotiations culminating with us agreeing to meet halfway at ten percent off the list price. The process taught me a lot about myself and my role as an agent. I repeatedly found myself becoming angry when the seller wouldn’t respond quickly or agree to my preferred terms (or simply accept my offer). When I’m representing a client, I know that to them, it’s way more than just a deal, but coping with my own feelings gave me a  greater understanding of how important my job is to not only represent my clients in a professional manner, but first and foremost to advocate for them and their feelings.


I wish I could report that once we had settled on a price it was smooth sailing. To the contrary, the inspector uncovered several minor items that needed repair and one huge problem: the underground crawl space was not sealed off, leaving the house un-insulated and vulnerable to pest infestation.  For me, this was a deal breaker, but the seller refused to pay the cost of sealing it off.  I threatened to back out of the transaction using the inspection contingency and told the seller I’d be happy to watch the home sit on the market through the winter. The seller backed down and agreed to cover the cost of this major repair, and the deal moved forward to a successful closing.

What I Learned

As a Redfin agent, advocacy has always been a core value of mine, but the emotionally charged process of negotiating on my own behalf instilled in me a much greater appreciation for the fact that my role as an agent is not just to be a cool, calm and, when necessary, fierce negotiator. My most important task is to advocate for my clients to not only get them the best deal possible, but also to get them what they want out of the deal, whether it’s a fair price from which they can’t budge or a repair they can’t live without.

After devoting so much time and energy in helping others become homeowners, I’m proud that I can now call myself one too.  I called my mom as I was pulling into my new garage after closing and said to her, “Coolest thing about buying this place, I got a house for my car!”

Services and Service Providers I Used

Inspector: Larry Robbins
Lender: Erik Johansson
Attorney: Jason Schram
To List Rental Unit: Craigslist
Tenant Screening: TransUnion SmartMove


  • Steve Marcus

    Great post Greg! Thanks for sharing your experience as a Redfin agent who represented himself (simultaneously wore the hats of agent and client) in the purchase of their own home. Interesting to read about you walking a mile in your clients' shoes and what you learned during the process.

    And congratulations on your purchase!

  • Joe Zekas

    No attorney, Greg?

    • Greg Whelan

      Apologies for the oversight Joe, I will be updating shortly.

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